STYLE, LEXICAL CHOICES AND MEDIA IDEOLOGY IN SELECTED ENGLISH-MEDIUM NEWSPAPER REPORTS ON NIGER DELTA CONFLICTS, 1997 – 2009
Media reports on Niger Delta (ND) crises in Nigeria have reflected a relationship between lexico- stylistic choices and reporters‘ ideological stances. Existing studies on these reports have, however, neglected this relationship, concentrating on general stylistic, pragmatic and discourse features. These features, which are concerned more with the linguistic and contextual dimensions to the reports than the interaction between the ideology and style used by newspaper reporters, have prevented a full understanding of group-induced motivations for the crises and reports. This study, therefore, investigated the styles, contexts and strategies that manifest in selected Nigerian newspaper reports of the ND conflicts with a view to establishing the link between media ideologies and lexico- stylistic choices in the reports.
The study adopted Lesley Jeffries‘ critical stylistics, Teun van Dijk‘s context model, and aspects of evaluative semantics and conceptual metaphor. One hundred and fifty reports on ND conflicts were sampled: 81 from four ND-based newspapers (NDPs): The Tide, New Waves, The Pointer and Pioneer; 69 from four national newspapers (NNPs): The Punch, The Guardian, Vanguard and THISDAY between 1997 and 2009: two years before and after Obasanjo‘s 1999-2007 administration. While NDPs were selected based on their consistency in reporting on the conflicts, the NNPs were selected for their wider readership. The data were subjected to stylistic analysis.
Three styles, influenced by specific ND issues and context, characterise the lexical choices in the newspaper texts – evaluative, manipulative and persuasive styles; they are achieved through four stylistic strategies: naming/describing, equating/contrasting, hypothesising, and viewing actions/events. The evaluative style is represented by emotive metaphors from three source domains
– crime, hunting, and military – that name the news actors, their violent encounters, locations, and roles. The manipulative style is indexed by synonymous, hyponymous, and meronymous lexical items and intentional material actions that highlight the effect of armed struggle in the discourse. The persuasive style is realised with reiterations, lexical fields and collocations that appear as appositional and intensive relational equivalences, exploited to present the struggling situations engaged in and social labels given to the news actors. Three media ideologies are observed: propagandist, framist, and mediator ideologies. Propagandist ideology, dominated by viewing actions/events and naming/describing, is represented by reiterations and collocations used to construct the ND violence as war and threat. Framist ideology, associated with naming/describing, is enacted by reiterative and emotive labels relating to sabotaging and sanitising, which assess the news actors and their intentions in positive/negative terms. Mediator ideology, associated with hypothesising and equating/contrasting, is constructed with reiterations, lexical fields and collocations that express epistemic and boulomaic meanings, which project news actors‘ views that align with those of the news reporters‘. Thus, propagandist ideology motivates the persuasive style; framist ideology, the evaluative style, and mediator ideology, the manipulative style.
The styles in newspaper reports on Niger Delta conflicts, deployed through lexical relations and stylistic strategies, are motivated by the reporters‘ ideological roles as propagandists, framists and mediators in the discourse. Therefore, there is a close interaction between lexico-stylistic choices and ideological positions in ND media reports.
Key words: Style, Media ideology, Niger Delta conflict, Lexical indices.
Word count: 495
GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES
The general aim of this study is to provide a stylistic account in which certain lexical forms and relations, which mark the styles used by newspaper reporters, are systematically related to a set of stylistic strategies, with a view to establishing a link between lexico-stylistic choices and the media ideologies prompting them. The current chapter presents a background to the study and situates it within the framework of critical language study. It also clarifies some fundamental issues relating to the topic of the study. These range from the brief history of media practice in Nigeria, media ownership and control, context and discourse of news reporting, to the Niger Delta conflict and the Nigerian politics.
Background to the study
The press – all over the world – is largely believed to treat issues in the news with transparency and neutrality; that is, carefully collecting facts, objectively presenting them without bias, in a language designed to be unambiguous and agreeable to readers. However, this professional ethos, which is certainly what the journalist maintains in any general statement, has been questioned by scholars working on media discourse, who argue that news is not free from the moderations of its purveyors to suit their ideological purpose. Fowler, for example, claims that ―news is constructed or made or is a social construction of reality‖ (1991: 2). For Tuchman, ―news ... is a constructed reality processing its own internal validity‖ (1978: 97); while in Hall et al‘s (eds) view, ―news is the end-product of a... systematic sorting of events and selecting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories‖
ONONYE, C.F. (2014). Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
(1978: 53). It is in support of these submissions that van Dijk concludes that the media and their socially constructed discourse are handed down as ―the main source of people‘s knowledge, attitudes and ideologies‖ (1999: 36).
