The Role Of Social Media In Electioneering Campaign, A Study Of 2011 Presidential Election In Nigeria
This study will analyzes the role of social media in electioneering campaign, a study of 2011 presidential election in Nigeria. The task of this study is divided into five sections. Following this introduction is the second section that explores the meaning, attributes, and classifications of social media. it analyze the watchdog role played by the media in a democratic society, also the paper take a look at the theoretical frame work, review of literature, empirical studies, the study also poss.
The arrival of social media has greatly enhanced human communication. This brings to reality the prediction of Marshal McLuhan in 1964 that the world would someday become a “global village” where what happens in one part of the world would be known instantly and simultaneously worldwide. The emergence of social media is perhaps the most prodigious among various platforms of communication made available by the advance in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The possibilities they have created in human communication and interaction are beyond bounds. By just pressing a button today, one can stay right in his bedroom and access information, entertainment, events and enjoy full interaction with the world. In many parts of the world today, individuals, groups, organizations and even nations are taking advantage of the opportunities provided by social media and other e-media platforms to mobilize millions of people to support and advance their course. In the political sphere it has become a veritable tool for mobilizing citizens towards active participation in the political process and Democratic projects, hence, the use of social media in politics has experienced a tremendous growth. Since Barack Obama broke the world record in the history of social media use for political purpose during the 2008 US presidential elections, many nations and politicians across the globe have continued to embrace the platform to mobilize their citizens and candidates towards active participation in the political process.
1.1 Background to the Study
The 2011 general elections witnessed a remarkable use of social media as a political communication tool in Nigeria. Three major issues underline the tremendous use of social media tools during the 2011 elections. Firstly, the use of social media in Nigeria’s2011 elections reflects a global trend towards “internet elections” or “e-electioneering” (Macnamara 2008). Around the world, rapidly expanding access to internet, increased availability of internet ready smart-phones and other communication devices, as well as the evolution of web-based new media – personal websites, social networking sites, blogs, e-newsletters, have redefined methods of political communication, leading to a significant shift towards the use of social media in the electoral process. Previously, network television and newspapers dominated coverage of electioneering and were the primary sites of election-related information. Today, the social media has become a major election information sharing platform globally. Because of its ease of use, speed, and reach, social media is revolutionizing the efficiency of election administration, coverage and reporting.
The second issue that underline the use of social media in Nigeria’s 2011 elections is the tendency of some Nigerian politicians to tap into the opportunities offered by the social media for on-line campaigning. During the 2011 general elections, many politicians, particularly the presidential aspirants, used social media tools to connect with voters and constituents. Facebook and Twitter appear to be the most widely used social media platforms by the politicians. For example, in December 2014, it was estimated that Goodluck Jonathan had nearly 600,000 fans on his Facebook page (Ekine 2010). Other presidential aspirants like MohammeduBuhari, Ambrose Albert, OluremiSonaiya, all had Twitter and other social media accounts. Political parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC also maintained Facebook accounts. Social media offered politicians and their parties the opportunity to broadcast messages and recruit a huge number of volunteers to support their campaign.3 The third issue that underscore the use of social media in Nigeria’s 2011elections is the tendency of Nigerian civil society and the electorate to take up social media as a tool for improving the efficiency of election observation.
Prior to the conduct of the 2011 elections, elections in Nigeria have been largely flawed by vote rigging and other electoral malpractices. The 2007 and 2011 elections were particularly marked by dissatisfaction by candidates, voters and observers. The elections were trailed by complaints of irregularities such as disenfranchisement of prospective voters, snatching of ballot boxes from election officials and stuffing of the boxes with invalid ballot papers, as well as allegations of collusion between election officials and politicians to alter election results and subvert popular mandate (Ibrahim and Ibeanu 2009). The flaws that characterized the conduct of the 20011 elections severely dented the integrity of elections in Nigeria’s, and triggered demands for freer, fairer, and more transparent elections.
To address the flaws that marred previous elections in Nigeria, various organizations, institutions and individuals set up social media platforms that enabled the citizens to oversee the electoral process and report electoral malpractices to authorities through their mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices. Through social media platforms, overwhelming number of videos, photos, tweets and comments were shared.
