The Impact Of Community Newspaper In Creating Political Awareness At The Local Level, A Case Study Of Aguata Local Government Area.
1.1 Background of the Study
The phenomenal growth in mass media channels have led to an expansion of the roles it could play in various areas apart from performing the functions of providing information, influencing public opinion, social attitudes, entertainment and bringing about greater social integration. In contemporary times, the media play important role in providing information through news reports and analysis which is beneficial in assessing political performance.
In Nigeria, the press historically played a powerful role in motivating people to participate in the freedom struggle during independence era years after the first newspaper was published by Reverend Henry Townsend. This led a very solid foundation for the expansion and growth of newspaper industry. The newspaper industry was at the front of the fight for independence of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. The pre and post independence press (Newspaper) brought about many innovations. They fought colonial masters, gained their independence and also brought development to the nation through their coverage. This development is in all facets of human endeavor and springs across economic, social, cultural and most importantly political aspect of the country. This development in area of politics was attained through mobilization of the masses and the creation of political awareness in both national and local level; using national newspaper at national level and community newspaper at local level.
Although, this does not mean that therefore the advent of the newspapers that political awareness has not been. Prior to the advent of the newspaper, community development had progressed from generation to generation. Communities and even ages grades undertake various political programmes like elections and appointments of village chiefs and rulers, which is peculiar to communities.
However, in contemporary time, as newspaper has come to stay in Nigeria, it is not possible to talk of development without mentioning politics. When we talk about politics, the first thing that come to mind is creating awareness to let people know about political programmes available, their right etc then mobilizing them to participate in the programme. Therefore, for meaning national development, it must be anchored on generating useful and effective political awareness.
In emphasizing the role of the mass media in nation building the government should be aware that the mass media must provide a basic national and balanced services of news which will educate the citizen of the country. For it has been observed that general mobilization and enlightenment of citizens for political activities are the main factor of any development process.
However, the area of focus in this research work should be on the print media and community newspaper to be precise. This entails the roles it played in the past and the role it still plays in liberating the masses from obscurity, especially the role played during the struggle for independence for the reasons, the various government and people have recognized the influential and powerful nature of the community newspapers on information gathering dissemination as well as in mobilizing the people towards a common goals. Some are still wondering at the role of the press in molding, influencing and exerting public opinion. However, the impact of politics has not been felt in some area due to the people’s level of press awareness on political programmes and activities.
Generally, the newspaper industry has experienced a lot of transformation is evident in the rate at which many newspaper have been springing up in all nooks and cranny of the country.
One appreciates this development, with the development of community newspaper by some newspaper by some newspaper houses. But how far have these community newspaper gone in catering for political enlightenment of people at rural areas with particular references Aguata Local Government Area. The people at the local area comprises the bulk of the country’s population. They are the cradle of civilization.
Aguata Local government Area is one of the twenty-one (21) local government area in Anambra State. It is made up of fourteen (14) autonomous communities, with it headquarters at Ekwulobia. It is one of the largest five local government areas in the country.
The local government is rapidly developing industrially, commercially, socially with rich heritage. Ekwulobia one of the communities and a growing commercial town has been elevated to urban status by the state government. The people of the area are mainly farmers and traders with potentialities of becoming self-reliant in food production. Palm oil production is the dominant cash crop in the area. The area is also famous in arts and culture as Igboukwu archeological finding testify to this; it has the only ancestral museum in the state.
Aguata Local Government Area has an estimated population of about 328,324 (three hundred and twenty eight thousand, three hundred and twenty four) people of various age bracket and also comprises of indigenes and those that are available are overstretched due to high increase in population and erosion menace, this has retarded the pace of development. This neglect should be attributed to lack of adequate knowledge of political programmes of the government in power by the people in the area. This has always resulted in the their choice to parties and candidates during the election of representatives.
Thus, the primary role of community newspaper in such area is the effective mobilization of the people towards effective political awareness.