All these conceptions of the press and its news point to two facts. First, that news is a representation of the world in language; that is, it constructively patterns what it speaks through the semiotic structure, which language imposes (Fowler, 1991: 4-5). Secondly, the ―mediation‖ or ―representation‖, using Fowler‘s (1991) terms, in the media allows them to maintain their position: either in circulating and reinforcing dominant ideologies or (less frequently) undermining or challenging such ideologies. This is mainly achieved through conscious stylistic strategies with lexical plotting of the news text, which invariably, like any representational discourse, influences such discourse forms as those of rhetoric and style. Such lexico-stylistic choices, according to van Dijk (1988: 116), also have clear social and ideological implications, because they often signal the opinion of the reporter about news events and participants, as well as group-induced motivations for the events.
The foregoing background falls in line with our assumption that the newspaper reports (making up our data) provide an avenue through which the Nigerian news media reconstructs or represents the Niger Delta conflicts to suit their ideological positions. Therefore, in order to account for the link between media ideologies and lexico-stylistic choices, a critical stylistic analysis becomes necessary. It is, therefore, our intention in this study to investigate the issues and contexts in the Niger Delta conflict, the styles and stylistic strategies used by the newspaper reporters, and their ideological implications with respect to the crisis region.
Journalism, apart from printing, is said to be the oldest of the modern occupation in Nigeria; indeed, there were newspapers and journalists before lawyers, doctors, engineers and educationists (Odeyemi, 1994). This is not to say that the print media originated from Nigeria, or that Nigerians were the earliest purveyors of news. As far back as 1704, Daniel Defoe‘s Review and Benjamin Franklin‘s General Magazine had been in print as the first magazines ever published in England and the United States, respectively (see Binter, 1989). However, whereas the European press started with the magazine, the history of journalism in Africa, particularly in Nigeria,
actually began with the evolution of the newspaper. The origin and historical analysis of the press in Nigeria can be categorised into three periods, namely:
a. the press in the pre-nationalist era (1859-1920);
b. the press in the period of nationalist movement (1920-1960); and
c. the press in the post-nationalist era (1960-till date).
In the pre-nationalist era, the first newspaper in Nigeria was Iwe Irohin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba (Iwe Irohin, for short), founded on December 3, 1859, by Reverend Henry Townsend of the Presbyterian Mission. This was a Yoruba/regionally-based paper, established in Abeokuta; and its circulation covered only Abeokuta and Lagos. Iwe Irohin would equally provide inspiration for subsequent publications, which included Anglo-African published in 1963 by Robert Campbell. Although this paper folded up two years later for lack of patronage, it especially gave a boost to indigenous paper movement in Nigeria, with Richard Beale Blaize‘s (of Yoruba and Sierra Leone origin) Lagos Times. The collapse of Lagos Times in 1883 triggered the bi-weekly newspapers, Lagos Observer (by Blackall Benjamin), and Eagle and Lagos Critic (both by Owen Macaulay). Other papers, which were occupied with the socio-economic and (particularly) political issue at that time, included Lagos Weekly, Lagos Spectator (1893), Lagos Echo, The Lagos Standard (1894), Lagos Reporter (1898) (Omu, 1978). But among these early newspapers, Iwe Irohin was the only notable one published in native African (Yoruba) language. Generally, these papers had very short term of existence, ―which explains why their impacts weren‘t much felt though they succeeded in creating awareness among the indigenous people‖ (Odeyemi, 1994: 20).
During the period of nationalist movement, the newspapers published were principally used for nationalist struggle. Three major characteristics have been identified with the press of this period. First, the newspapers were the mouthpiece of the people for the achievement of political independence. Second, there was a considerable increase in their circulation, compared with newspapers of the pre- nationalist era, a fact which marked this period as the era of mass circulation of the press. Another remarkable feature of this period is the ‗Nigerianness‘ of the press. The identification of newspapers with the name ‗Nigeria‘ as it is used in modern Nigerian print media, ―began [around this period] with the introduction of the name ‗Nigeria‘
after the establishment of the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria [by Lugard‘s constitution of 1914-1922]‖ (Chiluwa, 2005: 19).
