Identity Politics in Nigerian Newspapers' Coverage of Boko Haram
Oyewo, Ayanfeoluwa Oluwatosin
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Since the inception of the Boko Haram insurgency, the Nigerian media have been pivotal in reporting on the activities of the group as well as attempts by the government to curtail them. Previous studies have focused on the relationship between the group and the Nigerian media. However, this study investigated how identity politics characterized by the North-South polarization of the Nigerian society is reflected in how selected Northern and Southern-based national newspapers report on Boko Haram activities with a view to establishing how these contributed to the framing by the selected newspapers' various reports of the activities of the sect. The study employed the theories of critical political economy, representation and framing. The study was further premised on the circuit of culture within the broad field of cultural studies, as well as Johnson's (1986) hypothesis that existing general theories within the field of cultural studies express different sides of the same complex process. Four newspapers were selected using the purposive sampling technique. The selected newspapers include: Daily Trust, Leadership, ThisDay, and Vanguard newspapers. Daily Trust and Leadership newspapers are based in the North while ThisDay and Vanguard newspapers are based in the South. The study drawing on textual analytic tools, adopted Fairclough's (1995) model of Critical Discourse Analysis and Framing analysis. A total of forty-three lead stories and four editorials were selected for analysis. The lead stories with the variable "Boko Haram" were selected from the four newspapers published on week days. It also employed in-depth interviews. Four editors of these newspapers were selected using the purposive sampling technique. The study is basically qualitative in nature, consequently, data were analysed using explanation building technique. The following dominant frames were identified in the selected newspapers using the inductive approach to framing analysis: war frame, fear and threats frame, blame and responsibility frame, and punishment frame. Also, the North-South divide was not visible as it was in prior conflict situations because the Boko Haram insurgency threatens the existence of the Nigerian society including the media (Both Northern-based and Southern-based). Furthermore, after the April attacks on the media, the frequency of the lead stories in the newspapers dwindled. In addition, the newspapers were careful about their choice of words and were particular about attributing the information presented to sources. Two main themes were identified from the findings of the indepth interviews- Social responsibility and Professionalism. The study concluded that identity politics ( evidenced by the North-South divide of the Nigerian society) was not a factor in how the selected newspapers cover/report on Boko Haram activities. Boko Haram is a national issue not a North versus South issue. As a result, the newspapers were guided by nationalism and their respective perceptions of professionalism.
- Humanities