THE IMPACT OF COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER IN CREATING POLITICAL AWARENESS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, A CASE STUDY OF AGUATA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA.
1.1 Background of the Study
The phenomenal growth in mass media channels have led to an expansion of the roles it could play in various areas apart from performing the functions of providing information, influencing public opinion, social attitudes, entertainment and bringing about greater social integration. In contemporary times, the media play important role in providing information through news reports and analysis which is beneficial in assessing political performance.
In Nigeria, the press historically played a powerful role in motivating people to participate in the freedom struggle during independence era years after the first newspaper was published by Reverend Henry Townsend. This led a very solid foundation for the expansion and growth of newspaper industry. The newspaper industry was at the front of the fight for independence of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. The pre and post independence press (Newspaper) brought about many innovations. They fought colonial masters, gained their independence and also brought development to the nation through their coverage. This development is in all facets of human endeavor and springs across economic, social, cultural and most importantly political aspect of the country. This development in area of politics was attained through mobilization of the masses and the creation of political awareness in both national and local level; using national newspaper at national level and community newspaper at local level.
Although, this does not mean that therefore the advent of the newspapers that political awareness has not been. Prior to the advent of the newspaper, community development had progressed from generation to generation. Communities and even ages grades undertake various political programmes like elections and appointments of village chiefs and rulers, which is peculiar to communities.
However, in contemporary time, as newspaper has come to stay in Nigeria, it is not possible to talk of development without mentioning politics. When we talk about politics, the first thing that come to mind is creating awareness to let people know about political programmes available, their right etc then mobilizing them to participate in the programme. Therefore, for meaning national development, it must be anchored on generating useful and effective political awareness.
In emphasizing the role of the mass media in nation building the government should be aware that the mass media must provide a basic national and balanced services of news which will educate the citizen of the country. For it has been observed that general mobilization and enlightenment of citizens for political activities are the main factor of any development process.
However, the area of focus in this research work should be on the print media and community newspaper to be precise. This entails the roles it played in the past and the role it still plays in liberating the masses from obscurity, especially the role played during the struggle for independence for the reasons, the various government and people have recognized the influential and powerful nature of the community newspapers on information gathering dissemination as well as in mobilizing the people towards a common goals. Some are still wondering at the role of the press in molding, influencing and exerting public opinion. However, the impact of politics has not been felt in some area due to the people’s level of press awareness on political programmes and activities.
Generally, the newspaper industry has experienced a lot of transformation is evident in the rate at which many newspaper have been springing up in all nooks and cranny of the country.
One appreciates this development, with the development of community newspaper by some newspaper by some newspaper houses. But how far have these community newspaper gone in catering for political enlightenment of people at rural areas with particular references Aguata Local Government Area. The people at the local area comprises the bulk of the country’s population. They are the cradle of civilization.
Aguata Local government Area is one of the twenty-one (21) local government area in Anambra State. It is made up of fourteen (14) autonomous communities, with it headquarters at Ekwulobia. It is one of the largest five local government areas in the country.
The local government is rapidly developing industrially, commercially, socially with rich heritage. Ekwulobia one of the communities and a growing commercial town has been elevated to urban status by the state government. The people of the area are mainly farmers and traders with potentialities of becoming self-reliant in food production. Palm oil production is the dominant cash crop in the area. The area is also famous in arts and culture as Igboukwu archeological finding testify to this; it has the only ancestral museum in the state.
Aguata Local Government Area has an estimated population of about 328,324 (three hundred and twenty eight thousand, three hundred and twenty four) people of various age bracket and also comprises of indigenes and those that are available are overstretched due to high increase in population and erosion menace, this has retarded the pace of development. This neglect should be attributed to lack of adequate knowledge of political programmes of the government in power by the people in the area. This has always resulted in the their choice to parties and candidates during the election of representatives.
Thus, the primary role of community newspaper in such area is the effective mobilization of the people towards effective political awareness.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
It goes without saying that the people living in rural areas contributes 80% of the country’s population. Mass media including print in performing its function since inception through demand get based or situated in the urban areas of the country. The rural masses suffer negligence. Government in Nigeria for long paid, lip service to development of rural areas. The national newspaper has always has strived to present information, news, articles, features, events etc that favour mostly the urban dwellers. These rural areas are often news-locked as such, it exposes the rural folks to dwell mainly on town criers, opinion leaders, market master etc for dissemination of news and information is not effective.