Of course, the first group of papers of this period (Nigerian Chronicle, published in 1908 by the Johnsons; Nigerian Times and Nigerian Pioneer, published in 1914 by James Davies and Kitoyi Ajasa, respectively) was criticised as supportive of the colonial government. To make up for this gap, more indigenous papers were introduced. For example, Ernest Ikoli‘s African Messenger (1915) and Adeoye Adenuga‘s Eko Akete (another Yoruba weekly set up in 1922) were published ―in response to the revival of cultural nationalism, and…were devoted to the cause of freedom and justice for the black Africa‖ (Chiluwa, 2005: 20). Ikoli and Adenuga‘s audacious steps were taken by other nationalists, who practised even a more vigorous journalism. In this regard, Herbert Macaulay‘s Lagos Daily News (1927) was notable with its ‗firebrand‘ style, which earned it the name ―the paper with a punch‖. Other papers by vibrant nationalists included Nigerian Daily Telegraph (started in 1927 by Antus Williams, but failed later owing to instability), Nigerian Daily Mail (emerged in 1930 by Ernest Ikoli), West African Nationhood (1933, by J.C. Zizer), The Comet (1933, Duse Mohammed Ali), etc (Omu, 1978: 68). These newspapers and pamphlets were among the major influences in the awakening of racial and political consciousness amongst Africans. The inauguration of West African Pilot in 1937 by Nnamdi Azikiwe gave the Nigerian press a new dimension. It injected into Nigerian journalism a new idealism of nationalism as well as methods of political and critical journalistic propaganda. Generally, it was indeed as a result of the press activities (role) of this period that earned the country its independence. In fact, Nigeria‘s political freedom was mainly fought and won by the nationalist press.
The post-independence period was initially regarded as the ‗era of nation building.‘ There was a tremendous government participation in the newspaper industry. Those newspapers that were hitherto owned and controlled by private individuals and groups were now being taken over by either the federal or state governments. The incorporation of the Nigerian National Press Limited, the establishment of the Morning Post in October 1960, and Sunday Post in 1961, was immediately done by the federal government. The western government established the Daily Sketch in 1964, while The New Nigerian was launched in Kaduna in 1966 by the northern region government. Although further press activities were immensely
disrupted between 1966 and 1979 (during the military coups and counter-coups, the creation of states, and the eventual transfer of the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja), the role of the press was equally changing in the light of the political instability. The result of this was a highly politicised Nigerian press, especially in the Second Republic, which is termed ―the Nigerian press sycophantic era‖ (Odeyemi, 1994: 24- 5). During this period, there was a shift in the press orientation from the nationalistic struggle to that of reinforcing political and tribal loyalties, which interfered with the goal of nation building – national unity and integration. Thus, the press became parochial in its content. Newspapers publicly or privately owned by politicians, such as the Daily Times (owned by the federal government), the National Concord (M.K.O. Abiola), the Tribune (Obafemi Awolowo), among others, are a good example of this sycophancy. However, other ones such as The Punch (Olu Aboderin), The Guardian (Alex Ibru), Vanguard (Sam Amuka-Pemu), etc., because of their non-political posture, were notably more neutral in their activities.
Media ownership and control
Media ownership and control are terms normally used together to describe the practice whereby increasingly fewer persons manage increasing share of the mass media, which is credited with shaping a society's way of thinking. By ownership (and hence control) of the media is also meant the factors that determine the responsibilities of the press to the society. The assumption here is that the bodies that own and control the press determine the types of press and (eventually) the nature of the polity in a society. According to Hodgson (1990), the state contributes the most among the forces that define the operational ambits and autonomy of the press. Justifying the state‘s control of the press, Mogekwu (1990) opines that by operating within the parameters of government philosophy, the press can inspire both the government and the populace to work for national development. This functional view sees the media as no different from other institutional organs of the social system such as the family or health sector, whose role is to contribute to the maintenance of the entire system.
The most important mechanism of the society for the control of the media on a day-to-day basis is the law. In almost every civilised society, specific laws are instituted which have implications for media processes and coverage. As Hartley (1982) notes, the state sets the limit for ‗freedom of the press‘ or ‗free‘ comment, and
is often interested in only those areas it defines as affecting national security. Media laws such as sedition and libel are a good example here. Yusuf (1990) refers to this direct media control by government as ―statutory censorship,‖ which affects both the private and public media. Alternatively, media practitioners generally view press laws as unnecessary intervention in a sphere that should operate freely or at least within the confines of its own professional code of practice. Ekpu, (quoted in Haastrup, 1994: 18), describes the state control of the media as ―such a big crime.‖ He further points out that it is a way by which the government and its agencies ―assume themselves at the expense of the press.‖ The press-versus-state argument is indeed a protracted one, and there has been a growing interest on the issue of ownership and its effects on media performance: how neutral is the news when, in fact, it is sourced from and disseminated in a society where the government or other owners of capital, in one way or the other, dictate its (media) processes of selection and representation. This is also a relevant question to the present study.
