• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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How social media changed the face of politics in Nigeria

How social media can impact election campaigns

The 2023 general election in Nigeria saw a new dimension different from the usual, due to the active role of social media.

According to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Nigeria has registered about 156 million active internet subscribers in February 2023 representing over half of the country’s population.

This implies that a good number of Nigerians have now tapped into different social media platforms. The media platforms has been identified as a key factor that has changed the way politics and elections used to be, bringing everyone together to participate and share their opinion freely.

However, there are about 32.9 active social media users in Nigeria, according to Statista

Nelson Ajero, a Lagos-based Digital Marketer said the just concluded election was a complete testament of what social media can do and how it can keep everyone involved.

“Social media has become a more comfortable platform for campaigns and the best medium to engage Nigerians especially the youths. People were more enlightened on the new electoral act even before the election. Even people that don’t vote and haven’t been voting got motivated through speculations from social media,” Ajero said.

“It gave room for sensitization on PVC, it opened a public space for election monitoring and sharing of information while opening a wider view for users’ opinion both those in Nigeria and diaspora.”

Ajero also that social media also led to the emergence of more online political groups and pages which are regarded as Structure, making it possible for online meetings from any location thereby giving opportunities for peoples opinion and involvement in politics.

He said: “The just concluded election was an eye opener on Social Media power. A lot of information was possible to get and made public both positive and negative. Many attitudes were seen and reported by individuals. Election results were captured and reported boot by boot from individuals willingly through social media. We were able to follow the trends as it was all reported by individuals for public notice.

“The platform gave room for Nigerians to know and read more about political elites, past public assertions, criminal cases, involvement and political achievement and records.”

Ajero added that this process will be more beneficial if a central data based government is introduced where all information concerning each and every citizen will be provided.

A survey conducted by BusinessDay shows that three out of 10 people residing in the Ikotun area of Lagos state recently joined social media platforms like Twitter because of the just concluded general election.

For Daniel Attah, Almost all candidates that contested for several positions saw a significant increase in their number of followers on social media platforms, especially Twitter, which was very busy and entertaining during the just concluded election giving room for argument and discussions.

“Every candidate from presidential to the least, leveraged social media. Their followers doubled on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Twitter became the number one source of information from politicians where they tweet about their next move, even before going for press conferences and speaking out.

“Many things were exposed on social media during this period and it was a community of its own. It condemned wrong attitudes, gave people from other regions insight on the personality of each candidate and drove major trends which helped users to stay updated,” Attah said.

Jesse Ndulor, a Social Media manager explained that aside from campaigns, Social media also played a safety role which saved a lot of people from attacks by helping to identify areas where movements were restricted because of violence.

He said, “In my area (Abule Ado Satellite town) during the governorship election a filling station close to my area was attacked by touts. So because I saw it in time on Twitter, I stayed at home and was able to disseminate the information which gave others awareness too. Many places were attacked too and people around always made videos and uploaded them. It serves as a precautionary measure for anyone resident in that particular area of violence to suspend movement for the moment for safety.”

The social media manager also said that results were uploaded from different states on Twitter compared to before when results are only known at collation centers.

“Videos uploaded on social media can also be an evidence for dissatisfied candidates to take up actions in court. Most political aspirants used Twitter mostly to campaign by uploading videos of their achievements. Party groups were also created to deepen the political campaign. Social media was everything during the period to the point that it created grassroot awareness of what election and voting is all about,” Ndulor said.

He also stated that the majority of first time voters picked interest from social media.

“Most people that voted for the first time got inspired from social media platforms. Some voted because of what they heard about a candidate of their choice. I know someone that voted because his candidate was criticised and he believed his vote would count and bring him to victory. The power of social media cannot be underrated, especially the just concluded general election.”

Meanwhile, many celebrities and social media influencers also leveraged their platform, housing millions of followers to campaign for their preferred candidates.