PROBLEMS FACING MUTICULTURALITY IN THE NIGERIAN MEDIA – by Michael O

illustration viThis article reports and evaluates aspects of multicultural programming and the effectiveness of multicultural media policies within Nigeria. It aims to evaluate the way both the government and the citizenry respond to these policies and legislature. The brief cultural and political history will be outlined as well. This report will also provide an overview of multicultural programming and the effectiveness of multicultural media legislation and policies.

BRIEF HISTORY OF NIGERIA

map-nigeria. illustration ivNigeria is an independent state with an estimated population of 160million (World Bank, March 2011). It is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. It is also the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population are black (World Bank, March 2011). Nigeria was a former colony of United Kingdom but officially gained its independence on first October, 1960. This was at a time when the cultural and political differences among the dominant ethnic groups were tense.  The country is also member of the Common Wealth Organisation, The United Nations Organisation, The World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and many more international bodies.

The country is located in western Africa, bordering between Chad and Cameroon to the east, Republic of Benin in the west. The French-speaking desert country of Niger is to the north. The Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean lies to the south lies.

The seat of government is now located in the city of Abuja. It was previously located in the coastal city of Lagos. Lagos, which is the most populous city in Africa with an estimated 15 million (Nigerian Population Commission, June 2010) is still the commercial nerve centre.

The official language of Nigeria is English. The English language was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country during the post-colonisation era. This was necessary because the country has over 250 ethnic groups. The largest three Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo are estimated to have 29%, 21%, 18%, (respectively) of the entire population. (Nigerian Population commission, June 2010). Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own languages, English, being the official language, is widely used for education, business transactions and for official purposes. English as a first language, however, remains an exclusive preserve of a small minority of the country’s urban elite, and is not spoken at all in most rural areas. The National population commission states that only 40% of the population are literate. (Nigerian Population commission, June 2010)

illustration iThe Religious beliefs are as diverse as the peoples. There are three major religious groupings. They are Islam, Christianity, and a host of indigenous beliefs. Major religious celebrations are recognised as national or regional holidays.

Nigeria practices the presidential system of government.  The President heads the executive arm of government. The current president is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He is from a southern ethnic group named Ijaw. He succeeded from the former president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua , who died in office in 2010.  Yar’Adua was Fulani, a major ethnic group the north.

 There is also a bicameral legislative arm, which is constitutionally called the National Assembly . It consists of the upper (the senate) and lower (the representative) houses. The third arm of government is the Judiciary. It is headed by the head of the Supreme Court, The Chief Justice. While the president and members of the house of assembly get into office by an election. The Chief Justice is appointed by the president with the approval by the House of Assembly. The president can serve a maximum of two four-year terms, while the legislators can serve as many four-year terms as their constituents allow. The Chief Justice remains in office until he retires or resigns. This system is also replicated in the 36 states or regions and local/township levels. So Nigeria has a federal political structure similar to the model in the United States of America.

This report will not to fail to mention that Nigeria is the world’s twelfth largest producer of petroleum and the eighth largest exporter (World Bank, March 2011).  Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

As mentioned earlier, Nigeria gained its independence at a time when the cultural and political differences among the dominant ethnic groups were tense. And even until today racism, tribalism, and ethnocentrism still play a powerful role Nigerian politics. Sklar and Whitaker state that cultural diversity among and within the regions/states are “reinforced by religious heterogeneity and variations in levels of western education, standards of living and degrees in mordernisation” (Sklar and Witaker, 1970. p597). This is a true description of Nigeria.

DEFINING MULTICULTURALISM AND MULTICUTURAL COMMUNICATIONS

Lagos. Illustration iiWhat is Multiculturalism?

An American scholar and one time President of the Organisation of American Historians, Joyce Appleby defined multiculturalism thus:

“It is important to note that multiculturalism does not share the postmodernist stance. Its passions are political; its assumptions empirical; its conception of identities visceral. For it, there is no doubting that history is something that happened and that those happenings have left their mark within our collective consciousness. History for multiculturalists is not a succession of dissolving texts, but a tense tangle of past actions that have reshaped the landscape, distributed the nation’s wealth, established boundaries, engendered prejudices, and unleashed energies.” Joyce Appleby

The online dictionary of social sciences defines it as: “The state or condition of being multicultural. The policy of maintaining a diversity of ethnic cultures within a community”. (http://bitbucket.icaap.org/dict.pl?alpha=D).

It is basically any ideology that promotes the institutionalisation of communities containing multiple ethnic groups or cultures. The idea of multiculturalism is mostly referred to when we have people from different ethnic groups in a specific geographically location or in an established organisation. It may be a nation or state, a neigbourhood, a business establishment or school.

This report will define multicultural programming as any type of transmission (be it broadcast, print, telecommunication or internet) that embraces the ideology of multiculturalism. The ideology is that society consists of a wide range groups that are distinctive and diverse which should be embraced.

BROADCAST HISTORY IN NIGERIA

News.Ilustration iii.Television broadcasting in Nigeria started with the initiative of the Western Regional government on October 31, 1959. As the years went by, The Federal Military Government of Nigeria took over the television and radio stations in 1978 and changed the name to Nigeria television authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio Corporation in Nigeria. In that same year, the military government also established the radio corporation of Nigeria in Lagos. Today, all the thirty six states aspire to set up their own television and radio stations. The federal government is also making effort to establish a branch of NTA in each state. This made the NTA Africa’s largest network as all states, government and even a few privates broadcast stations air network programmes.

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) is the state-controlled television Broadcast station. Part of the mandate of the station is to: “is to provide as a public service in the interest of Nigeria, independent and impartial television broadcasting for general reception”. (http://www.nta.com.ng/).

