Background of the Study
The media are saddled with the onus of bringing to people’s assessment and perception issues they have to be informed about. The way and manner of their reportage of issues that are rooted in crisis have attracted a lot of discourse. People have almost always believed that their presentation is informed by the need to protect those in a disadvantaged position irrespective of whose ox is gored in the long run. Hence, they are seen as devotees of a bias reportage. (Otsuka, 2006, p.28)
In any crisis situation, the role of the media is so crucial. Information is regarded as a critical factor in escalating or reducing the tension. If information is not disseminated carefully about the crises to the populace, it may portend negative consequences for the nation in question. This is because, the media based on their reports in times of crises, can set the whole nation on fire. (Asemah, 2011, p.240). This is where the social responsibility of a journalist needs to be tested. Thus, Sankore (2001, p.15) note that:
Nothing defines the character of a media establishment more sharply than any crisis that pitches nation against nation or one section of the society against another. In times of crisis, the responsibility of the media is manifest tenfold by the society’s demand for more news, information and analysis and therefore, its increase capacity to influence debate and shape public opinion. Every word written or spoken by the media is a potential matchet, bullet or Bomb in the hands and minds of the perpetrators and victims of the crisis. This Raises serious questions on what should be the role of the media in time of war and crisis. The ethical, moral and professional obligation is to provide the public with accurate and balance reporting that does not distort or suppress information.
Crisis therefore, characterizes the dynamics of humans interaction; it is a universal phenomenon that can occur between individuals, groups, and nations. As defined in the Long Man Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995), crisis is a state of disagreement or argument between people, groups, countries, etc. it is more usual with laymen to see crisis as associated with violence. Violence however, is only an extreme manifestation of crisis. Crisis is a fight, a struggle, a disagreement between people with different ideas or beliefs. (Asemah, 200, p.240)
However, one fundamental impediment to the advancement of any society is conflict. Conflict encourages stagnation as well as retrogression of the socio-economic constructions of any given society. It equally engenders acrimony and hatred amongst the inhabitants of such society. Scholars versed in Development Communication have contended that no development agenda (be it political, economic, social, etc.) can thrive in the face of crisis. They further avert that crisis dethrones developmental quests, while further improvising the people. (Bright,2011,p.84).
Several countries of the world have had various dosage of one crisis or the other. The Liberian war, Somalian crisis, Rwanda’s genocide, Sierra Leonean war, Libyan crisis, Bahrain unrest, Clampdown on Yemen, and Syrian conflict are stark reminder of crisis-prone global world we have found ourselves. The outcomes of these conflicts have been very devastating in such individual environments.
This is the unfortunate and pitiable situation of Nigeria as of today. Boko Haram sect as well as Fulani Herdsmen have not only waged war against the Nigerian state but have crippled the social, economic, religious and political blocks needed for development.
Crisis has become synonymous with the political entity called Nigeria. In fact, it has become integral part of her structure. Right from the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates by Lord Lugard in 1914, the country has known no peace. It has been one form of crisis in the North or other in the South with many of them having ethno-religious colourations. These crises, no doubt, cannot be divorced from the multi-ethnic and religious nature of Nigeria. (Okolie,2009,p.318).
In Nigeria, religion has become a bane of unity, peace and development. Religious crisis has become a reoccurring decimal, most especially in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria. Religious related violence and killings to achieve some political or religious end are certainly not a new phenomenon, especially in Northern part of the country. Right from the pre-colonial days of migration and Jihad by native Africans and Jihadist (from Sudan) to the National Food Shortage Strike Violence in Plateau State between the Igbos and Hausas migrant in 1945, political and ethno-religious crisis have remained part of the nation’s history. These waves of violence which have usually had religious and ethnic motivations assumed prominence immediately after Nigeria gained independence in 1960. (Osaghae & Suberu, 2005,p.18).
Of all the ethnic and religious related crises that have so far rocked Nigeria after the civil war, none has threatened the very foundation of Nigerian state like the current onslaught by the Boko Haram Sect and Fulani Herdsmen. Herdsmen-Farmers crisis has orchestrated series of deadly attacks which have left hundreds of lives dead and properties worth billions of naira destroyed.
The most national embarrassing attack was the killing of five persons on Thursday night after suspected Fulani herdsmen launched a fresh attack on Nzharuvo village of Miango, Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State. The attack was launched during president Muhammadu Buhari’s two day official visit to Plateau State. Benue and Taraba States attack on the first January 2018, popularly known as New Year Day, are not left out as well as attack in Nasarawa, Oyo, Ondo, Kwara etc. The perpetrators of this nature of conflict are undeterred in their marauding exploits due largely to the lack of reprimand from security agencies, the government and to some extent the mass media. (Okoli,2014).
In the face of these attacks, effort to tame this deadly group have brought to mind the place of the mass media in crisis situations. The mass media have been adjudged by conflict resolution experts as indispensable tools for the management of crisis. Nwosu, (2004, p.15) affirms that:
The mass media are considered to be very important in conflict management because they are information merchants, conducts or carriers of various shades and colours of information. And in times of conflicts, or even wars, adequate or inadequate management of information is considered to be a critical factor in the emergence, escalation or reduction of tension points at various levels, tensions which depending on how they are managed can determine the end or continuation of conflicts.