Democratisation, mass media and the anti-corruption drive in Africa: the case of Nigeria, 1999-2015

Babasola, O. 2017. Democratisation, mass media and the anti-corruption drive in Africa: the case of Nigeria, 1999-2015. PhD thesis University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute

TitleDemocratisation, mass media and the anti-corruption drive in Africa: the case of Nigeria, 1999-2015
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsBabasola, O.

Corruption is a local and global problem which has been exacerbated by neoliberal capitalism. One of the institutions available for curbing it is the media. This thesis examines the impact of democratisation and press freedom on transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs following Nigeria’s return to “civil rule” in 1999. Largely qualitative, and nominally quantitative, in nature, the study covers some of the major socio-economic and political issues affecting the Nigerian media, and the inherent unethical conduct that has portrayed the fourth estate of the realm as a lapdog. The fieldwork involved the content illustration of news stories, focusing on features; newspaper headlines; editorials; opinion articles; and cartoons. My interviews were with twenty-five select-stakeholders in the anti-corruption sector in Nigeria, including former heads of anti-corruption agencies, politicians, legal practitioners, civil society activists, faith based leaders and media practitioners who had completed the instrument used for the study. The analytical framework deployed for this study is critical discourse analysis, which involves analysing responses from the twenty-five stakeholders, who were picked using a purposive sampling technique. These interviews formed the primary data for the study, and documentary research consisting of newspapers reports, official reports and in-house magazines published by two of the anti-corruption agencies formed the secondary data. A major finding of the study is that the current Nigerian media industry is structurally deficient in the credibility needed to perform its role as a watchdog, because its integrity has been compromised, following incidents of bribery and corruption, which are commonly subsumed into the derisive phrase, “brown envelope.”

Fifteen years of “civil rule”, and anti-corruption measures, such as the adoption Freedom of Information Act 2011, have not significantly been translated into reduction of corruption, since the press has been largely adjudged to be equally corrupt. Corruption has permeated the media sector, and it seemingly enjoys the connivance of the media proprietors, who often encourage reporters to use leverage on sources for pecuniary rewards by urging them to abuse their professional identity cards for “survival”, since their salaries and emoluments are not paid on time. Moreover, the concept of “cash-for- news- coverage,” where journalists only publish positive news in exchange for cash from the source(s), the suspect(s) or the aggrieved, is very common. The widespread practice of taking the “brown envelope” describes an unethical form of news commercialisation and, coupled with the bias of media houses towards adverts, this compromises their critical roles of advocacy and as the watchdog in society. Following the perpetuation of this perversion by the media, crooks are often portrayed as saints and falsehood overshadows truth. The findings therefore suggest that corruption is growing, rather than diminishing, in Nigeria, because the media are very weak. Essentially, the argument is that to overcome some of the challenges facing the media industry in Nigeria, there is an overwhelming need for media practitioners to establish a pool of resources, to gain majority control of newspapers (a virile organ of thought and an opinion shaper) and, invariably, to curtail political inference in their editorial contents and, eventually, to run their newspapers professionally. Broadly, this study contributes to extant literature on democratisation; it offers new paradigms for, and perspectives on media transparency. It establishes that political corruption is the negative outcome of the connivance and collusion between the mass media and the civil society in a transitional democracy. In specific terms, it reveals that there is need for a clear distinction to be made on the kind of media tradition that will aid the anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria and in other growing democracies. The research contributes to work on media and accountability in the context of neoliberal corrupt behaviours that have both local and global dimensions.


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