Apart from the government, other private individuals and business groups have been in competition over the establishment and control of press organs, the result of which is a public-private ownership pattern in the Nigerian newspaper industry. Public papers ―comprise those which owe their funding, general sustenance and [consequently] control, to the government; be it federal or state‖ (Haastrup, 1994: 6). Characteristically, papers in this category, like government radio and television stations, regrettably, turn out to be mouthpieces of the government. Examples of public newspapers in Nigeria are Daily Times and New Nigerian, both of which are owned by the federal government. The Daily Sketch is jointly owned by Oyo, Osun, Ogun, and Ondo states. Other government-run but ‗people-owned‘ papers include Daily Star and National Light (in Anambra State), New Waves (Bayelsa State), The Pointer (Delta State), The Tide (Rivers State), Pioneer (Akwa Ibom State), Nigerian Chronicle (Cross River State), Observer (Edo State), among others.
Private newspapers, on the other hand, are those ―which operate either as a branch of some private business conglomerate or is owned by an individual or group of [like-minded] individuals‖ (Haastrup, 1994: 7). Apart from operating within the prescriptions of relevant press laws and/or policies in the country, they are not subject to direct control by the government. The Concord Press Group (established 1980), which publishes National Concord, Weekend Concord, Sunday Concord and sundry
community and vernacular papers, is one example in this category. Other notable private newspapers comprise Vanguard, The Guardian, Nigerian Tribune, The Punch, THISDAY, Daily Champion, The Nation, The Sun, to mention but a few. As government papers circulate, reinforce or protect the dominant ideologies of the government, so do the private ones – although often set up as commercial ventures – also project the political views and business goals of their owners.
Discourse of news reporting
The descriptions of the ―inverted pyramid structure‖ provided in the literature on news reporting (e.g. Rich, 2000; Thomson, White and Kitley, 2008) typically make one claim; namely, that the opening of a news event is most typically represented with the ―climax or most important information‖ coming first and the less significant afterwards (Thomson et al., 2008: 13). van Dijk (1991), in his schematic structure of news reports, separates two elements from the opening: ―a headline element‖ and ―a lead element‖. The headline(s) and lead sentence can be seen as representing a single unit because, in most cases, the lead exactly repeats a sub-set of the informational content of the headline, serving simply as signpost for the key points, which will be presented more fully in the following sentences. This interdependence can be seen as an artefact of the news production process, since headlines are typically written not by the reporter alone, but at an underlying stage, by an editing body who typically seeks a headline that sums up the lead (Rich, 2000: 12).
Most typically, the news story begins by setting out a sub-set of the incidents, which constitute the activity sequence being described. Thus, the incidents outlined in the headline/lead are represented just as they would be if the activity sequence were being described in full and in chronological sequence. On the contrary, in the opening of the typical news report, the original activity sequence can be said to have been reduced to its key and attractive elements by a process of elimination — the headline/lead opening is cut-down and re-ordered from the original activity sequence to provide a ―synopsis‖ (Rothery and Stenglin, 1997) of the entire story. For example:
Again, Militants, Soldiers in Bloody Battle:
The ceasefire between the Federal Government and Niger Delta militants …broke down yesterday when heavily armed youths engaged men of the Joint Military Task Force on the Niger Delta (JTF) in a bloody battle at the Tunu Benisede Flow Stations....
(THISDAY Mar. 31, 2006)
From both the headline and the lead opening here, the happenings of the event described have been classified into three: “bloody battle” as involving “militants” (who are also the Niger Delta militants or “heavily armed youths”) and the “soldiers” (also Federal Government or JTF).
The typical headline/lead opening, as seen from the THISDAY extract above, provides not simply a synopsis, but a value-laden description of an event, which is shaped by a particular set of assumptions about which aspects of events are typically more socially significant and which are less so. News report openings of this type, therefore, do not merely record events, they present a particular way of viewing and responding to those events as “natural” and “commonsensical” (Thomson et al., 2008: 7). However, one important departure from the headline/lead opening model, which can be observed in some newspapers, is an arrangement under which the opening sentence performs a role different from the lead; for instance, setting out background information or providing a setting, and so on.
