Cablegate: Communication and Media Flows in Northern Nigeria

Published: Wed 19 Jun 2002 03:12 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12598: N/A
1. SUMMARY: There are important regional differences in
the media in Nigeria that affect Embassy efforts to
communicate U.S. views on the war on terror and other
issues. This cable profiles the communications and media
environment in Nigeria's north, which is predominately
Muslim and Hausa speaking.
2. While the print media are important in the highly
literate south, newspapers and magazines have less
influence in the predominately Muslim north. Newspapers
and magazines in English, moreover, have only minimal
impact in the north, but the few Hausa language
publications are influential.
3. In the north, radio is particularly important in
reaching large audiences. Both Nigerian and foreign
stations, VOA included, have large listenerships. Because
of the north's relative lack of development, television
does not yet reach large audiences. But satellite
broadcasts -- not only BBC and CNN but Arabic-language
stations from the Middle East -- reach and influence the
elite. A few new Internet sites also reflect northern
opinion and have elite followings, meaning their influence
reaches far beyond the few individuals who have direct
access to the Internet.
4. In addition to these media -- the kind traditionally
scanned by the Embassy and by FBIS -- the flow of
information and opinion also includes pamphlets, handbills,
and audio cassettes. These are mostly of an Islamic
character. A broad view of "information flows" could also
include the influential teachings in the mosques and
Islamic schools. Some of these opinions in circulation
come from visiting scholars from Algeria, Pakistan, Iran,
and other countries of the Islamic world. END SUMMARY.
5. The media and other information sources that influence
northern populations can be divided into four categories:
(1) Government-owned or controlled. Government newspapers
go to great lengths to justify the policies and actions of
government, but have little readership in the community.
There are many state radio and television stations,
generally one in every state, which have regional influence
and serve as the voice of the government. (2)
Independents: The new independent broadcasters, while few,
are more creative, but they are elitist and urban-centered.
(3) International broadcasts: The Hausa Services of the
BBC, VOA, Radio Deutsche Welle, and recently Radio Iran,
are very popular in northern Nigeria because of the wide
usage of Hausa as a language of trade in the West African
sub-region. 4) Sponsored pro-Islamic and pro-Christian
local newspapers, magazines, literature, pamphlets,
handbills, and Internet chat groups. There is a sector of
sponsored pro-Islamic media with grassroots influence that
is primarily religious and anti-U.S. in character. Some of
them, especially the pro-Islamic sponsored literature,
pamphlets and hand bills exploit the Hausa language to
build a large readership and listenership. Internet chat
groups are also influential with the elite and political
The Hausa Language
6. Hausa is spoken over a very large portion of West
Africa. It is a first language in the northern Nigerian
states of Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Kaduna,
Kano, and Bauchi. It is a universal lingua franca in the
remainder of the northern states of Nigeria as well as in
Niger. It is a second language for many people in Benin,
Chad, Cameroon, and Togo, and it is also spoken in enclaves
in Ghana, Ctte d'Ivoire, Libya, southern Nigeria, Sudan
(Blue Nile Province), and Senegal. Scholars note a
"remarkable unity" of Hausa, although there are noticeable
differences from west to east.
7. There are no good recent estimates of how many people
speak Hausa as a first or second language, but the number
of speakers may total 60 million.
8. Hausa is an official language in Nigeria. It is taught
in Nigerian secondary schools and universities and is the
language of instruction for the elementary grades in Hausa-
speaking areas.
9. More than half of the broadcasting on northern Nigerian
radio and television stations is in Hausa, and Nigeria
boasts several Hausa language newspapers as well as an
ever-increasing number of publications of all types in
Hausa. In addition to Nigerian and Cameroonian radio
stations, all international broadcasters with transmissions
to West Africa have programs in Hausa. These include the
BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, and
Radio Peking.
