Social Media As Agenda Setters In The General Election In Nigeria
The emergency and rising of social media otherwise known as citizen media in this digital era have revolutionalised the socio- economic and particularly political development of Nigeria. It offers platform for political debates, political campaign and political mobilization especially in the 2015 General Election in Obabra Local Government of Cross Rivers state. The research, therefore, examines Social Media as Agenda Setters in the 2015 General Election in Nigeria (A case of social media usage by electorate in Obubra). Cross-sectional survey research method was adopted in which data were collected among residents in Obubra L.G using the questionnaire as a data collection instrument. Two hundred (200) copies of questionnaires were distributed, out of which, one hundred and ninety two (192) copies were retrieved and analysed. Findings show that many of the respondents participated in the 2015 election while they also search and participated in political debate and discussions on social media before, during and after the election with many served as voters during the 2015 elections. It is also established that through social media, citizens in Obubra L. G set agenda on different political matters, demonstrated high online debates and supports for political parties of interest. In the same vein, social networking usage during the election was very high for the first time in Nigeria political history, no wonder many submitted that their participation in the election was as a result of the online discussion platform such as facebook and twitters. Similarly, lots of respondents were busy reading and commenting on political matters during the 2015 electioneering period.
1.1 Background of 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. 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’s 2011 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, enewsletters, 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 electionrelated information. But 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 2010, it was estimated that Goodluck Jonathan had nearly 300,000 fans on his Facebook page (Ekine 2010). Other presidential aspirants like Dele Momodu, Ibrahim Shekarau, Nuhu Ribadu, Atiku Abubakar, and Ibrahim Babangida, all had Twitter and other social media accounts. Political parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) 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 2011 elections 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 2003 and 2007 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 2007 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).
Attahiru Jega, 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. 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).
More so, 2015 witnessed a massive use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs in the general elections in Nigeria. Due to their participatory, interactive and cost-effective nature, social media have become veritable and significant instruments for political campaign planners in carrying out election campaigns and other electioneering activities, political engagement and mobilization among others. Thus, the place of social media in rallying political support is no longer in doubt. London (Prsync) November 04, 2010, as cited in Eledan (2011) stated that: Politics is not a spectator sport, and now people have more and easier ways to get involved. Nigeria voters have the opportunity to participate and potentially help design a new conversation at the political level, something that has not been possible for years in the political landscape in Nigeria. Social media has allowed people to go back to building communities on a much larger scale, making the world smaller in the process for many. The above assertion acknowledges a new media platform for politics in Nigeria. In the past, the politicking process has been dominated by the use of conventional mass media, regardless of the obvious disadvantage of providing one-way non-interactive messages to a large audience. However, the latest resort to the use of “old” and new media for political communication has added impetus to the electorate/candidate relationships due to the interactive nature of the new media. Just as social media has opened a dialogue between businesses and consumers, its value is apparent to those in political office, whose work and professional survival hinges on the needs and perceptions of their constituents. As it stands, the social web according to Farrell and Drezner (2008) is ripe with opportunities for candidates and office holders alike to connect with voters, foster transparency, and even spar with opponents in the same ways they have been in the conventional media for hundreds of years. As a result, the potentials of social media appear to be most promising in political context as they can be an enabler for more participation and democracy. According to Creighton (2005), public participation is the process by which public concerns, needs and values are incorporated into governmental and corporate decision-making. E-participation focuses not only on this process but also on using the Internet as an additional or exclusive instrument to create dialogs between the elected and the electorate. Related to that, Karpf (2009) introduces the notion of “politics 2.0”, which can be understood as the harnessing of the Internet‟s lowered transaction costs and its condition of information abundance, toward the goal of building more participatory and interactive political institutions. Thus, social media had been adapted by some political aspirants in Nigeria to contact and discuss with voters as well as to disseminate important information to them. Especially young people were inspired to political topics using social media as communication platform (Chen et al., 2009; Kushin & Kitchener, 2009).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Politics is not a spectator sport, and now people have more and easier ways to get involved. Nigeria voters have the opportunity to participate and potentially help design a new conversation at the political level, something that has not been possible for years in the political landscape in Nigeria. Social media has allowed people to go back to building communities on a much larger scale, making the world smaller in the process for many. The above assertion acknowledges a new media platform for politics in Nigeria. In the past, the politicking process has been dominated by the use of conventional mass media, regardless of the obvious disadvantage of providing one-way non-interactive messages to a large audience. However, the latest resort to the use of “old” and new media for political communication has added impetus to the electorate/candidate relationships due to the interactive nature of the new media. Just as social media has opened a dialogue between businesses and consumers, its value is apparent to those in political office, whose work and professional survival hinges on the needs and perceptions of their constituents. It is in view of the above that the researcher decides to investigate the efficacy of social media as agenda setters in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of Facebook, twitter and YouTube as emerging media of political communication in the 2015 presidential election. But to aid the successful completion of the study; the researcher intends to achieve the following specific objective;
