By Richard Imhoagene and Ignis I. Ekwe
The Media and the People
Let us take a look at how the media affect the lives of the people in a country in their quest for self-reliance and national For simplicity and clarity, this paper shall group people into different class status, geographically and otherwise.
> Geographical class/Grouping
• Rural Dwellers:
Rural dwellers are those people who live in the remote parts of a country, usually referred to colloquially as "villagers." The mass media do have a very important role to play here due to the remoteness of their dwellings. Because these so-called villagers are most times neglected from the development process of a nation, it becomes the duty of the media to get them involved.
First and foremost, the media can help educate them on ways to improve on their primary occupations which are farming and fishing practices, and call government attention to their needs. All these can help improve the lives of these people and empower them to be self-dependent.
More so, the media remain the most effective tool for education and orientation in the rural parts of the country. They tend to give these rural dwellers a sense of belonging and a sense of participation in the entire process of nation building through political and social orientation and mobilisation.
• Urban Settlers:
The more developed and industrial towns and cities of the country make up the urban areas. These people ordinarily are more exposed to development and its entire process. From the unskilled labourers to the most-skilled professionals. From the ordinary cobbler to the street hawker, to the roadside mechanic, and up the ladder to the nurse, the teacher, the lawyer, and the doctor. They all depend on the media one way or the other for messages that will help them improve as individuals.
These individuals need to be abreast with happenings and events around the world to help them develop in their different careers and professions. They need the media so as to be aware of new inventions and developments that could help them develop in their respective jobs.
Politically, these people are made aware of the governance of their country. They not only are informed and educated but are motivated to participate in the governance of their country so as to contribute to their collective development. As opined by Gadzekpo (2009); the new development paradigm requires that the people participate in development programmes that affect them. Their voice ought to be heard.
In essence, whether a rural dweller or a city resident, the development of a nation begins with the individual. The individual requires development-oriented messages from the media in order to attain self-fulfilment and then actively participate in the struggle for self-reliance and development of the entire nation.
How then do they perform these roles?
Let me start by stating clearly that the media are not expected to play God and bring about self-reliance and national development. But due to the realisation that self-reliance and national development cannot become a reality without mass orientation, education, mobilisation, and correlation, the media, therefore, have a vital role to play.
Okenwa (2002) cited in Obaze (2006;21) posited that "the media must, of necessity, be involved in the business of development not just ordinarily, but being in the forefront of development to the extent of determining the pace of development." This is due to the fact that the main source of any national issue will be the media. Therefore, due to their simultaneous reach, they can canvass popular views and influence the people's reactions to dominant issues.
Consequently, and as Okenwa put it; "the opinion people hold on issues, events and persons are as a result of the publicity tend to them by mass media, and also in the light the mass media present it. Now, let's look at specific ways through which the media can achieve these;
Policies and Programmes geared towards positive change must be promoted by the media. Because the media can have an adverse effect on the public, they are the only channel through which public messages can be passed across. Healthcare issues like polio immunisation, HIV/AIDS, malaria prevention, and so on, have witnessed great publicity from the media sponsored, in most cases, by the Federal Ministry
More so, the media have, over the years, been involved in informing the public about policies. In areas of poverty alleviation programmes like the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) by then Military Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, Road safety publicity, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, and so on, the media should be greatly involved.
Furthermore, during elections, population census, and national registration exercises, the media play a major role in promoting same on their various channels by creating awareness on the importance of such programmes.
The media also check and criticise the excesses of the government. A few instances where the media have shown this trait are during the third term agenda of former President Obasanjo, the huge salaries of members of the house of assembly and house of representatives, and the removal of petroleum subsidy by President Goodluck Jonathan. The media tend to look extensively into such issues, organise Talk Shows or special News Analysis, and invite experts who will clearly explain the situation, and then give the audience or readers a sense of direction and reasons why they should oppose the government.
Another important aspect of media participation in the pursuit of self-reliance and development is Agenda Setting. Obaze (2006) citing the prolific analyst Bernard Cohen (1963;120) argues that "the press may not be successful most of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling readers what to think about." This means that the media have the power to influence the mind and point people towards specific directions of thought. It brings about a situation where there is a tendency for people to suppress their own opinion and accept the opinion of the media. Where this is the case, people are made to hold positive opinions.
Obaze (2006) sums it up thus; "in other words, the media create an agenda for our thoughts and influence us in what seems important."
Lastly, the media are also saddled with the responsibility of enlightening the public on how to be self-reliant by promoting agriculture and domestic production. They can also orient the people on how to sustain democracy and promote general development.
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