The mass media have made tremendous contributions to the development of Nigeria. They have achieved this by playing the basic roles of information, education and entertainment, as they contributed to the development of every facet of the country. The contributions could be approached from the pre-independence and post-independence angles. So how did the mass media contribute to the nation’s development before and after independence? This is a question that always comes up in examinations on History of the Nigerian Mass Media. Here’s how to respond to it.
First, what is development? Development is a change process geared at improving or making better, the life and environment of man. It deals with efforts made in the betterment of the life of man. The mass media’s role in the development process is primarily played in the area of development communication. This refers to application of communication channels to stimulate change process. In this case, it involves the use of media content (news stories, articles, radio and television programmes of all kinds, group communication techniques made possible through mass media) to bring enlighten people on how they can contribute in the development of the society or keep them informed about development policies and programs. Development communication through the mass media is basically aimed at persuading, encouraging, mobilizing or convincing the public to adopt an attitude and participate in realizing or achieving a development plan or goal.
Politically, the mass media contributed to the struggle for independence. This was a major contribution of the Nigerian press before independence. They contributed immensely to nationalist struggles. For instance, most of the early newspaper owners were nationalists who used their newspapers to advance the course for independence. They enlightened the public on the need for independence through the content of their publications. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, for instance, used his chain of newspapers to push for independence. His West African Pilot, Eastern Guardian, National Spokesman and Southern Nigeria Defender, made contributions in one way or the other in the struggle for independence. Also, Ernest Ikoli, another prominent journalist, used his newspaper, the African Messenger, to enlighten the public on the need for independence. That was before he became the first editor of the Daily Times newspaper. Other nationalists who also used their newspapers and journalism experience to push for independence are Dutse Mohammed, Anthony Enahoro, John Payne Jackson, among others.
The mass media promoted regional consciousness among Nigerians. This was in addition to promotion of national unity, especially creating a united front against the colonial government, and for independence of the country.
The media contributed to political education. They enlightened the public on whom to vote, their role in elections, and how to vote. People were also enlightened on how government worked, how the system of government operated.
Educationally, the Nigerian mass media encouraged the public to read. For instance, Iwe Irohin, which was the first newspaper in Nigeria established in 1859 by Rev. Henry Townsend, was primarily established to raise the literacy level of the Egba people. The mass media carried educational content which encouraged people to seek education and also read and write. Informal educational content, teaching people the basics of daily life, were carried by the mass media.
Economically, the mass media contributed to the revival of the economy. They stimulated trade through the adverts they carried. They also taught the public agricultural and other entrepreneurship skills. They are still playing these roles in various forms today.
Culturally, the mass media played the role of custodians of culture. They promoted cultural heritage of the country through their contents. They carried stories about festivals, ceremonies, cultural practices, and this made people aware of their identity and value in the society. The numerous local language newspapers such as Gakya Ta Fi Kwabo and Iwe Irohin, promoted indigenous languages by encouraging people to read in their languages. The newspapers before independence promoted good morals and norms in the society. The mass media still do so today. However, before independence, newspapers and radio did the job predominantly. It was a year before independence, precisely in 1959, when the first television station was established in Ibadan, Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), that the door was opened for television stations to join in playing developmental role in the country.
In terms of religion, the Nigerian mass media promote religious diversity in the country. Iweh Irohin, for instance, carried stories on church activities, arrival and departure of church dignitaries, other newspapers made efforts to promote religious practices in the society. The Nigerian media are still fostering religious development in the country today.
In terms of post independence contributions, the Nigerian mass media have also played tremendous roles towards the development of the country. More than ever before, they are playing serious roles in safe-guarding and fostering democracy in the society, especially through their watch dog role. They are contributing towards educational development, political development, economic, social, and other forms of development in all facets of the society. The media played very key roles in ending military rule in Nigeria. This they did so by exposing the ills of various military regimes, though this came at a cost, as media houses were being closed down while journalists were being arrested. Virtually all the roles played before independence are also being played today by the Nigerian mass media. They are fostering rural and urban development through development communication, mobilizing the public for activities and actions that will lead to projects that develop the society. The mainstream stream media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television) and the social media are playing these functions in various ways.
In terms of economic development for instance, the Social Media are playing major roles in stimulating business activities and ideas. People sell products and services online, through social networking groups, making it possible for start-ups to commence businesses on a small scale. Many Nigerians, have become employers of labour through skills they learnt on social media and through marketing opportunities created by the social media. Many institutions carry out huge financial transactions online. People have online business offices without having to rent shops or offices. Banking transactions such as online deposits and transfers, have made financial transactions easier, removing the barrier created by the cost of travelling physically to do the same business.
The level Nigeria has attained in its development is partly a function of what the mass media are doing in bridging the gap between government and the governed, and effectively playing the basic functions of information, education and entertainment in the society. All the functions played by the mass media in different ways to foster development in Nigeria cannot be exhausted here.
Watch video of lecture on contributions of the mass media to Nigeria’s development below;