USE OF THE INTERNET FOR POLITICAL COMMUNICATION IN ABUJA MUNICIPAL AREA AND SHENDAM LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: CASE OF NIGERIA 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS

USE OF THE INTERNET FOR POLITICAL COMMUNICATION IN ABUJA MUNICIPAL AREA AND SHENDAM LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: CASE OF NIGERIA 2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS

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ABSTRACT

The study is on use of the internet for political communication in Abuja municipal area of Abuja federal capital territory and Shendam local government area of Plateau State: Case of Nigeria 2011 general elections. This study has three major purposes: (1) determine the usefulness of internet-based political campaigns to voters’ decision making during the election, (2) identify the problems associated with the use of internet-based political campaign during the election, and (3) ascertain the level of contribution of internet-based political campaigns in addressing challenges associated with the use of traditional media for political campaign during the election. Sample for the study was selected using quota and purposive sampling techniques. The respondents for the study comprised voters in Abuja Municipal Area, and Shendam Local Government Area, who were 18 years old before the 2011 Nigeria general election and had registered for voting in the election; as well as web consultants, and campaign managers of political parties. Data for this study were collected using both questionnaire and interview schedule. Findings from the study indicated that majority of voters did not access or come in contact with internet-based political campaigns during the election. The problems associated with the use of internet as a medium for political campaign during the election for political parties were illiteracy among voters, technical challenges, and inadequate electricity to run computers, among others. In terms of the usefulness of internet based campaigns to voters’ decision making among voters who access internet-based political campaigns, the study found among others, that internet-based campaigns helped them to make up their minds on choice of candidates. Internet-based political campaign was relatively successful in addressing challenges associated with the use of traditional media for political campaign for candidates and voters. Based on these findings the study recommended that urgent improvement of the internet infrastructure in Nigeria is needed. Factors that drive up cost of internet use should be addressed by internet operators and the government to bring down cost. Candidates and political parties should raise more competent internet campaign management teams to improve effective use of the internet for political campaigns during future elections.

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       The Study Background

One of the common complaints by opposition parties especially during elections in Nigeria is

that they are not given equal airtime as the ruling parties to air their campaigns on government

owned media, which is the dominant media in Nigeria to reach voters. Opposition parties often

see this as deliberate attempt by the ruling parties to reduce the oppositions‘ influence and

chances of winning elections. Nigerian broadcast law forbids ownership of the mass media by

political parties. This therefore, means that political parties are left to use government or

privately owned traditional media for political campaigns. With this comes the difficulties of

access and high cost of use of these media for opposition parties.

Perhaps do to some of these challenges and other perceived benefits, in recent times; there has

been a growing trend with political parties in Nigeria incorporating the internet for political

campaigns.

The incorporation of the internet in political campaigns is assumed to have given campaign

groups whether government or opposition parties unprecedented opportunities for political

campaigns to reach voters. Ownership and use of the internet for political campaigns is open to

all campaign groups and gives them the opportunities to greatly use the media to reach out to

voters and supporters alike. Relatively, the cost of operating a website or using the internet is far

cheaper than traditional media. Political campaigners in Nigeria are now adopting the internet for

political communication aimed at mobilizing public participation in elections.

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Though, there was an observed growth in use of internet-based political campaigns during the

2011 general election, questions remain about the usefulness of internet-based political

campaigns to voters‘ decision making during the election in areas where they were used such as

in Abuja Municipal Area and Shendam Local Government Area of Plateau State. Also, the body

of evidence as regards problems associated with the use of internet for political campaigns as

well as how the internet addresses the challenges associated with the use of traditional media for

political campaigns during the election are very few and evolving.

1.2      Statement of the Problem

In Nigeria, recent elections have been characterized by an unprecedented use of the internet for political

campaign by many political parties, particularly by parties in the opposition who often face hurdles in

their attempts to have equal access to the traditional media for political campaigns. In Nigeria, it is not

unusual to hear about accusations of unequal or limited access to the media by political parties in

opposition as they seek to reach voters. There are more government controlled media in Nigeria than


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