The Role Of Social Networking Sites On Political Campaigns In Nigeria
The study looks at the role of social networking sites in political campaigns in Nigeria. It focuses on how politicians uses social networking sites to mobilize the youth to participate both in civic and political.
Data were elicited through a well structured questionnaire simple percentage method and Pearson correlation analyses were employed.
Finally, the study reaffirms the need for politicians to fully embrace social networking sites in Nigeria as a media for formulating good public policy and enhancing accountability in governance so as to ensure a “stronger” democracy.
1.0 Background To The Study
The world is moving away from the traditional form of political Advertising and campaigning in electronic media which is television and radio to a more global and far reaching one which is the internet and more specifically social networking sites. The social networking sites as a sub-medium of the internet has become a veritable ground for political groups and political actors wishing to tap into the endless benefits of the information communication technology miracle regarded by many as a revolutionizing technology.
According to Harry Rheingold(1993), he argued that the widespread use and potential derived from the use of this revolutionizing technology in political campaigns have brought about speed promised greater levels of interactivity and connectivity, the absence of hierarchies or bureaucracies and the possibilities offered by an unfiltered and unmediate source of communication have together contributed greatly by its use by politicians and political groups in their political campaigns in advanced and nascent democracies as a whole.
As observed, political campaigns is aimed at influencing the process and outcomes of governance. It consists of an organized communication effort, involving the role of one or more agencies (be they parties, candidates, government institutions or special interest organisations) seeking to influence the outcome of processes of political decision making by shaping public opinion. Political actors are campaigning because they hope that the support of the public or of relevant segments of the public will help them to promote their political causes (David M. Farrell and Rudiger Schmitte-Beck, 2002).
The use of social networking sites in political parties spans across increased media exposure, funding, participation and increased mobilization and enthusiasm in numerous recent political campaigns social. Network sites are now proven to be unsurpassed in their effectiveness to gather and communicate a targeted political message raising the stakes in strategy and aggressive social media participation.
However, the number of politically active citizens online and offline are expanding throughout the world via the new communications role of the internet (Quintelier and Vissers, 2008). The 2006 Belgian election, the Catchphrase ‘Think’ was distributed through friendship networks on Myspace to stimulate discussions and thought around voting preference and to encourage voters to reconsider voting for a right party (Quintelier and Vissers, 2008). In 2007, it was estimated that 40% of all social networking users had used Myspace and Facebook as a source for political information in the United States and 20% of people used these sites to discover the political interests of their friends (Zhang et al, 2010). Barack Obama successful used Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Facebook among others to communicate and mobilize people. He also had a $2million dollar custom campaigning and social networking site called mybarackobama.com (Walmsley 2005, Crow 2008, Talbot 2008). At the end of his campaign Obama had 2.4million Facebook friends which his rival Mccain had 624,000 (Zhang et al, 2000).
The Iranian government had also embraced the internet to help spread a pro-government message and offer online forms for discussions (Rahimi, 2003). Also during the post-2009 elections protest twitter was logging 220,000 tweets about Iran (last 2009). According to Rahimi 2003, he sees the threat pose by the use of internet to destabilized the authoritarian rule in Iran, as the politically active groups in Iranian politics could adopt social networking sites specifically including Facebook, Flickr, Youtube, Twitter and Machups were utilized in the 20006 kenyan election for mobilization information showing and to raise money in a restricted time. It was used as a way to get involved in the political process as a response to the mainstream media having been gagged by the government (Makinen and Kuira, 2008). Perspectives and commentary on post-2006 elections crisis in Kenyan were seen on online networking sites as a way to criticize the media and government and it was found that views and discussions topics seen in social networking sites were much more diverse than that seen in mainstream media (Makinen and Kuira, 2008).
However, in Nigeria new forms of communications technology and social networking are rapidly influencing the political scope of the country. As the United Nations children’s fund puts its, Nigeria is one of the youngest countries in Africa; the average age is 19. In 2008 only 49% of Nigeria’s population was aged 18 and can be observed that young Nigerians were also technologically savvy too. This statistics send a strong signed to political groups and actors as to the strength and unlimitless benefits attached to these new forms of communication technology and social networking sites. In tapping from the immense benefits brought by the use of social networking sites. President Goodluck Jonathan declared his intention to run for the presidency on Facebook. Also following suites, was Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Emmanuel Uduagan of Delta State and many others have established a campaign presence on the social networking sites. Infact in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan attracted over 144,000 facebook fans in just a few short weeks. Each of President Goodluck Jonathan’s past draws between 1000 and 2000 comments (Goodluck Jonathan 2010:344).
