Media And Development Challenge In Nigeria At A Time Of Crisis (1)

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These are interesting times in Nigeria. In many ways, they are troubling times. But if history teaches anything, it is that trouble can be opportunity. The apparent threat to human progress by extant reality in Nigeria could be the point of surge for progress, or, if inappropriately handled, the curvature from which we either tip into Jared Diamond-type collapse or Robert Kaplan-predicted anarchy.

Given the multifaceted nature the challenges confronting nation building and economic development in Nigeria both efforts at explication of the nature of the crisis and paths to solution have to be multidisciplinary. I am fortunate, therefore, that I came to the issue with a multidisciplinary academic tooling, beginning here at UNN with Mass Communication and then spreading to Policy Economics, Political Science and Business Administration. I have in fact found that I have followed enough economic historians that I now find myself being referred to as a historian.

In many ways though a good Mass Communication person needs to be a bit of all of those, and much more, if meaning of value is to be transmitted from source to the receivers of what we push through the channels that are infected by all kinds of physical and semantic noises that impact the fidelity of the message.

Besides, the superior logic of a multidisciplinary approach to reflecting on the media’s role in assessing and shaping development tradition draws us to that approach. Much of what was media and society research was led by scholars from other disciplines.

When Ithiel de Sola Pool died of cancer at 66 in 1984, I related to the much-celebrated MIT political scientist at that time as a PhD in Political Science, but I first encountered this author of the 1973 “Handbook of Communication” as an undergraduate in Mass Communication in UNN after the return of Ralph Chude Okonkwor inspired a select number of my classmates such as Ike Emeagwali, Isah Momoh and I to take an interest in Media and Society Research.

Indeed, it is worthy of mention here that my first two publications, which were in a refereed European academic journal within two years of my leaving UNN, started their journey from the library of the Jackson School. The piece “Historical-Philosophical Foundations of Media Ownership in Nigeria,” whose first draft was written in my final year, here at UNN, was of a multidisciplinary conception, drawing from my interest in History, Political Science and Public Administration, in addition to media studies.

I am pleased therefore to turn, today, to Structural Economics, International Political Economy, Institutional Economics, History, and Comparative Politics to suggest how the media may shape the agenda that could determine whether Nigeria

claims the promise of the dawn of self-government or tip over into anarchy.

We shall turn next to the state of the economy and the process of media influence to establish the context of the dilemma of progress in Nigeria.

What is the current state of the economy?

An incredible test of the way things are, is how they vote with their feet. There is exodus from Nigeria at the bottom and the Middle. The statistics of upper middle class, well educated, well paid managers and executives emigrating to Canada almost leaves the sense of scramble off a sinking ship. Why are IBTC managers, former bank MDs abandoning Nigeria even in middle age?

At the bottom, we are regaled daily by images of Nigerians being repatriated from Libya after torturous time crossing the dessert, and a taste of slavery. This is even far less gory than images of scooping bodies of those drowning in the Mediterranean.

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The Institute for Media and Society is an independent, non-governmental organization based in Nigeria. The institute was established in April 2000. In establishing the organization, we considered and were convinced of such issues as: the inter-relationship between the well-being of a society and its media as well as between the state of the media and the responsiveness and growth of societal institutions. the institutionalization of democracy and development in Nigeria being nourished by a free and pluralistic media structure, culture and environment.

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