The second phase of the typical news report – the body, which follows the headline/lead - as serving to specify, elaborate and comment on the various strands of information presented in the opening. This, van Dijk (1991) splits into three terms, “an event element” (which provides a chronologically-ordered reconstruction of the event) and (optionally) an element, which gives „verbal reactions‟ to the story, and a
„comment‟ element. It should be noted, however, that these specification and elaboration are typically presented non-chronologically and discontinuously (Iedema, Feez and White, 1994; White, 1997, 2000). In other words, events are seldom presented in continuous step-by-step sequence in the order in which they occurred; and when dealing with particular aspects or other related issues, the news report writer typically attends to these at different points in the body of the report, rather than dealing with it exhaustively in a single section. Studies (e.g. Iedema et al., 1994; White, 1997; Thomson et al., 2008, etc.) have demonstrated that the body of this type of report can be broken down into self-contained components, which typically perform one or more of the following functions in relation to the headline/lead:
a. Elaboration or reiteration: one sentence or a group of sentences provides more detailed description or exemplification of information presented in the
headline/lead, or acts to restate it or describe the material in the headline/lead in different terms;
b. Contextualisation: one or more sentences place some aspects of the crisis point of the headline/lead in a temporal, spatial or social context. For example, the geographical setting will be described in some detail, or the ‗crisis point‘ will be located within the background of preceding, simultaneous or subsequent events. Prior events of a similar nature may be described for the purpose of comparison.
c. Causes: one or more sentences describe the causes or reasons for some aspects of the ‗crisis point‘ presented in the headline/lead;
d. Consequences: One or more sentences describe the consequences flowing from some element of the crisis point of the headline/lead;
e. Attitudinal assessment: one or more sentences may provide some form of judgement or evaluation or comment passed on some elements of the headline/lead.
This arrangement leads to a conceptualisation of such texts as involving a relationship between a central ―nucleus‖ (the headline/lead) and a set of dependent sub-components, which can be thought of as ―satellites‖ to that ―nucleus‖ (Thomson et al., 2008). Thus, the headline/lead dominates the text, providing its focus or angle with the subsequent satellites operating only to explain, elaborate or comment on material presented in that opening. The body of the text, therefore, does not develop new meanings but, rather, acts to refer back to the headline/lead through a series of specifications; and provides a closing in form of evaluative assessment or comment on the headline/lead elements.
The Niger Delta: origins of the conflicts
The Niger Delta (henceforth ND) has been defined in two ways – geographical and political, with population varying ―between 27 and 12 million,‖ respectively (Rowell, Marriott and Stockman, 2005: 8). Geographically, it comprises nine states of the country: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers. In this sense, these states are considered sufficiently proximate enough to the Atlantic Ocean to fall within its delta zone. From this perspective, the population of the area would approximate the 27 million suggested by the authors. But in the political
sense of the ND, it would comprise the following six states of southern ethnic minorities only: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers. In this case, Rowell et al‘s (2005) population estimate of 12 million would suffice. In this study, much of the focus would be on the narrower, political sense since the crisis in the region can be as political as it is economic as will be shown in our analysis. In a nutshell, the peoples of the six core ND states, while being geographically within the delta region, are disadvantaged as ethnic minorities in a ‗three-major-ethnic-group- dominated‘ nation. However, their neighbours – Abia, Imo and Ondo states – largely belong to two majority ethnic groups of Igbo and Yoruba, giving them much advantage over their ethnic minority co-wayfarers in this geographical vicinity of the delta. The core ND covers some 70,000 kilometres south-south of Nigeria.
Apart from its transformation from small idyllic fishing villages into powerful trading posts in dry fish and salt in the early sixteenth century, and before the present independence exploration of the region for crude oil, the ND region has been the epicentre of two major tragedies. In the words of the historian, Kenneth Dike:
The history of the Niger Delta…is to some extent an introduction to the economic and political history of Nigeria. This region became from the sixteenth century the main center of the African trade with Europeans in the Gulf of Guinea. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Delta was one of the most important, if not the leading, slave mart in West Africa. In the first thirty years of the nineteenth century when the trade in palm oil had begun to displace the trade in men it exported more oil than the rest of West Africa put together. (Dike, 1956: v; see also Maier, 2000: 119)
Thus, both the trade in men and the one in palm oil had left ineffaceable marks on the soil and psyche of the ND person even before the recent phase of the exploitation of the area for crude oil.
