The Role Of Social Media On Electoral Education In Nigeria

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The Role Of Social Media On Electoral Education In Nigeria


Abstract


Social media has been a major force in technology. Its impacts and use has exceeded the conventional purpose to the unimaginable future. Social media of course has attracted so many ills to individuals and even corporate organizations but we can’t deny its unquenchable impact in terms of business, education, relationship, trans-border transactions and now politics. This study was undertaken to examine the role of social media on electoral education in Nigeria. The study adopted the descriptive survey method.

Several literally works bordering on social media were reviewed and examined. The study employed the questionnaire as an instrument to elicit information from respondents. The study found that social media plays the role of awareness during elections, it plays the role of intermediary between the electorates and the candidates. The social media was found to give platform for individuals to air their opinion concerning a candidate, a party and a policy. All these in a bid to achieve good governance in Nigeria, a nation-state.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

The media (print and electronic) in Nigeria especially the privately-owned ones have always been strong instruments of sensitization and mobilization of people towards democracy even in the dark days of brutal military dictatorship (Ajayi, 2007). However, their reach was limited by such factors as government intimidation and harassments, logistics, limited resources and their elitist ownership and control. But with the widening of the communication media space through improved technology, information dissemination and sensitization of people now have a widespread immediacy and more diligent follow up of events. This is as a result of their easy accessibility and availability irrespective of social status.

Even with the cheapest mobile phones one can still access some social media platforms at reasonable cost for information, education and entertainment. Fundamentally, the media exists as an organ of information sourcing and dissemination, social enlightenment and mobilization. These functions set the media apart as an important factor in the relationship between the government and the governed thereby making them indispensable for good governance, the deepening of democracy, societal growth and development generally (Olujide, Adeyeimi, & Gbadeyan, 2010). However, the emergence of social media is a major phenomenon in the 21st century that has transformed the interaction, communication and sharing of information between people throughout the world in. Social media most often refers to as activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interactions, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.

This interaction and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences (Wattal et al. 2010; Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, p.60). Some of the popular and widely used social networking sites include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogs, MySpace, LinkedIn, among others. Today, social media have become a natural part of the everyday lives of people all over the world. In the past few years, social media have shown a rapid growth of user counts and have been object of scientific analysis (Wigand et al., 2010; McAfee, 2006).

For example, more than 800 million people worldwide are members of the Facebook network (Facebook, 2011) while Twitter counts more than 200 million accounts in total (HuffPost Tech, 2011). This development makes social media fantastic tools for communicating with large audience. The arrival of these social media platforms have continued to change the way people communicate with one another around the world. For example, mobile phone penetration rates, in particular, have resulted in a plethora of ideas for new media platforms aimed at bridging the information divide between the well-connected and the disconnected (Unwin, 2012, p.7). In addition, Internet-based communication has equally started to gain importance in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. Both mobile phones and the internet provide exciting new opportunities for one-to-one as well as one-to-many communication.

The much reported rapid spread of mobile connectivity and services, as well as different forms of public and shared internet access like social media have allowed a growing number of people who may not have access to a computer or a fixed connection to take part in “the global conversation” (André-Michel, 2010, p.4). Thus, the use of social media in politics has continued to grow in many parts of Africa including Nigeria since the 21st century.

For instance, 2011 general elections marked a significant milestone in the use of social media for political communication in Nigeria. Motivated by President Barrack Obama‟s successful use of Facebook to win the United States elections as the first black president, Nigerian politicians are indeed, gradually taking their campaigns to the social networking sites and other online platforms. Within the election period, political aspirants were disposing of all means to gear up their support base, following the realization that electioneering requires more than just handshakes and physical persuasion (Omenugha, Ukwueze, & Malizu, 2011).


1.2 Problem Statement

The history of elections in Nigeria generally has afforded us the golden opportunity of assessment of the divergent roles of the media in Nigeria political process within the framework of our national political goal. The issue and question of education, information, mobilization and monitoring has become a very crucial factor in the realization of the national objectives in the context of the electoral process. This is as a result of the ugly incidences of various forms of electoral malpractices which have repeatedly threatened the possibility of credible elections and national integration in Nigeria.

Though the issue at stake is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the body politic, there is however, a rationale in assigning this responsibility as a primary concern of the social media on the ground of professional competence as the fourth estate of the realm. This is so because, social media as a community has had a huge impact on the people and a lot of person have confidence in it. It has therefore, become very important to assess the roles of social media on electoral education in Nigeria.


1.3 Objectives of the Study

The study is focused on examining the role(s) of social media on electoral education in Nigeria; specifically, the following aims are highlighted:

  1. To examine the possibility of employing social media as a tool for electoral education in Nigeria.
  2. To examine the unique roles of social media in enhancing electoral education in Nigeria.
  3. To recommend effective ways of using social for a successful electoral education in Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study will be of importance to the political participants as it exposes a new way of influencing the audience into a party ideology. To the academia, the role of social media will be explored for better understanding. Also, the study will be referenced for further researches.


1.5 Research Hypotheses

The researcher developed and formulated for testing the following hypotheses:

H0: Social media cannot be used as a tool for electoral education in Nigeria.

H1: Social media can be used as a tool for electoral education in Nigeria.

H0: Social media does not play a significant role in enhancing electoral education in Nigeria.

H1: Social media plays a significant role in enhancing electoral education in Nigeria.


1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The study will integrate different view on social media as it relates to governance and elections. The study adopted a national perspective, i.e it holds a wholesome view of social media and Nigeria politics. The study however is limited as it does not state the role of social media after elections, does it serve as a control tool or not. The study focused on its role in enhancing electoral education in Nigeria.