Considering the immense benefits posed by these new forms of communication technologies in Nigeria, the challenges faced by adopting social networking sites in politics campaigns is alarming some of the challenges are the limited set of people that have access to it. According to the international telecommunications union estimates at the end of 2010 for Nigeria, it was estimated that market penetration votes for mobile phones and the internet were 53% and 24% respectively. Another challenge been faced here is the issue of every Tom, Dick and Harry being a commentator analyst or reporter. This raises the question of ethics libel credibility and all that. As people can take advantage of it to malign others, settle political scores and publish absolute falsehood. While professional journalists may be conscious of the possibility of libeling someone and facing court action, the citizen journalists are not.
1.1 Statement Of Problem
In the past, political campaigns using the traditional forms of electronic media otherwise known as mainstream media (i.e. radio television etc) have been centered on adults, also problematize by one-way communication process, high cost of funding, low level of participation, mobilization and interaction and more importantly the increased continued and ownership of this mainstream media by the government.
However the advent of social network in political campaigns seeks to address this problem by adopting a two way pattern of communication and incorporating the youth through the gap they join online making them more useful in the political campaign process. The youth therefore have become the ‘engine room’ or pivot upon which modern campaigns strategy is built also based on the openness of the internet via the social networking sites, the unregulated media (i.e. the social network) have become a challenge to policy makers as it afford every tom, Dick and Harry to become a commentator, analysts ad reporter. This create a challenge to public policy makers as they become entangled in the web of which policy to formulate and implement or which one to discard.
1.2 Significance Of The Study
The crux of this study is aimed at the role of social networking sites on political campaigns in the political sphere. As this technological changes helps in brining about a ‘stronger democracy’. Another primary importance of the role of social networking on political campaigns is to add to the body of knowledge and to enlighten the general public as to the relevance of social networking sites on political campaigns in Nigeria. Also it enables the users of social networking sites to participate fully in political discourses.
1.3 Research Objectives
It is imperative to note that there are wide ranges of objectives that can be derived from this study. However the most vital objective is to study the role of social networking sites on political campaigns in Nigeria. Other objectives imbided in this study are as follows:
- To study how social networking sites influence public policy through participatory governance.
- To study how social networking sites gives a favourable platform for participatory journalism and citizen journalism.
- To examine how social networking sites can bring about unfiltered communication and mass mobilization at reduced cost.
1.4 Research Question
- Is social networking sites, performing an interactive role in political campaigns in Nigeria?
- Is social networking sites influencing public policy through participatory governance?
- Is social networking sites performing its role in political campaign in Nigeria?
- Is social networking sites, a platform for citizen’s journalism?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The research hypotheses for this research work are as follows, there will be significant relationship between the application of Social networking sites in governance and formulation of good public policy.
Social networking sites do not bring about mass mobilization of people at reduced cost in Nigeria politics.
There will be significant relationship between the use of social networking sites and high level of accountability in governance in Nigeria.
1.6 Scope And Limitation Of The Study
This research work will cover political campaigns of all politicians and political groups in Nigeria especially as it regards President Goodluck Jonathan and other notable politicians in Nigerian politics and also the issue of formulation and implementation of public policies. However, due to time constraint, I will restrict my research work to Lagos as it is the state with the highest mobile phones and internet users in the country.
1.7 Definitions Of Major Terms
Information communication technology:
Can be define as technology that merges computing with high-speed communication links carrying data, sound and video.
Is an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group. It refers to electoral campaigns, wherein representatives are chosen or referendums are decided.
Social networking sites:
Is an online service, platform or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people who share interests and/or activities.
Is defined as politics in the participatory mode which is self government by citizens rather than representative government in the name of citizens.
1.8 Research Methodology
For this study, information would be sourced mostly from primary source of data gathering and analysis. The primary data will be gotten from questionnaires which will be administered electronically.
1.9 Theoretical Framework
This study adopts the normalization theory or ‘politics-as-usual’ theory. This theory consists of two polar theoretical positions which are cyber-optimists at one extreme and dystopists at the other extreme. The cyber-optimists posits that new ICTs will entirely transform the political system, dis-intermediating it and enabling direct participatory and deliberative democracy (Morris 1999, Grossman, 1996, Toffler 1995, Rheingold 2002). Dystopists, at the other extreme, have warned about the risks to democracy, civil engagement and freedom posed by the advanced of new ICTs (Galston 2002, Streck 1998, Stinstein 2007, Witzelm 2004). Between both extremes, the mainstream of academic scholars takes a relatively pessimistic position about internet’s ability to invigorate our democracies.
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