In the words of one analyst, “the widespread use of these real-time media severely limited electoral malpractices because we found that people were aware that they were on camera and this made them operate at their best behaviour” (Omokri 2011). AttahiruJega, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), also agrees that the use of social media during the 2011 elections “enhanced transparency in the electoral process and made INEC more accountable to the public in the conduct of elections” (cited in Amuchie 2012). The 2011 general elections offer a unique context and opportunity to examine the use of social media in elections, especially the usefulness and applicability of social media in the electoral environment. Although it seems obvious that social media contributed in no small measure to the success of the 2011 elections, it is pertinent to understand specifically how particular stakeholders in the 2011 elections, like INEC, politicians/political parties, the electorate, and CSOs, used the social media during the elections.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The role of social media in every society is often to educate, inform and enlighten. It is assumed that, where those roles are adequately carried out, elections are bound to be free and fair. However, in Nigeria, several elections have been married. The question is how the social media has mobilized the Nigerian populace. How come electoral processes have not been successful, is the social media system not commensurate to other media systems elsewhere? This and many others are questions that this study hopes to identify.
Arguably, the use of social media in politics is widespread and shows no sign of abating. Furthermore, there is ample research to show the importance of social medial in political movements. What is less studied is the use of social media in electioneering and democratic sustenance using the swot analytical strategy.
It is a statement of fact that social networking has become a very important tool for political mobilisation globally. It is gradually becoming a dependable tool in changing the opinions and influences of the public. Realising the efficacy of this medium, some Nigerian politicians quickly embraced it and exploited it extensively for their political campaigns in the 2011 general elections. This study therefore investigates the role social media played in 2011 electioneering process and the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. This study seeks to conduct a SWOT analysis of the role of social media in electioneering credibility
1.3 Objective of the Study
The broad objective of the study is to explore and examine critically the extent to which the social media provides opportunity for people to send, receive and perceive messages relating to politics and politicking. The specific objectives of the study include the following:
- To assess the role of social media in creating political awareness to Nigerians during the 2011 general elections.
- To assess the influence of social media on the voting pattern of Nigerians in the 2011 general elections.
- To find out if social media is an efficient platform for mobilisation for political participation.
- To compare the advantages of social media over the other forms of media for political mobilization.
1.4 Research Questions
Having outlined the objectives of the study, the following research questions were drawn:
- What is the impact of the social media on the voting pattern of Nigerians in the 2011 General Elections?
- Do the social media increase the political awareness and consciousness of Nigerians in the 2011 General Elections?
- Is social media an effective medium for mobilising Nigerians for political participation?
- What are the challenges of utilising the social media for political mobilization of Nigerians during the 2011 general elections?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
- Social media influences and impacts electioneering process in Nigeria during the 2011 general elections.
- Social media fosters political activities positively political participation and democracy in Nigeria.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The evolution of social media sites, and the medium in which they reside, represent a significant change in how we communicate with each other. Social media has contributed to the idea of the “global village” (McLuhan, 1964). The combination of both mobile communication devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, and the user-friendly interface of social media sites, have allowed people with common interests and philosophies in divergent parts of the world to act as if they are in one “village”. An important example of the use and influence of social media can be found at the beginning of what is now called the Arab Spring in 2010. In the North African country of Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor, set himself ablaze in public protest against the censorship and repression in that country (Thone, 2011). The primary media for spreading the story were social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. According to Thone, Tunisia has 3.6 million internet users, and many of these users became the replacement for the official but censored news channels, bearing the message of this extreme protest and controlling its initial distribution. In a cautionary statement about how the global village would evolve, McLuhan wrote that in response to the “problems of our global village, we become reactionaries”
In line with the above statement it is hoped that this study will provide additional knowledge and literature on the topic understudy. It is also hoped that the study in its practical value will help government and other agencies both local and international in designing programmes that will promote good political process through the media.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This research work is designed to cover the study of the impact of the social media on electioneering credibility in Nigeria with more emphasis on the effect and use of social media to the Nigerian political landscape.
1.8 Research Methodology
This study adopts the qualitative research design. According to Reinard (2001:1-9) Qualitative studies try to describe the human condition by using general views of social action. The qualitative techniques used in the study include the descriptive and analytical perspective and the Desk Study Techniques. With the Desk study technique, an in-depth review of literature on subject matter was done based on a sample of empirical research published in English-language which are peer-reviewed journals. The following criteria were used to select scholarly works for review:
- Scholarly works that discussed either new media or social media.