The origins of the ND conflict can be said to lie in the encounter of Africa with the West. Before the coming of the Europeans to Africa, trading, mostly by barter, was carried out among several African communities in a manner that no one was unnecessarily cheated. However, the autonomy enjoyed by each of those communities was lost once the Whites came in to carve the continent into economic zones among themselves. This carving, according to Ushie (2010), never considered the uniqueness of each of the groups before being yoked with other communities to form the various
states that emerged following the Berlin conference of 1884/1885, where the partitioning took place. This situation is aptly captured by Meredith (2006) thus:
…African societies were rent apart: the Bakongo were partitioned between French Congo, Belgian Congo and Portuguese Angola; Somaliland was carved up between Britain, Italy and France. In all, the new boundaries cut through some 180 culture groups. In other cases, Europe‘s new colonial territories enclosed hundreds of diverse and independent groups, with no common history, culture, language or religion. Nigeria, for example, contained as many as 250 ethno- linguistic groups. Officials sent to the Belgian Congo eventually identified six thousand chieftains there…. By the time the Scramble for Africa was over, some 10,000 African polities had been amalgamated into forty European colonies and protectorates. (Meredith, 2006: 1-2)
The foregoing offers a clear picture of how Nigeria was created – with its many ethnic minority groups of which those of the ND are inclusive – as a country. The ND groups had always been conscious of this forced integration, and have continued to show resistance to it whenever the need arose. This resistance, according to reports, pre-dates their 1914 amalgamation into Nigeria by Britain‘s Lord Lugard. For instance, in the face of abject poverty, hunger and hardship in the days of the trade in palm oil, King William Koko of Brass (in the modern day Bayelsa State) resolved in 1895 that: ―If we Brass people die through hunger… we had rather go to them [the foreign traders] and die on their sords [sic]‖ (Maier, 2000: 122). Following this resolve, a group of some one thousand Nembe clan warriors attacked the camp of the Royal Niger Company at Akassa that year, ―and took 67 men hostage, insisting that they would not be released until the company gave them access to their old markets in the hinterland‖ (Okonta and Douglas, 2001: 27; see also Maier, 2000: 122). Reacting to this, the Consul-General of the Niger Coast Protectorate, through a group of naval men, launched a response attack and razed the hamlets ―at Brass, Patini, and Asaba‖ to the ground (Maier, 2000: 120-122).
On the eve of Nigeria‘s independence, the apprehension (as the ND communities were said to have protested about their being handed over to another authority without their consent) about the fate of the minorities sandwiched among the three ethnic majority groups of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, led to the setting up, in 1958, of Sir Henry Willink Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them (Maier, 2000: 123; emphasis mine). In Nigeria‘s ND,
the spirit of resistance against exploitation, as reported in the Nembe clan warriors‘ war against the Royal Niger Company at Akassa, and of resistance against domination, as necessitating Willink Commission, has not only been carried over into independent Nigeria,
…it has indeed been whetted by the exploitation of crude oil in the area in life-undermining conditions. The present phase of the oppression, suppression and exploitation of the people has thus rekindled their forefathers‘ helpless condition and their resistance to it. It was, hence, no surprise when, in the 1990s the Ijaw nation reincarnated the Egbesu cult which King William Koko and his men had used in their encounter with the Royal Niger Company in 1895. It was against this background that Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw, rose in independent Nigeria of the early 1960s against the ecological exploiation of the area amidst the hunger, poverty and disease of the people. (Ushie, 2010: 55)
Major Isaac Adaka Boro and others‘ protest against the predatory domination of their ND people by independent Nigeria was mainly motivated inter alia by the non- implementation of Willink Commission‘s report of 1958, the negation of the Republican Derivation Principle of 50 per cent resource control, the Petroleum Decree No. 51 of 1969 – transferring all oil mineral rights and revenue accruing from there to the Federal (military) Government.
In 1990, Kenule Saro-Wiwa, with other Ogoni elders, formed the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). Among the specific demands contained in its Bill of Rights are ―political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people‖ and ―the right to the control and use of a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development.‖ It was in further agitation that Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni persons paid the supreme price for this struggle as they were hanged by the government of General Sani Abacha on November 10, 1995. It was the execution of Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995, the razing of the ND community of Odi by the Obasanjo-led government in 1999, and the further perceived neglect by Nigerian governments that informed the recent wave of the ND crisis in the 1990s and 2000s.
With an estimated two million barrels of crude oil produced daily from it, ―the area harbours over 95 percent of Nigeria‘s crude oil and gas resources, which account for 90 percent of the country‘s foreign exchange earnings‖ (Ogbogbo, 2005: 169). While the oil-rich ND has attracted the world‘s top oil companies and huge corporate investment, the various Nigerian governments (both military and democratic) have
unduly exploited and depended on the ‗oil wealth‘ from this region. Consequently, there has been a legion of problems resulting from the intense exploration and exploitation of crude oil in the area. Apart from the massive environmental degradation of the area, the minority status of its peoples has led to their political and economic marginalisation in the larger Nigerian federation. This has, over time, bred in the people a feeling of utter neglect, relegation and discrimination. In order to address the peculiarities of the problems confronting the region, the ND peoples have embarked on a long and continued struggle to control the resources of their region. This has led to a series of conflict between the oil bearing communities of the ND and the oil companies, on the one hand, and between the communities and successive Nigerian governments, on the other. These conflicts, in turn, have resulted in random violence, human rights violations, death and mass internment of the parties involved.