10. Hausa has both a standardized Roman and Arabic
orthography. The former is based primarily around the Kano
11. The following newspapers are published in northern
The Daily Trust (weekdays) and The Weekly Trust (weekends):
The Trust newspapers, published in English in Abuja with
very high editorial and graphic standards, have become
highly influential because they are read by everyone in the
capital -- legislators, bureaucrats, academic leaders,
civil society groups, political leaders, and opinion makers
in the north. Their domestic news coverage is professional
and non-partisan, but with strong loyalties to the north
and to Islam. Their international coverage is strongly
anti-U.S. Circulation is estimated at 12,000.
Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo ("Truth is Better Than Money"): Owned
by a consortium of northern state governments, this sister
newspaper to The New Nigerian is the oldest Hausa language
newspaper in northern Nigeria. For 61 years Gaskiya has
reflected a pro-north, anti-West focus. Circulation is
estimated at 50,000.
Al-Mizan: This radical Islamic Hausa language weekly
strongly communicates anti-American views and advocates an
Islamic State. Its editorial positions, good quality
paper, and use of color give strong evidence of funding
ties to Iran and Libya. Sold for less than the other
papers, it is published in Zaria on Friday, and it is
characteristically sold to Friday Mosque congregations.
Total print run is 12,000, but estimated readership is over
60,000. The newspaper is also available on the Internet
through Al-Mizan is influential with
radical Muslim youths. Its founder and publisher is an
Ahmadu Bello University trained economist and student of
the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomaini's alter ego in
Nigeria, Shiekh El-Zak-Zaky. This means the paper is
directly or indirectly subsidized by Iran.
The New Nigerian: Published in Kaduna, a pro-north,
government-owned Monday-thru-Sunday tabloid-sized English
language newspaper. Estimated circulation is 9,000. The
New Nigerian considers itself the official voice of the
marginalized north. Although it occasionally publishes
statements by American officials and Washington File
stories, this newspaper's heart of hearts is anti-American.
Like all government-owned newspapers in Nigeria, the lack
of editorial independence makes all its reporting flaccid,
and a bloated staff spends a great deal of time worrying
about the possible privatization of the newspaper and the
end of government funding (read: staff and salary
The Triumph: Kano-based pro-Islamic provincial English
language newspaper published Monday-thru-Sunday. Estimated
circulation is 5,000 at best. More than 300 employees
staff this government-owned and government-controlled
newspaper published on an ancient East German press. It
carries the standard of Islam and frequently publishes
beyond-the-pale anti-American and anti-Israeli editorials
and columns.
The Nigeria Standard: Published in Jos daily newspaper.
Located in Plateau State, it is sympathetic to Christian
and minority issues (est. circulation 5,000), earning it
frequent scorn in the pages of the newspapers above.
Dillaliya: This Kaduna-based Hausa weekly is edited and
published as a side business by Ibrahim Musa, the youthful
editor of pro-Islamic Al-Mizan. Dillaliya has a more
liberal editorial policy than Al-Mizan. Like Al-Mizan, it
thrives on street sales to young Muslims. It also enjoys
generous patronage from young northern politicians, who buy
pages of the paper to promote themselves. Dillaliya,
described as a newspaper for the promotion of commerce and
political education, also enjoys the patronage of forward-
looking and business-oriented young northern leaders. They
view Dillaliya as an important vehicle for the educated and
broad-minded, but marginalized northern youth. Thus
Ibrahim Musa has a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance.
In the Al-Mizan office, he wears a turban, advocating anti-
Western views and zero tolerance of non-Muslim opinions.
At Dillaliya, he wears a different hat, promoting liberal
views and full participation by Muslims in secular debates.
Despite its efforts to be different, Dillaliya remains
dependent on Al-Mizan's influence.
Jakadiya: Kaduna-based Hausa weekly financed by a group of
young northern politicians opposed to the present political
leadership in the north and at the center. Estimated
circulation is between 2000 and 3000 copies.
