As the fourth arm of the society, people, businesses and governments usually rely on media activities for individual and collective decision making. Every day, one cannot do without consuming content of varied forms of the media. They have to be consumed directly or indirectly. If one does not have access to the messages due to financial constraint and time, opinion leaders, the people who have the resources and ‘better understanding’ of the messages would not hesitate to pass the messages to the person when a platform exists for it. This has been further enhanced with the arrival of the new media, especially the social networking sites.
Meanwhile, the focus of this piece transcends information diffusion. It examines how the Nigerian newspapers are reporting the two ethnic-induced activists in the last few years and months. It is in the public domain that Nnamdi Kanu wants Biafra as a country for his Igbo ethnic group from the present Nigeria, which comprises Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and other ethnic groups. It is also obvious, at least for the last few months, that Chief Sunday Adeyemo [alias Sunday Igboho] wants Yoruba Nation for his Yoruba ethnic group.
Our analyst notes that agitation is not novel as some prominent members of their ethnic groups have over the years been clamouring for self-independence, citing economic and political injustices from the ethnic group perceived to have largely been in charge of governance since 1960. However, the uniqueness of the agitation lies with the ways through which the duo are pursuing the agenda, attacking personalities, in some occasions causing physical harms to other citizens and destroying public facilities. According to the media practitioners and tutors, who spoke with our analyst, both the print and broadcast media, including online bloggers are framing them in ways that confer unnecessary status for them.
As the status conferral of different types continues with the adoption of varied frames and narratives, our analyst observes that people, especially those who lack adequate media literacy are being subjected to needless trauma based on the duo related news stories they are reading, listening to or watching in the last 28 weeks [January 1, 2021 to July 11, 2021]. In the first instance, our analysis reveals 80.8% linkage of the public interest in reading news about Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. While they were searching for news about the duo, analysis indicates they also developed interest in understanding anxiety, one of the symptoms of mental illness. This basically occurs along with their interest in reading news about Nnamdi Kanu more than reading activities of Sunday Igboho during the weeks. For both activists, our analysis indicates that the public did not have a significant interest in panic attack, another symptom of mental illness while they were searching for news about them.
At a glance, this result looks good, however, it portends danger for management of the people with the mental illness when one examines the collectivity that exists when the public searched news of duo in relation to knowing a number of things about anxiety. The news of the duo collectively resonated with the public interest in anxiety by 60.8%. Reading the news of the two activists led to 36.9% public interest in anxiety between January 1, 2021 and July 11, 2021. The news of Nnamdi Kanu singlehanded contributed 11.2% to the public information seeking about anxiety. The news of the duo collectively resonated with the public interest in panic attack by 12.3%. Reading the news of the two activists led to 1.5% public interest in panic attack between January 1, 2021 and July 11, 2021. The news of Nnamdi Kanu singlehanded contributed 1.4% to the public information seeking about panic attack.
Exhibit 1: Nigerian Population Interest in select Mental Health Symptoms and the Activists
How the Newspapers Framed the Duo
From our analysis, the Nigerian public had significant interest in anxiety in June. This is also applicable to the interest in the two activists [see Exhibit 1]. In January, the interest in Sunday Igboho was higher than the interest in Nnamdi Kanu. During this month, our analyst notes that the story titled “[ICYMI]: I Inherited Powers to Command Guns from My Father — Sunday Igboho, an interview, was one of the news reports that increased Sunday Igboho’s status. With the assertiveness frame adopted by the newspaper, our analyst notes that it is reasonable that people would seek information about him. Meanwhile, the story has the potential of inducing fear in people than informing them about Sunday Igboho’s “perceived ability to rescue his people,” during crisis.
Exhibit 2: The Punch’s Framing of Sunday Igboho in Select News Stories
From another newspaper, Sunday Igboho: Protest hits Ibadan over DSS raid and DSS behind attack on Sunday Igboho’s house –Source published in July, 2021 have great a tendency of creating fear. Sunday Igboho, Yoruba Nation agitators storm Osogbo rally and Sunday Igboho visits Igangan after herdsmen’s attack published in May and June, 2021 are not different. Analysis of these headlines by our analyst, using Headline Measurement Scale with engagement [presence of simple words and key people] and impression [presence of context words such as places and people] as categories, indicates that the stories had 15.4% influence on public interest in anxiety, while engagement singlehanded had no influence.
For Nnamdi Kanu with the select stories; 75 Northern groups place N100m bounty on Nnamdi Kanu, How Interpol arrested Nnamdi Kanu while seeking countries’ support for Biafra, From arrest to extradition, eight things to know about IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, VIDEO: Malami announces arrest of Nnamdi Kanu and Nnamdi Kanu: UK can’t get nationals out of prison abroad, says document published in June and July, 2021 also contributed to public information seeking about anxiety. According to our analyst, engagement and impression of the stories had 85.5% influence on public interest in anxiety, while engagement singlehanded had 41.2% influence.
Exhibit 3: The Punch’s Framing of Nnamdi Kanu in Select News Stories
The Place of Big Data Analytics in Managing and Providing Mental Healthcare
Despite the small samples of the headlines, it is obvious that the ongoing coverage of sociopolitical injustices by the media is increasing symptoms of mental illness. It is not surprising that the headlines resonate with the interest in anxiety because it is one of the mental illness symptoms which has been reported in south-western and north-central Nigeria. Hence, there is a need for the deployment of big data and its acquisition tools for the provision of mental healthcare solutions and management of the patients.
For instance, agencies in charge of disease control and management need to have mindset and technical shifts towards the use of Google Trends for better understanding of population interest in mental health symptoms across regions. This will help in providing adequate behavioural and management intervention programme. This has been tested in some countries and the outcomes were surprising in all contexts.