One sad thing about these rural dwellers is that most of them are illiterates and even when they receives information, they may not understand the implication and some rural masses do not realize the importance of their own participation in national development, many lack basic knowledge about the country or the bare minimum political desire to cast their votes and this calls for intensive public political awareness and enlightenment in the area.
It is against this background that the researcher in this study advocates for the resolution of these pressing issues as;
1. The need for an urgent of community newspapers
2. The role of the community newspaper in creating political awareness among rural dwellers.
3. The accessibility of rural dwellers to community newspaper.
4. The extent to which the community newspaper cater for the interest of the rural dwellers.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
This research project is being undertaken with several objectives in mind, and intend to look into the following areas;
1. To find out the actual influence the community newspapers have in creating political awareness in Aguata Local Government Area.
2. To provide information on the level of the exposure of the populace of Aguata Local Government in politics and politics matters.
3. To emphasize the importance of rural dwellers participation in politics.
4. To enlighten the rural folks on the importance of their votes during election.
5. To use community newspapers to attract development and investment in rural sector.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Nigeria since independence had chequered history of government system. They have witnessed more military regime to civilian regimes as a result, Nigerians have not inculcated the democratic culture, they are still at the cognitive stage where a lot of mobilization need to be created for them to know the benefit of democratic culture. It is also imperative to educate them on the working of a democrative government.
Thus this research work becomes inevitable and very vital as democracy has come to stay in our country of which Nigeria has created history in her smooth transition from civilian government hence the study becomes imperative to governments states, individuals and society at large.
This study was also essential to enhance the effectiveness of community newspapers in mobilizing the masses as well as help to unearthed some of the problem hindering the mobilization of the people of Aguata Local Government Area by community news paper (urban news) and offer possible solutions.
This study is also important to help newspapers administrator to devise effective means of creating political awareness in their various areas of circulation.
Although this work beams it’s search light on Aguata Local Government Area, it is also essential to point out that most local government areas in the country are faced with the similar situation so, the findings and recommendation reached at the end of the country.
However, the study besides adding to literature, will offer new grounds for further studies.
1.5 Research Questions
For the purpose of writing this research work, following research questions are formulated, of which answering them will help in giving direction and order to this work.
1. To what extent has community newspaper helped in the creation of political awareness to the people of Aguata Local Government Area?
2. Do members of the community have access to the community newspaper?
3. How effective is community newspaper in getting information to the people of Aguata Local Government Area?
4. Is there any relationship between the people’s exposure to the community newspapers and their participation in political programmes.
5. To what extent do community news papers cater for the interest of the community?
1.6 Scope or Delimitation of the Study:
The topic was chosen with the intention of finding out the impact of community newspaper is creating political awareness at the local level. The work beams it’s search light on Aguata Local Government Area.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The most limiting factor that factor that hindered the researcher was time. The apportioned for the research work was to short for more wider comprehensive work.
Another limiting factor to the work were finance and inadequate material resources, the non availability of related books in the area of study was another major factor limited the study, although the little available were judiciously used.
Another inhibiting factor was the administration of questionnaire that were sent out were not recovered, some were not properly filled. However, nothwithstanding these limitation stated above, the work was a success by imploring diplomatic measures towards appraising the research topic thoroughly.
1.8 Research Hypothesis
1. Ho: There have been no improvement in using community newspaper to create political awareness at local level.
2. Ho: that community newspaper has not achieved the desired objective in creating political awareness.
3. Ho: That constant exposure to community newspaper is not likely to enhance individuals attitude towards political programmes
1.9 Operationalization of Terms
1. Newspaper: It is a regular printed document consisting of news reports, articles, photograph and advertisements that are printed in large sheets of paper which are folded together but permanently oined.
2. Impact: A powerful effect that something has on something especially news on a situation of affairs on establishment.
3. Awareness: An act of fairing special interest in or expe3rience of something and so bring well informed of what is happening in that subject at the present time.
4. Community: People living in a particular area who are considered as a unit because of their common interest and background.
5. Rural Area: Area outside the urban area where 65 percent of Nigerians live.
6. Urban Area: Township where government officials and the middle class live.
7. Masses: The entire citizenry. Those not in governments.
8. Mobilization: The creation of awareness in people with a view of changing their opinion towards certain issues.