By Raji Rasaki
This piece covers the report of a survey, tracking the trend of media reporting of President Bola Tinubu’s campaign promises implementation in the first quarter of his administration (June-August, 2023). The survey tracks ten national newspapers as part of the mechanisms to strengthen Nigeria’s governance process in the post-election period.
The ten (10) newspapers being monitored include The Punch, The Guardian, Daily Sun, Vanguard, ThisDay, Nigerian Tribune, The Nation, Leadership, Daily Trust, and Daily Independent.
The president’s campaign promises have been documented to provide the Nigerian media, civil societies and researchers, with a veritable instrument for effective engagement and monitoring of the implementation of the new regime and, by extension holding the government accountable to the people.
The documented campaign promises were tracked based on the press reports and analysed in line with the APC’s campaign promises strategic document: ‘The Renewed Hope’ Manifesto.
To be eligible for inclusion, the media reports being tracked on promises implementation must:
i. focus on a bill signed into law by the president or the actual pronouncement of a policy statement by the president, his aides, or any agency of the Federal Government, so designated to make such a pronouncement which points directly or indirectly to the fulfilment of a specific campaign promise.
ii. appear on the front page, editorial page, and other pages (Inside page) excluding adverts pages.
iii. be news, editorials, feature stories, interviews, and not adverts, opinions, columns, or satire.
A total of 2,957 media reports bordering on politics, election, gender inclusion and governance issues were reviewed. Of these, 253 reports (at 8.6%) focused on the implementation of the campaign promises of President Tinubu’s administration. These promises revolve around key variables including Oil and Gas, Economy, Agriculture, National Security, Transportation, Digital Economy, Women Empowerment, Youth Education and Empowerment, Power, Foreign Policy, Federalism and Housing.
● Media coverage of promises on women represents only 0.8% of all reports,
● Oil and Gas received the highest attention (22.5%), Economic reforms (19.4%), Social Programs (11.9%) and Agriculture (10.7%).
● Others include Youth Education & Empowerment (10.3%), National Security (8.7%), Power (5.9%), Digital Economy (3.2%), Foreign Policy (2.8%) and Transportation (1.6%);
● Those with the least media attention are recorded in Health and Judicial Reforms each at (0.8%), Federalism and decentralisation (0.4%).
Oil & Gas Accorded More Prominence Than Women, Health, and Youth
The values placed on campaign promises are highlighted by the level of prominence accorded them on the front page rather than those stuck inside news pages. While most of the reports (67.6%) were stuck inside pages, less than half (30.8%) appeared on the front page. Of these, 25.9% of all reports given prominence on the front page cover issues of the Economy, followed by 25.6% which cover Oil and gas; Education, (9%); Women, (2.6); Health, (0%); and Youth, (0%).
What the Media Did and Did Not Do!
Below are the details of the volume of media reports that focus on the implementation of the campaign promises across different sectors.
Promises on Oil & Gas
Oil and Gas policy implementation received the highest media attention (22.5%) within the period. a sector that has been bedevilled by a series of topical issues and numerous challenges ranging from fuel scarcity, Off-spec petrol Conundrum, oil theft, pipeline vandalism, low production, oil subsidy, among others.
In 2023, specifically in President Tinubu’s 100 days in office, events in the sector have attracted huge media attention starting from the president’s policy statement that signalled the end of subsidy removal, a development that has so far accounted for 64.5% of media coverage of the oil sector.
However, much of what the media has not probed deeper includes the full implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (which accounted for only 1.6% coverage) at a time when some marketers are already suspecting what they called “quasi-subsidy payment’ in the post-subsidy removal period. Again, the significance of the sector is further captured in the KPMG’s Oil and Gas risks forecast for 2023, suggesting serious media scrutiny of the sector under the new government.
