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The use of social media in politics has continued to grow in recent times. Since Barack Obama broke the world record in the history of social media use for political purpose during the 2008 US 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 during the 2011 General Elections. This study examines the experiment of social media use for political participation in Nigeria, using the 2015 Presidential election as the case study of analysis. The study was anchored on Cybernetics or communication theory, and the findings shows that the use of social media has grossly influenced the state of political affairs in Nigeria, as with each new day comes a new development in the political sector, introduced by the social media. The main focus of this paper is to examine the influence and roles played by social media in the 2015 presidential election, that marked a historic transfer of power in Nigeria.
1.1 Background of the study
Social media sites, applications and packages each targets a specific different audience, and uses different tools to allow people to share ideas, videos, photos, links and chats, and to form networks of people connected by common interests. The increasing number of social media users has attracted the attention of even the business sector to the extent that they now include social media or internet advertising to their marketing plans, due to social media's targeting capabilities and it's less expensive nature unlike the mass media. The realization of the relevance of social media is not just limited to the commercial sector which sees it as an avenue for market expansion and sales promotion, but also to the political sector whereby politicians employ it as a tool for political campaigns and policies dissemination, while the electorates use it as medium for political participation.
With millions joining the conversation from all over the country, social media sites are now an effective way for politicians to reach their constituents. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, then Senator Barack Obama used social media to engage and empower his volunteers, raising millions of dollars online. His campaign was not the first to use the internet to engage and fundraise, but it was the first to do so with that level of success, and it is clear their work transferred into actual votes. Unlike the traditional media campaigns they are usually very expensive, investigations has shown social media to be a very cheap medium for reaching out to the electorates. It has grown to be a necessity in all forms of political campaigns, ensuring ease in the dissemination of information and maintaining of candidates-electorates relationship until the election and even after. The successful outcome of implementation of the social media in U.S.A 2008 presidential election has engineered a kind of political social media revolution across the globe and this development have caused politicians from different parts of world including Nigeria to borrow a leaf from America's experience. Now social media campaign has become an integral attribute of modern day politics.
Democracy is widely acknowledged as the best form of government in most parts of the world today. Elections, which represent the most modern and universally accepted process through which individuals are chosen to represent a body or community in a larger entity or government is one of the cardinal features of democracy .This is so because in a democracy, the authority of the government derives from the consent of the governed. This is perhaps why democracy is commonly referred to as “the government of the people by the people and for the people”. Usually, a democratic election would characteristically be competitive, periodic, inclusive, definitive and free and fair. Nigeria’s democracy may be considered nascent when compared to the older democracies of the western world. Be that as it may, the 2011 general election has gone down in the history of the country as one of the best elections in the last few years of uninterrupted civilian rule in the land. It was observed that one remarkable thing about the 2011 general elections was the adoption of social media especially the facebook by the politicians, the political parties and the electorates as a platform for political participation. The importance attached to social media in the 2011 general elections was better explained by President Goodluck Jonathan's decision to declare his intention to run for the highest political office in the land, on facebook. Jonathan had on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 informed his 217,000 fans on the world’s most popular networking platform (facebook) of his intent; 24 hours later, 4,000 more fans joined his page, and by the day of the election, on 16 April 2011, he had over half a million followers. His closest rivals – Alhaji Mohammed Buhari of the CPC, Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN and Alhaji Shakarau of the ANPP were also among those that made heavy presence on facebook and other social media platforms. In addition to the approximately 3 million registered Nigerians on Facebook and 60,000 on Twitter, almost every institution involved in Nigeria's elections conducted an aggressive social networking outreach, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, candidates, media houses, civil society groups and even the police . Apart from the presidential candidates, many governorship aspirants, senatorial and house of assembly seat contenders from the various states of the federation also embarked on aggressive use of social media platforms especially the Facebook to disseminate their political messages, woo electorates and support groups towards the actualization of their goals. 