- To investigate the impact of Facebook in political communication in Nigeria
- To examine the role of social media in the electioneering process
- To examine the effect of social media in communicating political ideology in Nigeria
- To examine the relationship between new emerging media and the old media in the fort coming presidential election
1.4 Research Hypotheses
To aid the completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated by the researcher;
- H0: social media does not have any significant effect on political communication in Nigeria
H1: social media does have a significant effect on political communication in Nigeria
- H02: social media does not play any significant role in the electioneering process in Nigeria
H2: social media does play a significant role in the electioneering process in Nigeria
1.5 Significance of the Study
Being a relatively new field in the ever-dynamic field of communication in Nigeria, the study will provide additional knowledge on the subject matter. It is hoped that the study in its practical value will educate politicians and political parties on the importance of social media in contemporary political communication, since social media tools are yet to be fully explored for political campaigns in Nigeria. Also, this study will provide insights to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and civil society organizations in designing programmes that would promote the use of new media technologies in the political process in Nigeria. Lastly, the findings of this study would serve as a springboard for future research in the field of political communication
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The scope of the study covers the impact of Facebook, YouTube and twitter as emerging media of political communication in the 2015 presidential election. But in the cause of the study, there were some factors which militate against the scope of the study;
a) Availability of Research Material:
The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Twitter is an online news and social networking service on which users post and interacts with messages known as “tweets
Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California
YouTube is an American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. The service was created by three former PayPal employees.
Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks
1.8 Organization of the Study
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows
- Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research question, significance or the study, research methodology, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
- Chapter two highlight the theoretical framework on which the study its based, thus the review of related literature.
- Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
- Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
- Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the impact of Facebook, twitter and YouTube as emerging media of political communication in the 2015 presidential election.
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 addressing the challenge of social media and political communication in Nigeria presidential election.
In view of the findings of this study, it was concluded that social media have redefined the landscape of political communication in Nigeria. This phenomenal change is brought about by development of new media technologies such as the internet and other social media platforms. Political candidates now use these communication platforms to engage with the electorate during political campaign. The electorate on the other hand, finds these tools very effective to connect with their political representatives or candidates as it is the only medium that gives them free and unlimited access to stay connected with happenings in the political sphere.
The 2015 general election was a 2-horse race. The social media that marred the image of the APC Presidential candidate for many years, were adopted by both parties as the tools for good and evil. While a party was busy making itself, it was also tarnishing the image of the other party. In the real sense of it, parties were not attacked directly the attacks were on the personalities. Not just at the Presidential level, but also at the other levels. The campaign of calumny could have disintegrated the country, if Nigeria were a more volatile nation. Indeed, the results showed that the majority of the people in some section of Nigeria stood solidly behind the former President and if war had erupted at that time of the election, that segment would have gladly parted their way from the “Nigeria” entity and have the opportunity to form the another nation that they have always desired. As much as the social media has always reiterated the need for the establishment of the Oduduwa nation, the results still showed some level of Unity in the Western part of Nigeria. Although, the support some section gave to PDP costed them the seat of the Senate President. With the prediction favouring the candidacy of the opposition APC in the majority of the social media reports, there might have been several problems in the country if the final result had swayed in favour of the hitherto ruling party- there would have been violence, war, media reports, and so many other things that would have affected the progress of the nation. There would have been a public outcry of mass rigging, even if it could be observed that the votes could have been rigged in some states in the Northern and the Eastern parts of Nigeria. Specifically, Akwa-Ibom and Rivers states and in Kano state. The interactive system of the social media allows freedom of speech. With the freedom of speech, people‟s view can be aired and examined. The access to the views of the people provided the understanding that the social media needed to predict the outcome of the results as it were. Although, the turn out of the electorates was poor,the social media ensured that the political socialisation and political participation have more audience and eventually gave the people the hope that Nigeria can conduct credible election that is devoid of any form of violence. It is hoped that the political culture would thrive in Nigeria and electioneering process would become better.
Based on the findings of this study, the researchers, therefore, made the following recommendations: Nigerian politicians should continue to use the social media to engage the electorate during political campaigns especially the youth who are avid users of the social media. Based on the findings of this study, Facebook is the most utilized social media platform by the presidential candidates. The study therefore recommends that in future elections, other social media platforms likes YouTube, Instagram, and Blogs should by employ by politicians during electioneering campaigns. Nigerian electorate should ensure that their voting pattern in future elections should not be by influenced by political candidate’s religious affiliations or ethnic considerations but on the credibility of candidates.
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