American International Journal of Social Science

ISSN 2325-4149(Print), ISSN 2325-4165(Online) DIO: 10.30845/aijss

The Press and Foreign Policy: An Examination of the Role of the Nigerian Press in the Government Decision to Intervene in the Liberian Civil War in 19901
Bello Basiru Gwarzo

This work examines the role of the Nigerian press in the government’s decision in 1990 to intervene in the Liberian civil war which consumed 160,000 lives and displaced 1.8 million people (Paasawe, 2006). Nigeria was the biggest contributor to the ECOMOG operation in Liberia (West Africa, 1992, 1996 & Defence Studies, 8:1998, p65). It committed 10,000 troops to the operation and spent $4 billion to bring peace to the African country. Together with its intervention in Sierra Leone it sustained 1,000 casualties (IPA, 2003). Except for the first Commander provided by Ghana, all the nine Field-Commanders of the ECOMOG were Nigerians. President Babangida in fact initiated the mediation efforts and later the ECOMOG operation (Bundu, New Nigerian, 1990). The government policy was some good grist in the Nigerian press mill. Ten newspapers were selected because, first, they belonged to the serious and prestigious press in the country. All of them enjoyed a wide readership and could claim national outlook either because of their wide circulation or because of their worldview despite the degree of provincial concentration of readers. Secondly, they were a good representative sample of government and private newspapers. In addition, under military rule in Nigeria, there appeared to be greater freedom of expression on foreign policy matters, than on domestic issues. The New Nigerian newspapers and the Times group represented government newspapers. The Guardian, the Concord and the Democrat groups represented private newspapers. The papers also represented liberal and conservative viewpoints. Some were proestablishment e.g. the New Nigerian, the Daily Times, the Democrat and the Concord. Others were centrist, e.g. The Guardian. We can also categorize them, for what the public saw them, as Lagos-Ibadan press and Kano- Kaduna press or the southern press and the northern press. For analytical purposes, we have also categorised them as interventionist press (those who advocated government intervention) and isolationist press (those that advocated non-intervention) and the insular press (those that followed government lead). Three newspapers, The Guardian, the Concord (and the Champion) sent correspondents to the frontline. The Government also sponsored its journalists to visit the arena. The Democrat and the National Concord canvassed the opinion for the Nigerian Government to intervene because of regional security and on humanitarian grounds. The Guardian wanted the Government out of the quagmire and criticised it for dragging its feet in evacuating Nigerians and considered any intervention as interference in Liberia’s internal affairs in support of the embattled President Samuel Doe. The Daily Times and the New Nigerian supported Government position. The Government sited regional security as reason for intervention. The work is based on three assumptions. First, whenever there is an external crisis in Africa, the Nigerian Press report and comment on it extensively. Second, whenever an external crisis threatens regional security or portends humanitarian problem, the Nigerian Press call for Nigerian government intervention to resolve it. Third, the Nigerian Press have contributed a great deal in making the Nigerian government and public conscious of the implications of the Liberian crisis.

Full Text: PDF