In contemporary times, democracy has become the political buzzword and, indeed, the basic acceptable form of government with the emergence of liberalism which links democracy with freedom, consent, and political and legal equality. The mass media – which include newspapers, radio and television – play a prominent role in governance and democratic sustainability of any state. In fact, it is a truism that the media serve as the watchdog of governmental activities, ensuring that quality information with which the governed can hold their leaders
accountable is made available. The mass media were actively involved in the struggles against colonialism and military rule, as well as the eventual restoration of democratic government in Nigeria. However, in Nigeria, the mass media are fast becoming a pawn in the hands of the government and party in power in particular, and are found in conspiracy with the political elite class in general. This article takes on the contributions of the mass media to effectual democracy in Nigeria. Using agenda setting theoretical framework, it x-rays the effectiveness
and shortcomings of the media in delivering on its mandate as the fourth estate of the realm towards ensuring that democratic practices in Nigeria produce the intended result of promoting good and inclusive governance. The paper adopts qualitative research design with data drawn from secondary sources only. It equally uses descriptive and content data analysis. It is found that the mass media have indeed been the middlemen in entrenching democracy in Nigeria but these efforts are being undermined by pecuniary, ownership, political and structural-institutional influences. It is concluded that while the mass media strive to ensure the general inclusion of the populace in the process of governing which fulfills a core democratic tenet, they can do more to overcome the challenges. Among other things, this paper recommends that the government should be deliberate in guaranteeing the freedom of the press to allow for free transmission of information between the government and the people without fear or favour, and likewise, the press should be professional, objective, critical and independent in their reportage, embracing the virtue of investigative journalism.