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Framing presidential illness: The political significance of how the Nigerian press covered former President Yar’Adua’s final months

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Whenever a senior politician falls seriously ill and the media learn of this, the politician’s health problems are likely to become the subject of news reporting. Impressionistic but still plausible evidence would suggest that this kind of story ‘makes the news’ significantly more often than it did in decades gone by. Yet media studies academics have devoted precious little attention to this topic with the result that important questions about the nature of news coverage whenever politicians fall ill and what the consequences of that coverage might be remain unexplored. This article makes a start in filling that lacuna by exploring the Nigerian press’s coverage of the illness and eventual death of former Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua. The key issues that defined the crisis are identified. Furthermore, we argue that (intentionally or otherwise) the news media’s coverage mattered because it legitimized the transfer of power away from President Yar’Adua months before power was officially handed over to his successor.
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Keywords: African news; African politics; Nigerian press; Yar’Adua; coverage of ill-health; framing; media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Leicester 2: Richmond University

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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