Economic reforms came second (at 19.4%) in the media coverage of campaign promises, with a major focus on the government’s promises to “achieve double-digit economic growth” and “incentivise international brands with tax credits and reduce bureaucracy”. These reforms are highlighted in stories that reflect the executive orders signed to suspend Finance Act, halts 5% excise tax on telecoms, set up a committee on fiscal policy, tax reforms as well as president’s policy statement that signalled the removal of subsidy payment on oil among others.
Despite these feats, the media needs to make the government answer questions on the promises to “reform civil service to fight corruption”, “establish commodity exchange boards”, and “link local farmers and markets to global economy”.
Social programs reporting recorded 11.9% within the period, with a major focus on the government’s promise “to expand National Social Investment Program”. Much of this has attracted media attention, ranging from the pains generated by the subsidy removal, to World Bank’s advice that government share cash to the poorest of the poor, and the eventual provision of palliatives to the public in terms of work holidays, food items and the proposed increase in salaries.
However, the media needs to further ask questions on the welfare of the out-of-school children, the promises to “introduce new social investment program, partner with existing industry players and to expand access to capital for MSMEs.”
10.7% of the media reports focused on promises of implementation on Agriculture. Most media reports on Agric focus on the promises to “enhance the development of agro-industry”. With the huge significance of the Agric sector, accounting for 26.8% contribution to the nation’s GDP, media needs to hold government accountable to its promises on the “creation of modern Agric hubs”, “set up commodity exchange commissions’ and to drive “incentives for investment’ in the sector.
Youth education and empowerment
Coverage of promises on Youth education and empowerment accounts for 10.3%. In December 2022, the United Nations asserted that “ the world is blessed with its largest generation of youth in history” and that “empowering youth and ensuring they participate in the decisions affecting them is crucial to building more inclusive, equitable and just societies…” The level of coverage allotted to Youth education and empowerment within the period shows no sign of an inclusive, equitable and just society.
Hence, media scrutiny around issues of youths’ employment, education, health, and security is more crucial now than ever, considering the forecast by the KPMG for unemployment to reach 40.6% in 2023.
Only 3.2% of total coverage focuses on the digital economy, a space worth $4.4billion investment as at 2022 and is capable of reaching $230billion in GDP growth rate by 2025. This is huge, too huge for the quality of media coverage recorded so far.
However, the low reportage could be, in fact, smack of low capacity to dig deeper into the prospects of the sector and is also instructive of the need for the media to take its rightful place in the opportunity provided by the sector, at a time the digital gender gap, particularly the women’s participation in the sub-sector of the digital economy is regrettably underreported.
0.8% of all stories recorded on the judicial system. The major promise reported focuses on one of what President Tinubu promises to do in the Judicial sector, which is to ”establish a committee to review the judicial system”. The low volume of coverage recorded is typical of the sector despite its significance to the well-being, hopes and rights of the citizens.
Hence, the conservative nature of the judicial operations in Nigeria (which accounts for journalists’ scepticism at covering the sector) calls for more scrutiny to encourage an all-round reform in the sector. It in the interest of the media and other stakeholders.
Media coverage around Fiscal Federalism records only 0.4%. This includes the coverage of the president’s assent to the electricity bills, which allows some flexibility, unlike before, on the part of the states, companies and individuals to generate, transmit and distribute powers as well as the presidential inauguration of the committee on fiscal policy and tax reforms.
However, the media must continue to consider the responsibility to further hold the government accountable on resource control to states, collection of Value Added Tax and distribution, parameters of the president’s fiscal federalism, local government reform, and the restructuring agenda of the new president.
Foreign Affairs Policy
At 3.2%, media coverage on foreign affairs focuses more on Tinubu’s promotion of “joint industrialisation and infrastructural projects” such as he has sought stronger, economic, defence, partnership and bilateral cooperations from stronger nations with Africa and Nigeria.
However, more needs to be covered in terms of promises on “international policy on climate change”, “keep non-African terrorist organizations out of the continent” and “to establish a department for strategic policy to monitor and implement foreign policy”.
