How Media Reported ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Act as Crisis Zone

How Media Reported ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Act as Crisis Zone

By Raji Rasaq Youths are regarded as agents of change, considering their vibrancy, youthful and energetic spirit running in their veins as well as their ability to add freshness to activate old and wearied logic. Reports have shown that the youths constitute 61,306,413 or 31.7% of Nigeria’s population, according to a release by the Nigeria

By Raji Rasaq

Youths are regarded as agents of change, considering their vibrancy, youthful and energetic spirit running in their veins as well as their ability to add freshness to activate old and wearied logic. Reports have shown that the youths constitute 61,306,413 or 31.7% of Nigeria’s population, according to a release by the Nigeria Population Commission (as referenced by Atthairu Jega, 2017).

This population is formidable enough to drive the wheel of development in Nigeria. To do this, the youths need political power. Unfortunately, they have been relegated from the same political pedestal by the same society that turns around to tag them as ‘unscrupulous’, ‘exuberant’, ‘too young to run’ and what have you. To change these negative narratives, the contribution by the media, through positive youth development reporting approach is very significant.

To be frank really, the considerable volume of media coverage of issues around youth’s participation in the electoral process towards 2019 elections is a testimony to the fact that their issues are newsworthy in the first place. And interestingly too, media mention of youths in politics increased significantly following the signing into law, on May 31st  2018 of the “Not-too-Young-to-Run” bill by President Muhammed Buhari.

However, findings show that, so far, media framing of “Not-too-Young-to-Run” Act (2019) does not support the rules of development journalism which serves as an instrument of social justice and a tool for achieving beneficial social change. The Guardian (International Edition, 2009) says “…Another thing that development journalism is not, is making people into victims by treating them without dignity or sensationalizing their lives. This usually comes through perceiving them as less important, intelligent or significant…” The way and manner the Act was reported thereafter really trivialized the importance of youths in our national life.

The bill initially “seeks to alter Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the office of the President and Governor and membership of the Senate and House of Representatives and the State House of Assembly…(The Cable online, June 02, 2018).

Incidentally, media framing of the Act has nosedived to the point of reducing the whole essence and its expected impact to what Moira O’Neil (2012) calls “Crisis-Zone Framing” where nothing essentially works.

Crisis-Zone Framing

As explained in a report authored by Moira O’Neil (2012), Crisis-Zone framing underscores media coverage of issues “structured by an overwhelming sense of impending crisis”. In this kind of framing, reporting on problems far outweighs attention to solutions, thereby “encourages the public’s pessimism about reform (as to what can we really do?) and fails to galvanize support for changes to the system. Without clear solutions (proffered by the media reporting), problems appear both intractable and evitable”.

Overtly and covertly, media framing of the Not Too Young To Run Act, so far suggests that it is ‘pyrrhic, unnecessary, and useless” since the Act (having reduced the age to contest) does not erase lots of problems and challenges bedeviling youths’ participation in politics. Some media discourses, comments and analysis have already identified challenges to include huge cost of election finance, and ‘do or die’ political terrain associated with electoral violence as some bottlenecks that will hamper inclusiveness of the youths in the electoral process.

This piece is informed by the fact that media coverage of issues around the new law has been (re)presented (without conscious effort to offer pragmatic solution) in such a manner to suggest that the promulgation was in futility. This explained why the media published several negative reports in a sustained manner to concentrate more on problems such as lack of campaign funds to succeed in elections, failed policies and reforms on youths’ development.

More often, journalists and commentators tend to magnify the scope of the crisis by voicing their concern about the workability of the law. The consequence of this kind of framing is further observed in public’s pessimism about government reforms and fail to galvanize support for changes in the system.

With all these in mind, media content analysis is adopted in this piece for investigation, and it is based on a qualitative assessment of reports published in the Nigerian print media that border on the issues around the “Not-too-Young-to-Run” Act.

