The Independent National Electoral Commission has released the list of candidates submitted by political parties for executive and legislative positions. Many political parties and candidates had been engaging with the public and potential voters informally prior to the list’s release. Their interactions and movements have been and continue to be reported by the media through various frames and perspectives. The coverage has largely concentrated on post-primary election issues and the evaluation of candidates’ competence, educational qualifications, and previous political roles.
In all of these cases, the media has successfully shaped the public’s perceptions of the candidates and their political parties. The result has also been that some people have yet to be convinced, despite the media’s use of a legitimization frame, because media sources are not only used to make decisions about commenting on the x-rayed personality traits and accepting the candidates. There are opinion leaders in various communities who wield more power and authority than traditional and new media. Some people prefer to get more information about candidates and political parties from the leaders of their respected community and socio-political organizations.
As previously stated, the media does not necessarily influence people’s views through their reporting; rather, they highlight certain aspects of an issue or a person to the point where the object of discourse is regarded as important and worthy of concern. To accomplish this, various forms of linguistic communication must be used. One of the forms is metaphor, which has several classifications. In this piece, coercive metaphor is examined in light of the ongoing coverage of political needs and issues in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general elections.
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When the media simplifies, animalizes, delegitimizes, emotionalizes, and dramatizes issues or people in relation to specific objects, situations, or conditions, this is referred to as coercive metaphor. While the insights in this piece are derived from the actions of the media and political stakeholders ahead of the 2023 general elections, our analyst notes that they will remain relevant in the future because attitudes, behaviors, and norms governing the studied actions are unlikely to change significantly.
An examination of media coverage of specific issues and political actors reveals that the five types of coercive metaphors have been widely used. Since the emergence of presidential candidates for the dominant political parties (All Progressives Congress, People’s Democratic Party, and Labour Party), the media, particularly newspapers, have made extensive use of these forms. The forms have been used to confer status and to destabilize the image of candidates and political parties.
Let us examine some examples of coercive metaphors from select newspapers. With the intention of making Nigerians realise that focusing or believing in Messiah for the leadership problem is no longer tenable, on September 20, 2022, ThisDay wrote that Kukah: Nigeria Doesn’t Need Messiah in 2023. The news indicated that “Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Rev. Matthew Kukah said Nigeria did not need a messiah in 2023, but a true leader who would give the whole country, irrespective of tribe, tongue, or faith, a sense of belonging and proper direction. Kukah said Nigerians could not afford another mistake of pinning their hopes on some messiah-like figure.” The headline and subsequent introduction are within the simplification metaphor, which aims at letting Nigerians understand that hanging their hope on messiah-like figure (the key element of the metaphor) would be catastrophic in 2023 and beyond.
While this case is positive, the headline from The Guardian which was developed from an interview with a newsmaker creates fear in the public mind. The newspaper wrote that ‘The build-up to 2023 election doesn’t give cause to be optimistic that things will go well’. It attempts to simplify the current state of political activities, which, according to the newsmaker, are not positive enough, but it eventually expects the public to panic during the elections.
As the elections draw nearer, our analyst equally notes that public and potential voters need to be wary of animalization metaphors. These metaphors are created specifically to brutalize personalities of individuals, groups and organisations ahead of the elections. For instance, the use of quakes in this headline: PDP quakes as Wike’s group opts out of Atiku’s campaign by The Nation is an example of animalization metaphor. As the presidential election approaches, the newspaper wants readers to see the party eroding as a result of internal crises.
Using the same metaphorical approach, Daily Trust wrote Primaries: Despite Generating Billions, APC Faces Cash Crunch. This headline portrays the party as a failure in terms of managing the massive revenue generated from forms sold during its primary elections. These headlines are also good for dramatization metaphor, establishing that some people or groups must be viewed as foes and devils in both situations.
The emotionalization metaphor addresses human angles or interests in such a way that readers see the actors or stakeholders who are expected to provide necessary solutions to the identified problems as devils. For example, Vanguard reported that Gumi laments injustice and poverty as the 2023 general elections approach. Delegitimization metaphor focuses on diminishing or destroying the legitimacy, prestige or authority of someone or groups. For example, the though the headline (Abiodun, Amosun exchange hot words over 2023 elections) conceals elements for identifying the headline as containing delegitimization metaphor, referencing Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s statement by The Punch that Governor Dapo Abiodun won election through rigging points towards destroying his (Dapo Abiodun) image and authority. Tinubu Will Be a Sleeping President – NNPP National Chairman, a headline from Daily Trust is another example of delegitimization metaphor.
Critical News Reading Strategy
According to the insights, Nigerians, particularly potential voters, who are considering the media as a source of information about political parties, candidates, and their agendas, need to improve their critical thinking skills in order to effectively understand the implications of nuances embedded in news stories. News stories, in particular, should not be read solely based on their headlines. Full stories should be given top priority. Not only the messages should be considered when reading news, but also the characters and their positions on the objects (topics) of the discourse.