The federal government in 1992 deregulated the broadcast industry by granting license to private individuals and organisations to operate radio and television broadcasting stations. As at today, there are 14 private television stations, 82 AM radio stations, 35 FM stations and 11 short-wave stations in Nigeria. (NBC, Jan 2011).  Throughout the country there are 23.5 million radios and 6.9 million television sets. (NBC, Jan 2011)

MEDIA/BROADCAST REGULATIONS AND LEGISLATION

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was founded in 1992. It had a duty to monitor and regulate broadcasting.  The current mandate of the National Broadcasting Commission is governed by the Nigerian media laws in Section 2 subsection 1 of Act No 38 of 1992 as amended by Act No 55 of 1999. Among registration and licencing of new stations, the Commission also has a duty to ensure that the programming embraces diversity.

The three sections related to multiculturalism. These are codes ‘g’, ‘i’, and ‘j’. They state that the commission ‘must uphold the principles of equity and fairness’ in broadcasting. It must promote Nigerian ‘indigenous cultures, moral and community life’ through broadcasting. Its also to promoting ethical standards and technical excellence in public, private and commercial broadcast stations in Nigeria(NBC, Jan 2011).

It is obvious that there is the legislation is in place to promote multiculturalism, but are these laws being implemented? This will be looked into as this report progresses.

MULTICULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS IN NIGERIA

Illustration vThere are major efforts by the Federal government and various regional/state governments to create radio and television stations that will air programmes suitable for indigenous and minority ethnicities. The NTA network has expanded to close to 50 channels and stations around the country. The NBC reports that over 200 of the 250 ethnicities have at least, one news or entertainment programme in their native tongue (NBC, Jan 2011).

The journalist and broadcasters have now joined together and have conferences that will promote multiculturalism and diversity. The World Festival of Black African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) provided the platform through which Broadcasting organisation of Nigeria in the early 1980s. This organisation is still strong today.

 However, corruption and mismanagement of funds have been the cause of most programme productions being stopped.  A governor of an oil-rich state embezzled over £51million from the state coffers.  His state-Delta state has about 32 ethnics groups. The BBC reports that James Ibori pleaded guilty to 10 counts of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 13years in prison. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17739388). The Nigerian anti-corruption body had taken him to court earlier but the case was thrown out of court. The Nigerian Judge that kept throwing out the case spoke to the Daily Post, a Nigerian daily newspaper. He was asked how he felt about Ibori pleading guilty in an English court. He replied “My conscience is clear…Nigerian law is different from British law”. There are unconfirmed reports that a lot of judges do take bribes from such cases. There was no progress in the media during the time Ibori was governor. The broadcasters union in the state- owned media claimed that they had not been paid salaries for over a year in 2005.  Lack of funds will always be a stumbling block to growth.

We also see the situation where ethnic and social groups for dominance through culture. We still see the kind of hegemony as seen in other part of the world.  Society leaders use the media to assert authority other the minorities. The leadership magazine interviewed a prominent Nigerian politician who actually said that the president will never be produced by the any of the south-eastern ethnic groups.  Alhaji Tanko Yakassai said that the northerners will maintain their grip-hold on power (http://www.leadership.ng/nga/articles/11512/2011/12/25/north_won%E2%80%99t_back_south-east_presidency_2015_%E2%80%93_yakasai.html). So the problems of tribalism are still very much around.  A scholar stated that “Ethic consciecneness” still plays a strong factor in modern day Nigeria. (Williams, 1992. P 99)

Illiteracy is another factor that militates against multiculturalism. Surveys carried out by the country’s National

Bureau of statistics reveal that literacy levels among adults were only 56.9 per cent (NBS, 2010). This makes it harder to teach people the right way to accept other people’s cultures. The issue of low literacy level among adult population needs to addressed because literacy and understanding is an indispensable catalyst needed for development and democracy to grow.

Even though we see a drive to open media channels and programmes for minorities, there is a danger of alienation. More and more persons from minority ethnic backgrounds might only be exposed to their ‘own’ programmes and channels. This will keep them in the dark about the main stream media. It also keeps those majority ethnic groups in the dark about the minorities as well.

Private broadcasters too are not exempted from such problems either.  The fee for registration and licencing of private stations is 100% higher than the state-owned ones. Section 1.1 of the NBC licencing policy indicates that private broadcasters will pay up to N20 million for per annum while the Public/Government Stations will pay N5 million for 5 years (NBC, Jan 2011).  So Private broadcasters are now in the business for profit only, not to create diversity. The working climate forces them to go after profit vigorously.

We see this ridiculous profit-pursuing attitude in the film/movie making business as well. To stay in Business movie makers produce films that bring immediate profit. Little money is being invested in indigenous movie-making to promote diversity. Piracy and the inaction of law enforcement agencies play a huge role in this as well. This was confirmed by Nigerian Filmmaker Kunle Afolayan in an episode of The Stream, a news show aired by al Jazeera network. Other stake holders in the film industry like Actress/ Producer Stephanie Okereke, along with Aimee Corrigan, filmmaker and Nollywood Workshops Co-Founder.

With all the above findings, it is discovered that the laws of the land are adequately addresses that issue of multiculturalism, plurality and diversity. The problems have to do with enforcing these laws. If funds can be made available to the law enforcers and broadcasters, I personally believe things will be better. The issue of Pirates and illegal distribution will be tackled if the law enforces are empowered with funds. Corrupt politicians are to be brought to justice to serve as a detriment to others. The sentencing of Ibori is welcomed. However the Nigerian government should not what for Britain before it begins to end corruption.

I also recommend that that the licencing fees to the private sector should be reduced. This will give the private sector a better advantage in promoting diversity.

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