The Nigerian media landscape is a changing climate. Once dominated by print, radio and television, it is experiencing a disruption by digital platforms. The chief limitations of journalistic excellence are the poor remuneration and the overlapping of journalism and politics often to the detriment of objectivity. However, despite all these limitations, Nigeria — considering its delicate religious and ethnic makeup — cannot afford a state without the media. Chaos would be the irrevocable end-result.
The advent of digital technology has impacted technological change and innovation. This is evident in the country’s startup ecosystem, mobile ecosystem and the uptake of mobile phones. The population with access to smartphones has also been on the increase but digital divide remains evident between the rural poor and urban rich centres of the country. Though the government, with the support of the World Bank, is working to bridge this divide, not much progress has been made.
On the other hand, the rise in the uptake of smartphones has not displaced traditional media; trust in traditional media is likely to remain stable for the foreseeable future. The rising spate of fake news on social media platforms tends to discourage many Nigerian from relying on social media sources for news. The government has also acknowledged the challenge posed by fake news and has embarked on a national campaign to stem it. However, political actors seem to be making political capital out of misinformation on social media platforms. For instance, the rate at which supporters of the two leading political parties promote misinformation about each other is an indication that it could have become a strategy aimed at winning elections in 2019.
It is expected that the relationship between the media and political actors will gravitate between cordiality and suspicion. On the one hand, political actors are expected to deploy the media to achieve certain political ends. On the other, they are likely to seek to malign the media for lack of cooperation. The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was recently quoted as saying that he is disappointed in the Nigerian press for not giving his administration required credit for the agricultural revolution it has recorded in the country. Whether Buhari’s statement is subjective or objective, it is seen as an attempt at agenda setting for the media to favourably report on the activities of his administration. Unfortunately, the media has shown resilience even in the face of military dictatorship and this is not expected to change anytime in the near future. However, intimidation of journalists and media organisations is likely to continue, but not at a much stronger scale than what is currently ongoing.
In addition, the media is expected to remain fragmented along the two centres of production: The southern press axis of Lagos-Ibadan and the northern one of Abuja. These two centres of production are also likely to fall across ethnic and religious lines. This could also manifest in the media through slanting of stories along ethnic and religious sentiments.
While a significant change is not anticipated, the country will likely witness a rise in the use of WhatsApp as a means of communication. It is anticipated that as the 2019 election draws near, more Nigerians will look to social media platforms to form an opinion.