Social Media And Democratic Elections In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Social Media And Democratic Elections In Nigeria


This study analyzed how online news media covered the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. The aim is to establish the level of attention different parties received, portrayal of the parties and direction of reports. Three online media Viz: Sahara Reporters, Scan news and Premium Times were purposively selected. The period of the study was 1st January to 27th March 2015. A total of three hundred and twenty-three (323) items (news and feature articles) that touched on the 2015 presidential election were generated through Google search and websites of the three media. One hundred and sixty nine (169) items were randomly selected as the sample size. Data were analyzed using frequencies and simple percentages. Findings revealed that PDP and APC received most attention from the media with PDP having the highest number of reports. Aside the two parties, all the remaining parties were mostly invincible in the reports published by the media during the period studied. It was also discovered that the media were more interested in conflict related matters than issues like voter’s education. Among other recommendations made, the researcher called on government communication regulatory bodies to organize special workshop for online journalists on issues of ethics and responsible practice while legal and technological strategies need to be designed to curtail excesses of online journalists.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to Study

The use of social media in politics has continued to grow in recent years. Since Barack Obama broke the world record in the history of social media use for political purpose during the 2008 presidential elections, many nations and politicians across the globe have continued to embrace the platform to mobilise their citizens and candidates towards active participation in the political process. Nigeria had the first real test of social media use for political participation and electioneering campaign during the 2011 presidential election. This was seen in the creation of Facebook and twitter profiles by the candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP) Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This move put him a step over its nearest competitor by over 10 million votes. It has led to most scholars that President Goodluck social media game was the reason for his dominant victory in the 2011 Presidential Election. This was not so previously, as network television and newspapers dominated coverage of electioneering and were the primary sites of election related 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.

Before the advent of the new media, the older or conventional media – radio, television, newspapers, magazines, etc., ruled the world, and had directly or indirectly blocked popular participation in the electoral process. This is because there has always been scarcity of space and airtime given by the conventional media to the citizens to have their say in politics, governance and in the electoral process. Conventional media critics such as (Graber, 1976; Fallows 1996; Blumler and Gurevitch, 1995) cited in (Abubakar, A.A, 2011.) thus believe that voters were left with paid political propaganda containing only meaningless slogans, making them disinterested and cynical about politics. They argue that there is absence of serious debate in the conventional media that could make people to learn the substance of issues and policies proposals as well as related arguments, and that this disallows citizens from participating actively in political discourse.

Thus, (Denver, 2007) maintains that communicating with voters in the hope of influencing their behaviour is not new. It is as old as competitive politics itself. Denver continues that “For as long as there have been contested elections . . . those standing for election and their supporters have endeavoured . . . to persuade the relevant electorate to vote for them.” They also enlighten voters on the election process which is an essential ingredient for a successful election. This is particularly crucial in view of the fact that in developing societies like Nigeria the level of political awareness is very low. Lack of political awareness is greatly associated with the predominance of illiterates that constitute the electorate. Consequently, the uninformed electorate tend to ignore character or issues like infrastructure, unemployment, corruption, insecurity, and living conditions. Their voting decisions are rather based on trivial considerations like party loyalty, social ties, ethnic and religious affiliation. This has inclined (Jibo, 1997) to the view that in Tiv land, the party followers used to say that “A lu kon kpaa se votu”. That is, they were prepared to vote for even a tree if it was their party’s candidate.” Politicians, thus exploit voters’ lack of knowledge to perpetrate and consolidate the existing culture to their gain. This must have prompted (Idiong, 2010) to admit that “In Nigeria, there has been noticeable tendency on the part of the news media to overplay the personality rather than the issue.” It is not surprising, therefore, that as the Nigeria’s 2011 presidential elections approached and became more competitive, politicians and other stakeholders sought more efficient means of communicating their messages. One of the most efficient means was the media of mass communication which have now constituted the mainstream of modern electoral politics.

There has now been a change over the last decade in the way people access, consume and produce media: a shift away from mainstream media and toward internet based content and social media. Fifty-one per cent of Nigerians use the internet – of which 70 per cent are using social media (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all count in the top ten most visited sites in Nigeria). This is changing the way people get their news, and learn about issues.

Social media activity presents a novel way to research and understand attitudes, trends and media consumption. There is a growing number of academic and commercial efforts to make sense of social media data sets for research or (more typically) advertising and marketing purposes. From the inception of Ushahidi to collect and map reports of violence during the post-election period in Kenya in 2007, to the reliance on Twitter during Iran’s 2009 elections, social media platforms have become important tools to track and map irregularities and violence, but also for communication beyond one way messages from leaders to the people. As yet, very little analysis focuses on the role and effectiveness of social media in election campaign and monitoring.

This project examines social media and electioneering campaign and its purposes, using the 2011 and 2015 Nigerian elections as case studies. The purpose of the research is to develop an understanding of the effectiveness of social media use for election purposes around the 2011 and 2015 Nigerian election, and draw out lessons and possibilities for the use of social media data in other elections, and beyond.

1.2 Statement of Problem

The use of social media as a formidable force for social engineering and political electioneering has continued to grow. The technology is participatory, interactive and cost-effective. This has made it the medium of the moment as far as political communication and participation are concerned.

The problems associated with the usage of social media in elections in Nigeria a quite cumbersome. This is associated with the problem that Nigeria has not reached the stage of the technology coverage whereby everyone has access to the internet whereby it is cheap and accessible as in the case of the United States of America whereby social media is accessible to virtually everyone in the country.

