Assessment Of The Role Of The Media In Anti Corruption Campaign

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This study examined Nigerian Newspapers coverage and framing of the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari from June 2015 to May 2017. It specifically set out to find out the frequency of coverage, prominence given to anti-corruption stories and issues, the nature of such stories and issues as well as the manner such stories were framed. As it was noticed, the extent and nature of media coverage of this anti-corruption crusade is relatively under-explored hence this empirical inquiry. The result of this study would arguably contribute significantly to the body of existing literature and lay a foundation for further studies on the subject matter. The study used the mixed research methodology, which is quantitative content analysis and its qualitative counterpart (Critical Incident Analysis).

A total of 280 copies of national newspapers were selected by two continuous weeks and two constructed weeks for the period of two years. The newspapers are The Punch, The Sun, The Vanguard, The Nation and The Daily Trust. These newspapers were drawn from 20 national newspapers across the country. The data were collected through coding sheets and a coding guide. A total of 265 anti-corruption items were coded from the selected newspapers which include straight news, editorials and feature articles (units of analysis). However, straight news formed the bulk of coded items (96%), feature article (3%) and editorials (1%). As regards the critical incident analysis, some issues were noted and isolated as well as arranged thematically and discussed.


Assessment Of The Role Of The Media In Anti Corruption Campaign





Corruption indicates weak institutions and structures within a nation-state and is a bane in many developing countries such as Nigeria. For instance, corrupt practices such as bribery and criminal embezzlement deplete a country’s wealth, impacting peace, stability, and national development. The consequences accruing from these circumstances are far-reaching since loyal citizens perceive exploitation and social imbalance. Similarly, corruption can harm the social framework of the nation, if not nipped, since it deprives people of the necessities of life, thus further engendering economic hardship.

This situation is evident in the misappropriation of funds meant to provide basic amenities and the subsequent outcomes. Ayeni & Nwaorgu (2018) emphasized the ubiquity of corruption in Nigeria, implicating the quest for survival and austere economic conditions as underlying influences.

Arguably, the military regime is particularly implicated in the history of corruption in Nigeria since it seems to have engendered looting of the civic assets at an exponential rate and established a culture of clandestineness in governance. Furthermore, Ribadu (2009) argues that this era saw the obliteration of all the noble things inherent within the country.

Surprisingly, the supposed rationale for the emergence of the military regime was to forestall the perceived corruption among politicians and democratic leadership. Notwithstanding, several attempts have been made by previous governments to combat corruption through policy-making and the enacting of laws. Notably, Obasanjo’s regime saw the establishment of agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) geared towards fighting corruption. However, these regimes were not spared from the malaise of corruption (Odalonu, 2021).

It is noteworthy that efficient media is a vital stimulus for driving the anti-corruption campaign. The media is necessary for facilitating a culture that is averse to corrupt practices through influencing, reporting, agenda-setting, etc., without intervention by the government, especially in a multi-ethnic state like Nigeria. Among other roles, the media sets an agenda around corruption, bringing its foundations, influences, and probable alleviation to the fore. However, the Nigerian media are not exempt from corrupt practices.

Odionye et al. (2016) argued that the press, which is expected to beam is searchlight on corruption, is hampered. This is evident in the “brown envelope” syndrome in which several journalists are somewhat implicated. These practices place an obstacle on objective media coverage. Arguably, the persistence of Transparency International (2018) in ranking Nigeria among the bottom forty nations in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) signals the under-performance of the media in the anti-corruption campaign. Arguably, Nigeria has not performed very well in matters of corruption.

In nearly two decades of uninterrupted democracy, Nigeria has continued the fight against corruption by leveraging EFCC and ICPC to apprehend criminals in the public and private sectors. Notably, these attempts at eradicating corruption paid off slightly since the country made progress at Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Nigeria has moved from being ranked as the most corrupt country globally in 2000 to being ranked 148 out of 180 countries surveyed (Transparency International, 2018).

Assessment Of The Role Of The Media In Anti Corruption Campaign

The global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI) in its Corruption Perception Index (2017) ranked Nigeria as the 148thcorrupt country globally. This is against Nigeria’s 136th position in 2016, illustrating the persistent increasing incidences of corruption in Nigeria. This is despite the present administration’s anti-corruption campaigns and efforts.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in consideration of the high incidences of corruption in the country on assumption of office in 2015, announced the anti-corruption crusade as one of the major pillars of his administration and has to this end, made the fight against corruption the core mantra of his administration. Apparently, the campaign against corruption seems not to be achieving the expected goals as TI (2017) statistics above indicate.

However, the mass media have been constitutionally empowered in Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, to perform its social responsibility functions of helping government achieve its development objectives; monitoring government; exposing its excesses and ensuring that governments are accountable to the people through its regular news reports and coverage of issues. For as Eigen (1999) pointed out, media can play an important public accountability role by monitoring and investigating the actions of those who are granted public trust and who may be tempted to abuse their office for private gain. Rose-Ackerman (1999) and Bello (2015) suggested two distinct and significant ways the media can do this.

According to Rose-Ackerman (1999), qualitative and independent media reporting on corruption can play an important role in pressuring the government to act in the public interest: By drawing the attention to behaviour that is generally perceived as acceptable and exposing such behaviour as corrupt, media can raise public awareness, activate anti-corruption values, and generate outside pressure from the public against corruption. Bello (2015) on the other hand argued that the media play pivotal roles in the campaign against corruption; they act as the eyes, ears and voices of the public. The media not only raise public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies but also investigate and report incidences of corruption (Stapenhurst, 2000).

Consequently, it becomes pertinent to examine how the media have been performing this oversight function of adequately keeping the public informed of this government’s anti- corruption crusade. The question is, what is the nature of coverage given to the anti-corruption crusade by the Nigerian print media and how are they framed? In essence, what is the prominence, depth, and frequency of coverage? Are the corruption stories reported issue-based or personality-based?

It is in attempt to find answers to these questions that this research examined how the Nigerian print media have kept the Nigerian audience informed about developments in the Buhari’s fight against corruption as it unfolds. This is because media coverage of cases such as corruption is no doubt, an important part of media function, and the salience given to such issues could help in reducing the practices of corruption by exposing those responsible in such a way as to serve as a deterrent to others.

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