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 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. Meanwhile, social media is interactive, web-based media. They belong to the new genre of media that focus on social networking, allowing users to express themselves, interact with friends, share personal information, as well as publish their own views on the internet. The ubiquitous access of these online devices no doubt, has democratizing effects as they offer citizens opportunities for more fully engagement in the political process. Writing on this development, (Madueke et al 2015), in his paper “Life in the Age of Self-Assembling message” observes that: The value of the communication experience has undergone a sea-change; from the need to share it, to the need to share in it. Technology and social media in particular have brought power back to the people; with such technologies, established authorities are now undermined and users are now the experts. This implies that people can now consume media as wanted and needed rather than allowing media producers to schedule consumption time and content. A person can now communicate to anywhere from any place at any time. Again, using social media is less expensive than the outrageous political advertisements on the older media. The new media is flexible, accessible and affordable. They promote democratization of media, alter the meaning of geographic distance, and allow for increase in the volume and speed of communication. They are portable due to the mobile nature; they are interactive and open to all. Nigeria experimented the use of this technology for political discourse during the 2011 general elections. The platform gave voice to many Nigerian politicians and electorates alike to make their voice heard in the electoral process. With the successful implementation of the social media in the 2011 general election, the stake of prominence of social media in Nigeria has drastically gone up, thus in this work interest is on exposing how the political parties of APC and PDP alongside their candidates, implemented the social media in their quest for the position of the President in the 2015 election and on how such implementations impacted on the outcome of the election for the position of the President.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Among the qualities that can grant a candidate the advantage of emerging elected into a political office over his opponent have been identified to include the popularity of the candidate and that of his political party. And it is a well known fact that among the means of gaining popularity as it relates to electioneering in Nigeria in particular and the world in general is through the efficacy of the electioneering campaigns; entailing the ability of the candidates involved to not only reach out to the electorates but as well their ability to remain in touch, making positive imprints on the mindsets of the electorates up till the polling hour. Prior to Nigeria 2011 general election, campaigns in the country, used to be limited to mainly face to face interactions and the usage of traditional media (print and electronic). Notwithstanding, it has come to general notice that such is no longer the case, since the experience of America during their 2011 presidential election, there have been a paradigm shift in the rest parts of the world, shifting the over emphasis placed on mass media to a rapidly growing domineering influence of social media on electioneering processes. This latest development has raised lots of curiosity in Nigerians especially the politicians whom seems to be eager to experiment whether the implementation of social media in their political quests can guarantee them success. Thus it is against this backdrop, that is research is directed towards assessing the roles of the social media in aiding the emergence of Gen. Muhammdu Buhari of APC as the winner of the presidential position against Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan of PDP whom despite being the incumbent President, lost the poll. The pertinency of this research is to grant the researcher the ability to draw pragmatic conclusions on the place of social media in the contemporary political sector. This study is to investigate whether a candidate's popularity on social media and the ability to accumulate massive supports on social media leads to winning of the election for public office after the poll. The findings of this enquiry will serve as a foundation that will either reinforce or debunk the position that “the social media can promote the possibility of winning an election ".
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this research is to investigate the rapidly increasing momentum of prominence the social media is gaining in the political sector, which is aimed at exposing its contributions to the sector using the analysis of the roles it played in the 28th March 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria.
Other objectives of the study of will include;
1. To appraise the political parties of PDP and APC incorporation of the social media in their pre 2015 presidential election campaigns.
2. To expose if the social media in anyway contributed to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari winning of the election and Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan's lost.
3. To investigate if the social media in anyway acted as a check on electoral malpractices during the 2015 presidential election.
4. To evaluate whether the implementation of social media in political sector especially elections has any effects on the political relevance of the mass media.
5. Evaluate the reliance on social media as instruments of political campaigns.
6. To examine the extent to which social media supporters of a candidate or party exercise the same support on Election Day by coming out to vote.