1.7 Definition of Terms

Social Media:

A group of social networks interconnected in forms of websites, app and blogs that allows individuals send and receive messages, consequently disseminating information.

Electoral:

Something that has to do with election process

Electoral Education:

A type of education centered on election and electioneering


1.8 Organization of Study

This study is organized in five chapters.

  • The first chapter lays the background to the study as well as stating the problem of study and the hypotheses for testing.
  • The second chapter is structured to give the study a literature review. This review is divide into the theoretical framework, Empirical framework and the conceptual framework.
  • Chapter three deals with research methodology including the research design, sampling method, Data collection and the research instruments employed.
  • Chapter four seek to analyze the result, it is also made up of detailed analysis of data collected and presentation of information with the aid of quantitative and statistical models.
  • The fifth chapter covers the summary, conclusion and recommendation.

Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to reiterate that the objective of this study was to examine the role of social media on electoral education in Nigeria. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in examining the role of social media on electoral education in Nigeria.


5.2 Summary

This study was undertaken to examine the role of social media on electoral education in Nigeria. The study opened with chapter one where the statement of the problem was clearly defined. The study objectives and research hypotheses were defined and formulated respectively. The study reviewed related and relevant literatures. The chapter two gave the conceptual framework, empirical and theoretical studies. The third chapter described the methodology employed by the researcher in collecting both the primary and the secondary data. The research method employed here is the descriptive survey method. The study analyzed and presented the data collected in tables and tested the hypotheses using the chi-square statistical tool. While the fifth chapter gives the study summary and conclusion.


5.3 Conclusion and Recommendations

In conclusion, this study contends that the significant use of social media during general elections in Nigeria can be a result of three key factors:

  1. The tendency of election stakeholders in Nigeria to follow the global trends in the use of social media as a political communication tool;
  2. The tendency of Nigerian politicians and political parties to tap into the opportunities offered by social media to reach and engage their constituents and voters; and lastly
  3. The tendency to use the social media tools to improve the efficiency of election observation.

The study argues that the four key stakeholders in the Nigerian electoral process (the INEC, Politicians/political parties, the electorate, and the CSOs) should make extensive use of social media during the 2019 elections. Each of these stakeholders in the past used the social media to achieve a number of interrelated objectives. INEC used social media basically to broadcast messages on the elections and receive feedbacks from the public on their experience with the process. Politicians/political parties used the social media to reach out to the voters and canvassed for vote and support. The electorates used social media to report their experiences and receive election related information, while the CSOs used the social media to mobilize and educate the electorates as well as to cover and report their observation of the electoral process. There are many questions about the reliability of the information collected and shared through the social media, especially in highly-disputed contests as Nigeria’s presidential election.

Crowd-sourcing often relies upon information provided by grassroots citizens in the local communities, who are sometimes anonymous reporters. Bearing in mind the fact that some of these citizen/journalists might be people with partisan interests, it is difficult to affirm the accuracy of the reports without subjecting them to a systematic verification process. Reliability improves if independent verification checks are built into the system; for example, if a random sample of reports are vetted by a trusted and independent agency, or if reports from multiple sources such as CSOs, local and international observers, election officials, security personnel and the media, are compared.

Information shared through the social media during the 2011 general elections passed through only little or no form of vetting or verification which led to misinformation being circulated. Going by the outcomes of the 2011 general elections, it can be argued that Nigeria may have broken the cycle of flawed and bad elections, but the challenges that lie ahead are many and daunting. Between now and the next general polls in 2015, far-reaching electoral, political and economic reforms are needed to help consolidate the modest gains made in 2011 and launch the country on the path of permanent and sustainable electoral change. Be that as it may, INEC requires fundamental reforms ranging from organizational restructuring, including decentralization, strengthening of state and local government offices and staff recruitment and training. Institution-building should be pursued with vigour and rigour. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, however. Both government and INEC should revisit, widely disseminate and implement the remaining recommendations contained in the 2009 Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report. The electoral process should continue to be improved, and complaints and litigation should be resolved quickly. The entire process needs to be made as simple and people-friendly as possible. INEC‟s legal framework should be addressed, and it should seek domestic and international help to alleviate its weaknesses.

Government, working with other key political players and social actors, has the responsibility of constructing a system of disincentives to deter political and electoral malfeasance. This should be done through political and economic reforms that make the state relevant to most Nigerians. Besides, more attention should be paid to developing industrial and manufacturing capacity in order to create jobs for the army of restive and idle school-leavers and graduates who are readily used as agents of political violence and electoral malfeasance. The current post electoral system should be reviewed and consideration be given, as proposed by the Uwais Committee, to introducing some degree of proportional representation. More generally, the political system turns elections into a zero-sum game and this is not a recipe for national unity. Through civic and voter education, as well as public statements and concrete actions, the government should foster greater public consciousness of what Nigeria means to its people and the values guiding the country. Nigeria has the resources and the capacity to entrench a culture of credible elections, with all that would mean for sustainable democracy. But President Jonathan and his cabinet will need to summon the political will to lead that effort.

Based on findings of this study dwelling on the challenges and benefits of the use of social media in elections, the following are therefore recommended:

  1. The benefits of the use of social media outweigh its challenges, as such the civil society should adopt its use and equally encourage other election stakeholders to use social media in subsequent elections in Nigeria.
  2. The Electoral Act should be enhanced to provide specific guidelines on the use of social media in Nigeria’s future elections.
  3. INEC should establish guidelines for the use of social media as a political communication tool in Nigeria.
  4. INEC, CSOs, and security agencies should establish modalities to systematically verify information reported by citizen observers through the social media.
  5. INEC should establish a social media tracking center to monitor, collate, and interpret trends and reports during elections.

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