1.1 Background to the Study
In his quest to secure a second term as President of Nigeria in 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan begun his campaign for re-election towards the end of 2014. Dr Jonathan was pushing for a second four-year term on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and he, perhaps needed more time to build on his first term, which he started in 2011, and to complete his administration’s policy thrust widely described as the “transformation agenda”. There were different reactions from various quarters including the then major opposition political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). With mounting pressure and rising tension between the two parties, Alamba (2015) reports that the APC variously denounced Jonathan’s Presidency as a failure, highlighting his inability to end the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and tackle endemic corruption. According to Alamba, Jonathan, in one advertisement supporting the then presidential candidate of the APC and former military ruler, Mohammadu Buhari, was described as one who has caused Nigeria to become “number one in broken promises, under his watch”.
From his perceived failed administration, many Nigerians were worried that the president was solely about his selfish gains and not his real responsibilities of protecting lives and the property of the citizens are his utmost priority. The president, who had made it known some years back that he would not stay in office beyond 2015 however made Nigerians to have many thoughts, ranging from being unable to secure the release of the earlier kidnapped school girls from Chibok town in Borno State, even before he declared for a re-election. To take for example, an Abuja based lawyer and social commentator, Jide Oluyemi, had said it was a shame for the president to seek re-election in the midst of the security crisis in the country especially in the North-East, making it known that the president was being totally insensitive to the plight of Nigerians (Odunayo, 2015).
On his part, Fred Agbaje, a Lagos-based lawyer, observed that though the president had the right to want Nigerians’ mandate for re-election but that the timing was wrong. According to Agbaje, there was no law or any process which barred the president from declaring his interest, but the question was whether he could still go ahead to contest in the face of mounting insecurity, unemployment, corruption and abduction of Nigerians, among other problems confronting the country (Ikeke, 2015).
Also, a pro-democracy activist, Joe Igbokwe, had called on the President to jettison his re-election bid, saying that it was not in the nation’s interest. Igbokwe, as Olowosagba (2014) observes, stated that the then harassment of the opposition, the Boko Haram, insurgency and impeachment of opposition governors at the time underscored the president’s desperation to retain power. The activist said these were among incidents that put democracy under threat in Nigeria. Not only that, Igbokwe further stressed that if the quest for power was anchored on good performance Jonathan was unfit for a second term because his handling of national affairs had been tragic and disastrous, adding that his plan to rule for ten years may break the country.
But, Femi Fani-Kayode, the campaign chief of President Jonathan thought otherwise. Alamba (2015) notes that Fani-Kayode described Buhari as a “great danger” for the country. Fani-Kayode, according to Alamba, said the 72-year-old Buhari from the Muslim-majority North who was standing for the Presidency for the fourth time since 2003 represented “a return to an ugly past which is best forgotten”. Fani-Kayode was also reported to have questioned Buhari’s democratic credentials and described his record in public office as shameful and disastrous”. Although Buhari later defeated Jonathan in the March 28, 2015 Presidential election to become Nigeria’s fifth democratically elected President, he had ousted the civilian President Shehu Shagari in a military coup in 1983 and his subsequent 18-month rule as head of state was characterized by a hard-line stance on corruption. The All Progressives Congress, a coalition of opposition political parties, was before the 2015 general elections seen as having its best chance of winning power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
In the heat of the presidential campaigns, it was difficult to flip through newspaper circulating in the country without encountering a President Jonathan’s campaign-related issue. It was not surprising therefore that the media paid attention to this issue. It is as usual with any election year, and that can be explained by the dynamics that came to define the Presidential election as the most agitated between the majority Northern Nigeria and the minority south. This study therefore sought to determine the coverage of President Jonathan’s re-election campaign, its prominence and sponsorship in select newspapers.
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