For instance, a story authored by Jonathan Nda-Isaiah in the Leadership (Saturday, June 2, 2018), titled: “The Not-Too-Young-To-Run Endorsement And Matters Arising” cited funding as a challenge, and claimed “We all know that in Nigeria, it is almost impossible for a 40-year old person, especially the common man, to become a president unless through a coup d’etat”. Here, the author voiced out his fears and concerns about the law, yet no solution was provided.

Another tune of frustration was observed in a report by ThisDay, (June 10, 2018, pg. 76) authored by Omololu Ogunmade, titled: “How Far Can the Youths Go with Not-too-Young-to-Run Act”. The writer also cited funding as a challenge, saying “This is more so that the Nigerian politics is expensive and not within the reach of young men and women most of whom are just coming out of school and are more preoccupied with the drive for survival”.

A cartoon in the Daily Trust (June 3, 2018, pg. 20) gave an impression that the President should be praised for signing the bill however, it failed to suggest that the age limit, in the first place was an aberration and thus breached the constitutional rights of the youths to aspire.

Sam Omatseye, in a back-page column in The Nation (June 4, 2018) also painted a gloomy and tragic picture of the bill as it concerns the youth’s participation when he says “…Yet, a big irony yawns. More Nigerians can now run. But the triumph is in theory only. That’s the tragedy…The bill, for me, is not a watershed moment but only in a paper victory”. Again, no solution was provided.

In The Guardian, a piece titled: “Mixed reactions trailed ‘Not Too Young To Run’ Law (June 2) was open with a pessimistic view when it described the Act as “a mere humorous law”, an “effort in futility” and ‘would remain null until the constitution is amended to fully accommodate it’.

This piece is not, however, suggesting that media has been unfair to youths as a few reports indeed identified problems and even proffered solutions to them. An instance was found in an editorial published in ThisDay (June 19, 2018, pg.15) which identified finance as a major hurdle to youths’ participation. The newspaper quickly suggested a solution when it said “there is an urgent need for a financial regulation on political expenditures that would support the ideals of this new law”.

Also, in the Daily Sun (of June 3, 2018, pg. 14), an opinion piece by Akinola Iwilade, titled: “Not Too Young To Run Law: Buhari has laid misconceptions to rest”, the paper deemed the signed bill as  one of “the many hurdles to cross in the murky waters of the Nigerian democratic system” however proposed what could be seen as parts of the solutions to misconceptions against the youths when it said “we need to invest in assets that builds youth’s resilience against all forms of violent crime plaguing the nation for which terrorism is the lead”.  This is solution journalism.

This kind of journalism as found in what Alexander L. Curry and Keith H. Hammonds tag call ‘Solution Journalism’. According to them, “Solutions Journalism” is reporting about responses to entrenched social problems. “It examines instances where people, institutions, and communities are working toward solutions. Solutions-based stories focus not just on what may be working, but how and why it appears to be working, or, alternatively, why it may be stumbling”.

While it is undeniable the fact that Nigeria media have been development partners in our social and political history, more innovative and systematic reporting is essential to engender more development. There is the need to emphasize collective benefits in national development, explore solution journalism which embraces systematic analysis and avoid featuring problems that are intractable.

The truth remains that the political elite have, for so long marginalized and underrated the youth’s capacity to lead effectively. Our national problems were created, not today, but by the older generation. So, it is expected that the problems cannot be solved using older solutions. Nigeria needs the 21st century generation to solve its problems, as we have in other climes such as Sebastian Kurz, 31 is doing in Austria, Emmanuel Macron 41, in France, as well as Justin Trudea, 46, in Canada. This is where Nigerian youths come in.

As 2019 election is fast approaching, media should investigate, using the right tools, to reveal useful information about burning issues around youths’ participation in politics. There is need to explore the right framing to report policies and reforms embarked upon by policy makers to effect changes around issues of youths and their place in the electoral process. It should also disseminate adequate information to the public concerning the outcomes of government policies about youths’ participation in the political process.

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