This research focuses on newspaper coverage of the 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra state . The Newspapers content analysed are The vanguard, The dailypost, The dailysun, The punch, The nation, The premiumtime and The Observer . The study found that the coverage was limited and that the period of most interest to the Newspapers was the pre-election period. The findings also indicate that the coverage was unfavourable, describing the pre-election news as violence which is an offshoot of IPOB election boycott saga . The study finally concluded that the election results and announcement of winner were never compromised or biased, hence all the major newspapers reportage accurate and inline with that of INEC.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Election is one of the most important pillars of democracy. Indeed, it is a necessary condition for democracy because it provides the medium for the expression of the core principles and purposes of democracy such as the sovereignty of the citizens; freedom, choice and accountability of political leaders. In order to serve these purposes of democracy, elections must be free and fair. The notion of free and fair election expresses several conditions, including absence of manipulation, violence and fraud as well as impartiality of election management authority and effective participation by the electorate at all stages of the electoral process. An electoral process involves different stages at which decisions are made and activities are undertaken.
The stages include enactment of electoral laws; establishing electoral management authority and appointing its officials; constituency delineation; party formation and registration, voter registration; nomination of candidates and campaigns; procurement of relevant services and materials; determination of polling centres and provision of polling booths; polling, counting and declaration of results, and determination of election petitions. At all these levels, there must be transparency, fairness, and unhindered participation by every eligible person and group. Any government that emerges from any election that is not free and fair cannot be the true choices of the electorate and therefore represents the usurpation of the sovereignty of the citizens .
Successive elections in Nigeria since the colonial period lacked the essential ingredients of democratic electoral process: transparency, fairness and freeness. This failure is due to several factors: manipulation of the decisions and activities at the various stages of electoral process by the governments and politicians; corruption of officials and electorates, violence during campaigns, polling and collation; rigging through the stuffing, snatching and destruction of ballot boxes.
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF ANAMBRA ELECTION
The gubernatorial elections in Anambra state were scheduled and conducted on November 18th 2018 . Due to the various adverse threat of election boycott by the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB) a pro Biafra group, there were concerns and fear about the preparedness of the electoral body to conduct free and fair elections in 2018. Anambra residence were highly concerned about the capacity of the security institutions to ensure peaceful atmosphere. Apart from the ugly experiences of previous elections conducted in the state, the several threats from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to boycott the election for obvious reasons increased the already heated polity.
The threats which later changed from boycott to sit-at-home before later graduating to vote-and-die few days to the election raised the bar of the tensed environment the more.
The pro-Biafra group, through its spokesperson Emma Powerful, had warned residents to steer clear of any activity related to the election or have themselves to blame.
It said the purported bomb blast experienced during the local government election in Enugu state can at best be described as a child’s play compared to what would be experienced during the Anambra governorship election.
The avalanche of litigations occasioned by the manipulations of the electoral rules and processes; electoral administration lapses, and election-related campaigns fuelled public apprehension and cynicism. A total of 2,064,134 residents registered as eligible voters for the election with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Of this number, only 457, 511, about 22.16 per cent, actually came out on Election Day to be accredited.
Regardless, not all the 457,511 accredited people actually cast their vote. The INEC figure shows that only 21.74 per cent of the registered voters (448,771) actually cast their votes.
For example, Idemili North local Government Area which has the highest number of registered voters, 178,938, had only 25,254 (14.11 per cent) being accredited.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Given media’s expected performance as watchdogs in the society, they ought to be providers of information about events and conditions in the society; indicate relations of power, and facilitate innovative, adaptation and progress. Also, while carrying out their responsibilities of correlating parts of the society in response to the society, the mass media are expected to explain, interpret, and comment on the meaning of events and information. The mass media are also expected to provide support for established authority and norms, socialize, coordinate separate activities, build consensus and set orders of priority and signal relative status (McQuail, 2011). Thus, the mass media are charged with the responsibility of helping people to monitor the events going on in the society, thereby giving them ideas about the threat and opportunities in the society. However, the mass media do not only provide people with information with which they take rational decisions about their lives, but they also perform the functions of interpreting the daily events that are reported as a way of analyzing the events in terms of the context in which they occur. In other words, the surveillance function of the mass media provides only the tips of information as various events occur in the society. However, this tip of information can only become useful to the people in the society when they are expanded and broken into useful analysis that contain the context, genesis, and outcome of a particular event in the society. These functions of mass media therefore provide the basis for assessing the performance of the NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF THE 2017 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION IN ANAMBRA STATE.
However, in scholarly works of Popoola (2012; 2013; 2014a; 2014b and 2015) he submits that elections in Nigeria have been characterized by the use of do or die approach that entails the deployment of the most desperate and despicable tactics to clinch and maintain political power. According to him and as reinforced by Ake, cited inChukwuma and Philip (2014),lawlessness, violence and impunity have become indispensable elements of the electioneering experience. Describing the desperation of the Nigerian political class, the scholars write that:
… the political class is intoxicated with politics. The premium on political power is so high that political candidates are prone to take the most extreme measures in order to win and maintain political power; political energy tends to be channeled into the struggle for power to the detriment of economically productive efforts.This signifies the fact that politics in Nigeria to a large extent mirrors the proverbial rat race whereby those involved give little or no regards to decorum and etiquette. Hence, they seek for power with the utmost and crudest desperation.
1.3 Hypothesis/Research Questions