- The scholarly works must discuss social media within the context of its usage for elections and democracy.
The study is also approached from the descriptive and analytical perspective. Okoro (2001:53) explains that descriptive studies as the name implies is aimed at describing or explaining a given phenomenon. Yang (2010) noted that the difference between descriptive and analytic approaches is that while descriptive studies attempt to describe, determine or identify what is, analytical research tries to establish why it is that way or how it came to be.
This is in agreement with the submission of Wimmer and Dominick (2006:179) that while descriptive research compares and describes what phenomena are, analytical research usually concerns itself with cause-effect relationships, and the result usually allow researchers to examine the interrelationship among variables and to develop explanatory inferences. In using this method of inquiry, we analyse the strength and weakness of social media with a SWOT analysis method as they relate to democracy and electioneering. This method is adopted to analyse and address the many questions that have been raised following the emergence of social media especially as it concerns its use in political campaigns/advertising and the possible effects it could have on the fledgling democracy in Nigeria within the copious of 2011 general elections.
1.9 Organization of the Study
This research study will cover five chapters namely;
- Chapter One covers a general introduction of the research work which includes Introduction, Statement of the Problem, Objective of the Study, Significance of the study, Scope of the Study, Research question, Hypotheses, Method of Data Collection, and Organization of the Study.
- Chapter Two covers Literature Review and Theoretical Framework.
- Chapter Three covers background of the study which comprises of the Social Media, Electioneering and Sustenance of Democracy in Nigeria: A “Swot” Analysis of 2011 General Elections
- Chapter Four covers testing of hypotheses (which were earlier constructed) for more clarity and confirmation.
- Chapter Five being the last chapter of the research study will comprise of the summary, conclusions and recommendations of the research study.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This chapter will summarize the critical reevaluation of literature, draw conclusion and recommend extensively, especially on how the new media/ social media further help in deepening Nigeria’s democracy and her electioneering process cum how government regulate can curb its excesses.
5.1 Summary of Findings
Politics have evolved in recent decade with the advent of new technologies. Information sharing has become instant, and especially with the advent of social media. The coming of these technologies brought new trend in election campaign. The ubiquitous access of these online devices has a democratizing effect as they offer citizens opportunities for more fully engagement in the political process. This means that voters have become more than just passive consumers of digital messages; they are now creators of the messages as seem in the just concluded 2011 general elections.
Despite its multifarious benefits in sustaining democracy and aiding electioneering process in Nigeria; social media portends huge threats to Nigeria and her fledgling democracy. The massive use of the technology could result in loss of national sovereignty. It could also enhance cultural imperialism. The experience from social media use in Nigeria’s 2011 general elections and the violence that precipitated the announcement of result as well as the drama witnessed in the Arab uprising in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya shows that social media is a very volatile platform to trend politics. Again, social media may be leading to the erosion of Nigerian values. A poor telecommunication network in most parts of Nigeria, resulting in low level of internet usage is also a serious bottleneck. Inability to regulate and monitor the technology is a threat. High rate of illiteracy is still a major challenge to social media use in Nigeria. Lack of basic infrastructure such as stable power still threatens the use of the new technology. Poverty, corruption and political instability in Nigeria is still a major threat to its penetration. Threat of online terrorism (Cyber terrorism) is still a major challenge.
The new media is enhancing political communication in Nigeria most especially during election and electioneering, though post-election use of the new media is still scanty, however, the new media has promoted political participation among users. Thus its use must be enhanced. However, misuse that causes tension and conflict still abound. In order to overcome dysfunctional media effects, Internet industry professionals must be engaged in political communication strategy planning, development and management. Because the Internet is open and diverse, its use for political communication requires a high sense of responsibility. Citizens must behave responsibly. Bradley cited in O’Kane (1994:176) says when somebody behaves responsibly, it means a person is morally accountable for his actions provided that he is not subject to compulsion and has sufficient knowledge to make an informed choice as to his action. These are related to ethical theories which posit avoidance of egoistic obsession with one’s rightness of action (virtues) without reference to others who might be affected. The new media sites should thus be designed in an easy-to-use interactive manner to be able to engage many intended audience. Any web site created for political communication must be extensive and perceptually active to gain patronage and loyalty.