The violence in the ND has, in recent years, escalated and taken a new dimension. The peaceful and intellectual protests by Major Isaac Adaka Boro (in the 1960s) and Ken Saro-Wiwa (in the 1990s) have been supplanted with aggressive and bloody struggle by camps of armed youths in the creeks (Ushie, 2010). While the violent struggle has, over time, materialised into many forms, such as, bunkering and pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and hostage-taking, human and drug trafficking, robbery, communal clashes, etc, the different camps have resorted to the formation of numerous radical nationality groups, the most active of which include Niger Delta People‘s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Joint Response Command (JRC). It should be added that the incessant tribal wars among the local ND communities in the early 1990s had produced notable ‗local warlords‘ like Asari Dokubo, Government Ekpempolo, Ateke Tom, etc.
The ND crisis has enjoyed much media coverage. In fact, the increasing protest by several ethnic and political groups in the region and the resultant violence, including the kidnapping of expatriate oil workers and clashes with the Nigerian military (Joint Task Force), has consistently been reported in the newspapers and other media within and outside the ND. Recently, the Nigerian government embarked on a programme whose aim was to address the needs of the people and redress their human right violations. This started with a political gesture, which has been popularised as
‗Amnesty for the Niger Delta militants‘. The sustainability of the programme seems
bright with President Goodluck Jonathan, the current Nigerian president, who is a native of the Niger Delta.
The FGN’s amnesty programme in the Niger Delta
On assumption of office in May 2007, former Nigeria‘s President Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua having the Niger Delta as one of his seven-point agenda, planned a meeting with the stakeholders in the region, from which a Niger-Delta Technical Committee was set up to collate and review all previous reports and recommendations on ways of resolving the conflict. To address the worrisome situation in the Niger Delta, and considering the failure of previous efforts at resolving the conflict, the Yar‘Adua administration also created the Niger Delta Ministry to focus mainly on the affairs of the region. Thereafter, the Presidential Committee on Amnesty and Disarmament of Militants in the Niger Delta was set up and mandated to design a framework of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation or reintegration of the militants (Lawal, 2007). This resulted in the presidential proclamation of amnesty on 25 June 2009, which lapsed on 4 October 2009, pursuant to section 175 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process was followed by a monthly stipend for the ex-militants. An initial component of the programme was the payment by government of millions of dollars to the militant leaders for handing in their weapons at the outset. The FGN committee also met with the militant leaders to figure out ways of encouraging the insurgents in the Delta to abandon violence.
Educational and vocational classes were arranged for the ex- militants in foreign sites, such as Houston, London, Seoul and South Africa. In 2011, Nigeria‘s state oil company, Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) commenced paying Mujahid Dokubo-Asari $9 million a year, by his account to pay his 4,000 former foot soldiers to protect the pipelines they attacked in the past. NNPC also signed a $22.9 million-a-year contract with Government ‗Tompolo‘ Ekpemupolo to guard and maintain pipelines his boys used to attack. NNPC also gives
$3.8 million yearly apiece to Generals Ebikabowei ‗Boyloaf‘ Victor Ben and Ateke Tom ―to have their men guard Delta pipelines they used to attack. (Ubhenin, 2013: 186)
Three years after the proclamation of amnesty in the Niger Delta, violence has dropped and crude oil production has risen back up to 2.6 million barrels per day. But the amnesty is beginning to attract unpleasant comments from the oil industry watchers
and conflict analysts. According to the Amnesty International Report (2009), the amnesty has been described as a ―gilded pacification campaign‖, which the Nigerian government regards as ―a success story. Most of the graduates from the vocational study sites have yet to be matched with jobs, the complex development-related issues have yet to be addressed, the disarmament process was not holistic, and there is a resurgence of criminal activities in the region. The Niger Delta has continued to witness an alarming rate of oil bunkering that takes away almost 20 percent in potential state revenue. Many militants who are not well paid and those not paid at all by the amnesty are finding their ways back to the creek. ―Now oil theft appears to be on the rise again‖ (Ubhenin, 2013: 188).