Promises implementation on power (electricity) attracts 5.9% of media coverage, with a major focus on efforts to “generate and transmit more power” and “to enable investors bring international finance to generate electricity”. The media has played a part in covering the president’s assent to the electricity bills within the period.
However, deliberate efforts are crucial, holding the government to account for specific promises such as the implementation of the plan to “create enabling environment for renewable energy plan” which seeks to increase the supply of renewable electricity to 23% in 2025 and then account for 10% of Nigerian total energy consumption by 2025.
Transport coverage records 1.6% of all reports, with a major focus on the efforts “to deploy technology and security assets to safeguard travellers”. Some of the stories in this regard have emphasised efforts at rolling out CNG-powered buses to cushion the pains of subsidy removal.
However, the sector is too significant for the level of coverage recorded especially the road transport, given the rating of the National Bureau of Statistics of road transportation, as one of the best-performing sectors in the third quarter of 2022, with a 49.68 percent growth. The new government needs to answer questions on the promises to “rehabilitate and expand existing federal roads” and “establish new national carrier”.
Reporting National Security
The media reports (9.1%) on national security focus solely on the government’s promise to ensure a “proactive security approach to address security threats”. These are reflected in some stories which highlight the president’s actions on the major reshuffle in the security architecture of the country and the subsequent “strategic meetings with the security chiefs.
While experts’ reviews show a seeming improvement in the security situation in the first quarter of the administration, there is a need for further holding the government on the promises to “collaborate with state and national assembly on laws to secure local communities”, “eliminate attacks on vital national infrastructure”, “Exploit aerial and technological superiority” and “Improve salaries and welfare of security personnel”.
Insecurity has the potential to negatively impact the nation’s prosperity, even now that the IMF has projected the possibility of Nigeria’s growth to decline to 3.5% in 2023 due security issues in the oil sector”.
The O.8% coverage given to the promises in the health sector only tracks very few stories around the promises to “fund local research for new drugs, vaccines” and “support allocations for health insurance fund” within the period under review.
Aside from these, the president has made some other promises in the sector, including his plans to ensure the “establishment of a regulated community-based health insurance scheme”, “facilitate the upgrading, equipping and staffing of a general hospital in every Local Government Area, a tertiary facility in each State and a world-class specialist hospital in each geo-political zone” among others.
The government needs to further account for these promises for two reasons:
- Considering the significance of the health sector which is projected to contribute at least #480.5bn to the Nigeria’s GDP in 2022.
- Also considering the fact that despite the African Union’s proposed allocation of 15% of the annual national budget to the health sector, Nigeria allocates 5.75% of its 2023 budget to the sector first time in history, having been ranked the lowest on the 2022 United Nation’s Human Development Index.
Women in the Media
Media coverage of promises on women’s “ social, political and economic inclusion” represents only 0.8% of all reports, signifying a similar scenario with President Tinubu’s meagre 18.75% representation of women in his current cabinet. While the media is on the march on women’s coverage, the level of attention is not in sync with a section of the population which represents 49.5% of the Nigeria’s population and 47.5% of the voting population.
The media must continue to ask questions around several other promises made to women including the government’s promises to “mandate the federal executive to reserve a minimum number of senior positions for women and also strongly encourage private institutions to do so”, “expand the use of specialist police units to investigate and handle cases of domestic violence” .
This is the first quarterly series of a survey on the trend of the media coverage of President Tinubu’s campaign promises implementation in the post-handing period. The media has shown a commitment to accountability in an engaging volume of news editions on campaign promises implementation.
However, the early observation of the trend of reporting shows a political economy of news that tilts towards more celebrated, noisy, or rather revenue driven-issues of Oil and gas reporting (at 22.5%) and Economy (19.4%), and less coverage for issues of women (0.8%) and health (0.8%).
While this survey report holds no media culpable for the low implementation of promises made to the underreported sections of society, it is recommended that stories with human angles be pursued with deliberate vigour. Finally, while the government has shown an ambitious list of campaign promises, it must account for the mechanisms to adopt for the purpose of enduring impacts on the populace.