The print and electronic media should de-emphasize reliance on new media and where they are compelled to do so, they must not abandon their roles as secondary gatekeepers. In accessing the Internet for news story traditional or conventional media must develop the skill and capacity needed to read in-between the lines, consult many sources, draw triangular verification model and subject such news items to different levels of gatekeeping. This is essential if the news from such sources will not become triggers of political conflict and verbal assault. Journalists must be concerned about the social consequences of their publications and avoid conflict triggering statements. The process of giving deliberate attention to the content of media messages that can generate, trigger or escalate the conflict is wrapped in scholarship as conflict-sensitive journalism. Fisher et al (2000) describes conflict-sensitivity as paying deliberate attention to conflict triggering factors in the social environment through adequate analysis of pros and cons of message. Conflict-sensitive journalism requires understanding of the contexts, issues and individual actors involved in media publication. It entails proper analysis of the bias, sensitivity, sensibility, perception, attitudes, beliefs system and cherished values of people, and conflict dynamics of that environment. Thus, journalists must gauge appropriately the impact the messages taking from the Internet will have on their audience and must therefore craftily and professionally present their messages in a way that the audience is not insulted, taken for granted or pushed to violent actions.
Thus, in accessing the new media and in taking political stories from them for republication, rebroadcast or repackaging, the media professional must exercise restraint by considering what probable impact mass dissemination of issues will have on the media users. Attempt should be made to establish causal linkage among the variables in the information flow framework. These interfaces are noise, bias; linguistic differences, shadow parties and competitors. An effective way is to structure the message in simple language, avoid ambiguity, shun double speak and rebuke position alignment. A clear linkage between the message and context of the target audience must be carried out by embarking on critical analysis of information gathered from new media and triangulating such information to ensure their accuracy and newsworthiness. Political messages must be short, concise dear, relatable and catchy when used on the internet because citizens are always in a hurry.
Nigerian voters must not stop at relating with politicians immediately after election. They must constantly engage politicians through cross-transaction communication via the social media. Because the Internet is not an open-ended medium, it enjoys some measure of control and professional practice. Thus, gatekeeping has crept into the use of the Internet. Brazilar Nahon (2005) coined a term which he called “network gatekeeping” as a multi-layer system where both the gatekeeper and the gated can create and produce information. Although the gated can circumvent the gatekeeper and gate-keeping process by resulting to the use of cyberspace, traditional media news should not widen the horizon of such news.
Social media no doubt have massive patronage among Nigerian youths. However, most of them use the channels for social interaction more than other purposes, so, if there is sustained awareness on the use of the channels and politicians are encouraged to use it as one of the media for reaching the electorates, more people will turn to social media for political discussions, debates and opinions. It will actually serve as a medium for participatory democracy.
Credibility of social media should be encouraged because presently, most political stories obtained on the web are mere gossips and rumors which most a times are baseless. A little bit of caution should be exhibited by those who post comments unto these social media sites. This is because; some of these comments are derogatory and appalling.
Finally, relevant bodies should enact some laws and regulation guiding the operations of social media
We have attempted to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of social media in electioneering and in the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. We have also shown that the use of social media is fast becoming a common phenomenon in Nigerian and largely African politics, especially in the electoral process. This is evident from both local and general elections in several countries in the continent in the last few years and in the recent political developments in Nigeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. We argue that as far as the doctrine of free flow of information is concerned; social media is the right technology. However, we did not fail to warn too, that the social media is indeed a technology with double edges, quick and sharp with positive and negative values. Be that as it may, the fact that social media has so numerous potentials that could be tapped to improve the game of politics, enhance the virtues of democracy and foster good governance and political stability in the volatile African continent, calls for full embrace of the technology. To this effect, the study recommends government provision of a more conducive environment to foster penetration of social media and guarantee greater access to the technology.
The study also brought to the fore the problem of weak or no regulation of social media. To this challenge, the study suggests urgent review of media laws to address the technicalities involved in the newer technologies and that regulatory bodies should think of policy sub-sections on different types of media such as Facebook, blogging and Twitter.
In the final analysis, the study strongly recommends greater adoption and use of social media in electioneering activities in Nigeria and establishment of strict monitoring mechanisms to minimize the inherent weaknesses and maximize the intrinsic values of social media in electoral process in the continent. This we believe would go a long way in fostering transparency, accountability, sanity, and bring more decorum into the polity.
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