Albishir/Alfijir: The Triumph Company also publishes a
Hausa bi-weekly, Albishir, and an Arabic-Hausa script
(Ajami) version, Alfijir. Both publications reflect the
Triumph's pro-Islamic, anti-American, and anti-Israeli
posture. Although published in the city with the largest
population of Hausa speakers in the country, less than
4,000 copies of both Albishir and Alfijir are circulated
each week, mostly as complimentary copies to senior
citizens and Islamic scholars. Street sales make up less
than 30 percent of the total circulation because of the
high degree of poverty and poor income levels amongst the
target Hausa readers in Kano.
The Path: Sokoto-based Pro-Islamic and characteristically
anti-American bi-weekly (est. circulation 3,000).
The Legacy: This Gusau-based weekly tabloid is published
by a private company, but heavily subsidized by Governor
Ahmed Sani's Shari'a government in Zamfara State. The
paper's editorials and columns are characteristically pro-
Islam and anti-Israel, but open to U.S. views. Estimated
circulation is 2,000.
12. FRCN Kaduna: Northern Nigeria's most influential
radio station was established in 1962 by the north's
political legend and religious leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello, as
the "Voice of the North." FRCN Kaduna's influence has
however diminished as it struggles to fight off Federal
control of its editorial policy because of its merger with
the Federal Radio network centrally controlled from Abuja.
It also has the growing popularity of foreign stations that
broadcast in Hausa to contend with. Despite its diminished
influence, FRCN Kaduna is staunchly pro-north and extremely
anti-West. Although technically owned by the Federal
Government, FRCN enjoys generous and strong support from
the various states that succeeded the defunct Northern
Region in 1967, prominent northern business, and political
The Hausa Services
13. BBC, VOA, Radio Deutsche Welle, and Iran Radio Hausa
Language services have the highest listenerships. Radio
Korea and China Radio International also broadcast in
The Internet
14. This web page has a cult following and
has become very influential with northern intellectuals,
labor leaders, northern Muslim/Christian youth activists,
NGO, and student groups. Issues discussed are far ranging,
but substantially anti-U.S., including events in the Middle
East, September 11, and the war against terror.
15. This web page describes
itself as "a Hausa newspaper for the Hausa-Speaking people
in Africa and diaspora using the Internet." This Internet
version of the newspaper Al-Mizan (mentioned above) is
slightly different and more colorful than the print
Satellite Cable by Subscription
16. Television is popular in northern cities, where crowds
of people often watch a single set when electricity is
available. Many local government authorities have
established "television viewing centers" that allow many
people to watch programs together.
17. Cable television subscriptions, bringing international
stations to Nigerian viewers by satellite, have become more
important, especially in affluent communities. In addition
to CNN, BBC, MTV and commercial movie channels, Nigeria's
cable providers bundle free Arabic channels -- courtesy of
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and the United Arab
Emirates -- into the channel mix. ABG and MG Satellite
Communications are northern Nigeria's main cable
distributors for the Arabic channels.
--------------------------------------------- ----
--------------------------------------------- ----
18. The "flow of information" in northern Nigeria also
includes written and audio materials apparently funded
elsewhere, and post has not yet been able to investigate
these materials in a systematic way.
19. The sources of funding for these materials, including
money to translate religious and ideological literature
into Hausa and other local languages, vary. They most
likely come from Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Libya and North
20. Iran's effort is formally aimed at spreading the Shia
form of Islam in local Koranic schools and Muslim
populations. Publications are part of an effort that
includes placing teachers in Koranic schools and study
groups in Iran. The targets for Saudi Arabia's effort are
Islamic clerics, Islamic scholars and the academic
community. Like the Iranian sponsorships, the Saudi effort
includes scholarships for study at King Abdulaziz
University in Saudi Arabia.
21. Sponsored translated materials circulate widely at
mosques, town meetings, protest processions, local markets,
and other religious gatherings. The annual pilgrimage to
Saudi Arabia (Hajj) also provides opportunity for wide
distribution of Hausa translated materials.
22. China and North Korea mostly provide funding for
translation of anti-American and anti-West ideological
literature, which are sometimes given a religious tilt and
distributed freely to unquestioning radical youths.
23. All these subsidized materials are distributed free,
and they have gained wide readership because of low
economic activity and high poverty levels in the rural
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media