The main contentions of Niger Delta peoples
From the foregoing, the following points, a large part of which were highlighted by Eteng (1996: 137-140), have been summarised as the main grievances of ND indigenes with both the FGN and the oil-working companies in the region (see also Ayoola, 2008). First, their grouse with the successive Nigerian governments include:
1. The entire Nigerian system became structured on ―institutionalised social inequality‖.
2. The Nigerian central government enacted laws that effectively disenfranchised oil communities.
3. Double standards were applied to the Principle of Derivation in respect of revenue allocation.
4. Oil revenue was diverted to the development of other regions to the neglect of the ND region.
5. Government response to community violence was too heavy-handed and counter-productive.
Their allegations against the oil companies are also detailed as follows (see Eteng, 1996:140-142):
1. They colluded with the state to appropriate ancestral lands and to privatise violence.
2. They waged a deadly and comprehensive war against host communities.
3. They destroyed the traditional, economic and social lifeline of the oil region.
4. Their maximisation of crude oil production and other derivatives wreaked considerable havoc on the ecosystem of the community.
5. They failed to establish ―deep, genuine and meaningful cordial relationships with their hosts‖.
6. They aggravated the crisis in the region by flexing economic, politico- military as well as legal muscles.
Statement of the problem
In Nigeria, even as the oil-related politics and the resultant conflicts in the ND have continued to affect the economic stability and social peace in the country, media practitioners have frequently used their news reports as an effective tool for ideological representation to favour the different groups they support in the conflicts. Hence, there exists an observable relationship between the ideological positions of the media and the lexico-stylistic choices made in their reports of the ND conflicts. This relationship has, however, not been duly explored by language scholars on media discourse, thereby preventing a good understanding of the group-induced motivations for the conflicts and reports. In fact, from the survey of recent studies on the media and political discourses, the ND conflicts have rather yielded linguistic interests from pragmatic/CDA (e.g. Ayoola, 2008), CDA (e.g. Chiluwa, 2011a, 2011b), and stylistic (e.g. Chiluwa, 2007) perspectives. Ayoola (2008) used pragmatic tools in exploring the discourse strategies employed by news participants to foster specific ideologies; Chiluwa (2011a) used CDA (but adds Corpus Linguistics in 2011b) to analyse the attitude of the press in representing the ND militia groups and their activities. Chiluwa (2007) utilised the stylistic approach in investigating peculiar textual features used in news texts, but did not pay attention to ideological issues in the news reports.
These studies have generally provided insights into the linguistic and contextual dimensions to the media reports. However, what is strikingly absent in the media studies on the ND news discourse is an attention to the interaction between media ideology and styles and strategies used by newspaper reporters in relaying information on ND conflicts. Therefore, a large part of what remains to be done in this area is a thorough, systematic and theoretically-grounded critical-stylistic analysis of
media texts. This study, therefore, investigates the styles, contexts and strategies that manifest in Nigerian newspaper reports of the ND conflicts with a view to establishing the link between media ideologies and lexico-stylistic choices in the reports.
Aim and objectives of the study
The study focuses on the styles and lexical choices used in ND conflict newspaper reports, showing their relationship with the ideological positions of their reporters. To achieve this aim, the study utilises the following objectives:
1. to identify and discuss the issues and contexts that have motivated the ND conflicts;
2. to account for the styles and stylistic strategies used by the news reporters in relaying information with respect to ND conflicts;
3. to discuss the ideological implications of the styles and stylistic strategies with regard to the conflictual events in the Niger Delta.
Scope of the study
The scope of our data was delimited to only selected newspaper reports on conflicts and it ignored such complementary texts as interviews, follow-up news commentaries, and editorials on the newspaper reports. These complementary texts, no doubt, would have offered useful perception of the attitude of the media to the conflicts, but would also give us a wide range, which may not be adequately handled in one single study. The limitation of the data to newspaper reports is, therefore, meant to capture the events (and the reporters‘ positions) as first-hand information. The study has further restricted its focus to the lexical choices and stylistic or rhetorical dimensions (and, of course, their ideological bases) of the newspaper reports. Therefore, we paid attention also to aspects of lexical relational and evaluative semantics, conceptual metaphor theory, critical stylistics and concepts of style as they relate to the newspaper reports.
Significance of the study
The study is expected to be of relevance in the following ways. The proposed critical stylistic model, utilised for the analysis of the ND conflict discourse, is expected to provide a new dimension in explaining the link between media ideologies and lexico-stylistic choices used in the reports, which will allow readers to fully
understand the group-induced function for the ND conflicts. Similarly, by pursuing the link between media ideologies and lexico-stylistic choices instead of focusing on the linguistic and contextual dimensions to the reports (as the previous studies have done), the present study is expected to widen the range of the existing literature on media discourse. This will provide a new path in the investigation of the discourse of violence both in Nigeria and the world at large. In addition, a landmark contribution is expected to be made to ideology discourse with the merging of context-oriented.