The problems associated with electioneering campaigns and processes in Nigeria have been a cause of major concern. A major problem of elections in Nigeria is the process of communicating political ideas to the masses.

Overtime, the failure of those seeking elective positions in Nigeria to adequately and effectively communicate their ideas, credentials and blue print for development to their electorates has led to the voting of wrong people into power and this has led to a lot of accidental public servants who just go into power for personal gains and other selfish reasons. This has regrettably led to the lack of credible and competent people to lead the nation which precipitates to lack of development, corruption and lack of economic and social vision of the country.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to assess the impact of social media on the 2011 and 2015 Electioneering campaign in Nigeria.

Specific, objectives are to:

  1. Determine the role social media played in the political participation of Nigerians during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
  2. Examine the lapses in the use of social media for election and electioneering campaign in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections.
  3. Compare the 2011 and 2015 presidential election
  4. Discover the benefits of the use of social media in electioneering campaign

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What role did social media play in the political participation of Nigerians during the 2011 and 2015 elections?
  2. What lapses were observed in the use of social media and electioneering campaign in political participation in Nigeria during the 2011 and 2015 general elections?
  3. What stands out between the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections
  4. What are the benefits from the use of social media in electioneering campaign?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This work would be significant to the politicians who would learn the right way to influence voting behaviour of voters in subsequent elections through the use of social media. This would enlighten them the right methods that they should put in place during their election campaign when they are running for office.

This would also be of immense benefit to the citizens of the world at large as it would open the eyes of people that not what they all see on social media during the campaign of politicians should be believed. It will enlighten the people the ways that politicians trick them into voting in their favour.

The work will also be of immense benefit to politicians, government agencies and other stakeholders who will appreciate the need to embark on sustained and an enduring enlightenment political campaigns rather than their periodic ritual which is only embarked on during elections as it is customary in Nigeria.

To media professionals who offer consultancy services to politicians as well as package their campaigns, they will see the need to re-engineer their tactics and strategies for optimal result.

It will also contribute greatly to the academic community by providing insight into the changing voting pattern of Nigerian electorate. Interested scholars can thus, build on findings of the study.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The scope of this research work will be in Nigeria. This is due that I am a citizen and I am a resident of this country and it would be easier to conduct a research. This focus will be on social media and electioneering campaign using the presidential elections of 16th April 2011 and of 28th march 2015 as case studies. These presidential elections would be used as case studies because this years are the relevant years in which there was a use of social media and sources would be easier to retrieve.

1.7 Research Method

The research will adopt secondary method. This method involves the summary, collation and synthesis of existing research. This would be used due to the fact that this topic (social Media and Electioneering Campaign) is a widely-researched topic and it would be analysing what is known already and what new data is required. The research would adopt secondary sources which include previous research reports, newspapers, journals, books as well as government and poll statistics.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

The research work may be faced with time & fund constraints being an academic based research. The time allocated for this study is not enough as in combining the work on this study with daily academics’ routine. Also, the study will be limited to some areas due to the problems of funds, shortage of texts, journals and information relevant to the study.

1.9 Definition of Terms

1. Social Media:

This is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.

2. Electioneering Campaign:

This refers to the act or process of soliciting for support or votes for a given political party or candidate during election.

3. Election:

This can be defined as the actual process of choosing one or more persons for identified position or positions out of the more than the required number of persons that are interested in and who have submitted themselves to judgments on the scale of preference of others who equally have right to the position or office but are not ready or interested in occupying it, at least for the defined period of time.

4. Presidential Election:

This process is when the whole nation votes and decides their next leader.

5. Ballot Box:

A box where voters deposit their ballots

6. Voting Behaviour:

Is the way in which people tend to vote. Voting is influenced by a number of factors. The most important are: social class, geography, age, media etc.

7. Voters’ Card:

This is the card that contains enough data to confirm the person holding the card is the same person that registered under the name. It is basically the identity of a registered voter

8. Card Reader:

This is the machine to validate the voters card which will make a person eligible to vote

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

This study has shown that social media was used for political participation in Nigeria during the 2015 general elections. It however shows that, whereas many used the technology wisely to campaign for their various candidates, interact with candidates and electorates one-on-one, report happenings in their areas/polling centres during the elections and electioneering period, share personal views and gauge public opinions on the various candidates; others used them to attack opponents, spread false rumours, hate and inciting messages, digitally manipulate images, messages and videos, hack into people’s accounts to commit all manner of fraud and launch spam and virus attacks on opponents’ information, and make users fall prey to online scams that seemed genuine, resulting in several data and identity thefts.

The study however shows that vital lessons could be learnt from the social media use experiment during the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Among them: Social media offer participatory democracy at its best, the technology promotes transparency and greater accuracy in the political process, they facilitate speedy release of election results, among others.

5.2 Recommendations

From the findings, we recommend:

  1. Periodic public enlightenment on the use of social media platforms for political purpose especially among the youths. The government should be at the vanguard of this campaign, using such instruments like the ministries of information at both state and federal levels, the National Orientation Agency, the mass media, among others.
  2. Politicians and political parties, as well as their supporters should be cautioned on using social media to post/twit dysfunctional messages. Government or INEC may consider enacting laws that make such acts punishable offence.
  3. Efforts should be made towards monitoring, moderating or regulating the various social media platforms in order to minimize the observed weaknesses and maximize the intrinsic values of the technology in the electoral process.
  4. To achieve the above, it is imperative that the various media laws are urgently reviewed to address the technicalities involved in the new media technologies; this we believe would go a long way in making the technology more useful in the electoral process and more beneficial to the society at large.

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