1.4 Significance of the Study
Social media, has become almost an insperatable part of human life. In recent times, social media have evolved new forms of political participation and as well greater power consolidation. According to Policy and legal Advocacy Center (2012), the 2011 elections in Nigeria, so witnessed a remarkable usage of the social media as tools for political communication. It was used for campaigns, personality promotions and as well a tool of destruction and tarnishing of rival candidates and parties reputation. Thus neglecting the impacts of social media in not just local but international politics, is a misnomer. The relevance of this study, will include to expose the level of influence the social media has acquired in modern contemporary political societies. The study will serve as a foundation that would help politicians understand the need to efficiently combine the social media and traditional media for efficacy in their interactions and relations with the electorates. The study will also help the users of social media, especially the youths to understand the power of effective usage of the social media and how it can help them gain command in politics.
Conclusively, the study will help the government officials understand the level of harm the social media lacuna they create between the interval of assumption of office and the expiration of their tenure in office, can do to their political career.
1.5 The scope of the study
This study is limited to the social media activities as it relates to the 28March 2015 presidential election. Though many parties were accredited by the INEC Commission to stand the election, the parties of interest in this work are the two runner up parties which was APC and PDP and their presidential candidates. Majorly, the study centers around the social media of twitter and Facebook with very minimum links on other social media networks. The study is concerned with the online activities in twitter and facebook between the periods of 1st August 2014 up till 30th of April 2015 pertaining the election. It takes in consideration Facebook chats, tweet updates, video uploads, voice notes, news flashes and new headlines centering on electoral discussions, the candidates political affairs, the parties activities in preparation and anticipation of the 2015 Presidential election. Data considered viable includes views, opinions, debates, reactions and counter reactions of Nigerian social media populace in respect to the political parties of PDP and APC and their Presidential Candidates.
1.6 Limitations of the Study
The primary limitation of this study is that, the investigation is based on third party point of view, entailing that since the study wasn’t conducted during the period of the election and data not adduced directly from the scene, the authenticity of the date available about it in the internet is not guaranteable as it may have undergone some form of adulteration within the gap of when recorded and now the research is being conducted.
Also the objectivity of the researchers positions on the findings of the investigation is not guaranteed as there are chances of researchers bias interference in the course of the interpreting the findings of this study and the drawing of an objective conclusion.
Furthermore humans behavior being the object matter of this research cannot be subjected to lab experiment, thus is unpredictable and subject to change, therefore conclusions drawn based on the findings of this investigation if implemented in a future similar but different case may fail to yield the same results.
There is also time and money constrictions which made the researcher to limit the data source to just secondary sources within his disposal.
The data generated in the course of this investigation may not be representative of the positions of every electorate on social media as it was not adduced directly from the participants.
1.7 Statement of Research Question
1. Does the campaign promises or messages acceptance on social media promote or demote a political party or a candidate's chances of winning elections?
2. The effects of social media lacuna between a candidate or his party and the electorates on political dreams?
3. Does the social media play any role in promoting political participation in the state?
4. Does winning of pre election social media poll, transcend into actual votes and supports on the day of election?
1.8 Conceptual Definition of Terms.
Operational definition of Social media;
Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks. Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration". Websites and applications dedicated to forums, micro blogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media. Furthermore, social media depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content.
Objectives of Social media
(a) Guaranteed Meeting Places:
When attempting to plan meetings with colleagues or friends, having access to social networking sites expands the available times and places in which meetings can occur. Individuals can meet each other and chat over Face book, or open a video chat through Google+. Rather than having to travel to specific locations, or try to work times out in which everyone is near a central location, people can plan to meet at times that work for all of their schedules.
(b) Keep in Touch with Family:
Keeping in contact with family through the phone or even over email presents a challenge. Instead, social networking sites allow the individual to share their day to day life in a secure but public forum, which family can watch and experience. Face book, for example, allows people to share events, images, and thoughts in real time, during the course of any day. Family and friends can then experience all the things that someone does, and comment on them. Then, they share in the experience, rather than just being "informed" about them during weekly phone calls.
(c) Professional Networking:
For professionals and academics, social networking sites allow users to create networks of like-minded people. Academics find other scholars to share research or ideas, or simply to talk to and "get their name out there." Professionals find mutual friends and possible clients, employers, or business partners. Social networking expands the horizons of what sort of contacts people can make in their professional lives.
(d) Staying Informed About the World:
People on social networking sites share what interests them, such as news on current events. People who share those interests, or who just want to stay informed, can read these stories and share them as well. Eventually, these stories make their to users who may have never read them. Since stories are shared through "word of mouth," smaller news outlets such as blogs can get exposure, and social network users are overall connected to a larger pool of new information and opinion. These are just a few of many objectives of social media, and are also the advantages of social media. The ability to increase our networking potential or work with others regardless of distance presents new ways for us to do business. Furthermore, the ability to stay in contact with friends and family allows us to maintain closer ties to our loved ones across long distances and get information of what is happening around the world.
In a simple approach, political participation is citizen's involvement in the acts, events or activities that influence the selection of and/or the actions taken by political representatives. It refers to the various mechanisms through which the public express their political views, and/or exercise their influence on the political process (Chatora 2012). Abubakar (2011) sees it as the involvement of people, (not necessarily active) in any political process before a collective decision is arrived. In other words, political participation entails citizens’ engagement in the discourse of socio-political and economic issues which serve as yardsticks for choosing would be leaders. It may also include assessing the capabilities of the incumbencies and advocating ways of ameliorating societal ills for a more prosperous country. Political participation include such activities like political discourse, political campaigns, voter registration, the actual voting, writing and signing of petitions, attending of civil protests, joining interest groups that engage in lobbying, political advocacy, monitoring and reporting of cases of violation of the electoral process such as frauds, rigging, intimidation, violence, monetary inducements, under age voting etc.
According to (Madueke et al 2015) political participation can be studied in many ways. It may be taken from the angle of external stimulants or compulsion by objects outside the participant, which move him to take part in political activity in one form or the other. In a simple approach, political participation is citizens’ involvement in the acts, events or activities that influence the selection or the actions taken by political representative. It refers to the various mechanisms through which the public express their public views and exercise their influence on the political process. He sees it as the involvement of people (not necessarily active) in any political process before a collective decision is arrived. In other words, political participation entails citizens’ engagement in the discourse of sociopolitical and economic issues which serve as yardstick for choosing would-be leaders. It may also include assessing of the incumbencies and advocating ways of ameliorating social ills for a more prosperous country. He further postulates patterns of participation to differ greatly between democratic and authoritarian government. Indeed, such contrast follows from the nature of the regimes. In established democracies, voluntary participation is the norm; people can choose whether or not to get involved (for example by voting or abstaining). Most non-democratic rulers hang a “keep out” sign over the political sphere and formal participation by ordinary people. He posited that political participation involves those actions by private citizens by which they seek to influence or to support government and politics. It follows that the whole idea behind political participation is to influence the policies of government in the favour of the greater number of the people. It can be seen as the activities by individuals formally intended to influence either who governs or the decision taken by the government.
According to the "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 8th edition", election is the process of choosing a person or group of people for a position, especially a political position by voting. In such occasions people officially choose their representative through poll. Election could be defined as the formal process of selecting a person for a public office or of accepting or rejecting a political proposition by voting. Thus therefore election is not limited only to selection of leaders but as well applicable to public decision making under democracies.
The 2015 presidential election which is the interest of this research, was characterized with the registration of many political parties by the INEC Commission to stand the election but the two major contending political parties for the position of the President that thus constitutes the object of analysis in this work is the "People's Democratic Party (PDP)" and "All Progressive Congress(APC)", Thus in this work the Short forms for the party name is often used in place of the full name. Also it is worthy of note that Muhammadu Buhari contested under the platform of APC, while Goodluck E. Jonathan contested under the platform of PDP.
According to the (2) of the "Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 8th definition", is a short message sent using twitter social networking service.
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