ABSTRACT: The study examined the influence of social media as a tool for political participation in Nigeria. A study of 2015 Presidential Election. The emergency and proliferation of social media otherwise known as citizen media have reshaped political education and mobilization in Nigeria. It offers a platform for political debates, cyberactivism, political campaigns and political mobilization. The study used Technological Determinism Theory. A quantitative research design was used in which a cross-sectional survey method was adopted while the data collection instrument was a questionnaire. 300 copies of questionnaires that were administered to the three tertiary institutions from Ogun state i.e Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Babcock University, Ileshan and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere. Findings have shown that as a result of the political dispensation, political office holders, politicians, including the president and governors now have and manage social media account such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram among others. Political leaders and political candidate now share their political agenda and mobilize people towards its propagation. It is recommended that social media can be improved to enhance better public mobilization, sensitization and true democracy in Nigeria through citizen sensitization programmes, registration that involve national identity card.
1.1 Background to the study
Advancement in technology in this era has improved and enhanced effective communication in our society today especially among the students of tertiary institutions. The advent of social networks is a cyber-revolution that changed the course of time.
Olayinka (2014) observes that the fast development in technology is fuelling an information revolution. New media, digital broadcasting, social media, BlackBerry Message, mobile application, video games, blogging, smartphones, mini-laptop, tablet computer, and internet are sweeping away the limitations of the analogue world and weakening the grip of government-owned platforms of information mono-poly.
Omojuwa (2015) writes that a space that was all about power brokers and media moguls has become so deregulated you could consider it the freest space in Nigeria right now.
Social media is that space, the many tools helping to amplify the voices of average Nigerians, taking ordinary voices and making them extraordinary by bringing them to homes, offices, and places most of them would have probably never reached under different circumstances. It started out as a playground for mostly young jobless people. Today, it has become the battleground of what would arguably be the most competitive election in Nigeria’s history. How exactly are social media influencing the political space in Nigeria and how have the major stakeholders taken to it?
The relationship between traditional media and its audience is changing from monopoly of content by mass media. Information communication technology provides an immediate, informative, intelligent, interactive platform for discussion, participation, mobilization and debating of different issues from political, economy, social, academic, cultural to personal matters.
It is now clear that the advent of internet has made everybody a journalist just as Gutenberg made everybody a printer with the invention of printing press and Marconi made many to be broadcasters by giving us radio, everyone is now a journalist with social media platforms. Citizen journalism has made it a reality for everybody to be media creators, owners and actors instead of being media consumers otherwise known as passive users.
With the advent of citizen journalism practice, journalism is no longer restricted to trained professionals. The Internet and its associated multimedia technology such as blogs, social media, video platform (youtube) etc. have expanded the frontiers of journalism practices to include practically everybody that has access to these technologies.
Today, it is now common among citizens/electorate, political parties, political candidate, political activists among others to discuss, share and comment on political events in the country especially in mobilizing support for a particular political party or candidate in an election. 2015 presidential election witnessed the highest use of social media in the political history of Nigeria. In fact the under-age citizens were not left out as they are growing in political awareness and socialization through social media.
Also, through social media, political manifestoes and parties programmes become debatable issues most especially since November 2014. It worthy to state here that the social media users at that time were divided into two (GEJ and GMB or PDP and APC) from the tone of their posts, creation on groups, messages, links sharing among others. In fact, few days to the poll it was political argument on who wins the presidential elections among social media users on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and YouTube etc.
Even before the Presidential election, social media platform play a crucial role during Governorship poll in Osun and Ekiti State June and August. During the poll, citizen observers, the civil society, political party situation rooms, party agents etc. monitored the election process mainly through SMS, using twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, YouTube among others for the purpose of tracking happenings at the polling centres.
Few hours later, results have been surfacing in poll units and are been disseminated through social media which them drawn the attention of political parties, local observers towards the analysis of the result. Although INEC constantly advised that genuine election result should be monitor on social media but through INEC designated channels. In fact many knew that APC have defeated PDP in Osun while it was also clear that PDP have also defeated APC in Ekiti state respectively. It is against this backdrop that the research examined the influence of social media as emerging tool for political participation in Nigeria. (A study of 2015 Presidential Election).
1.2 Problem statement
Lack of gatekeeping, inaccurate and unfair posting and sharing of information have been attributed as some of the problems hindering effective use of social media for political campaign, political mobilization, public sensitization and particularly in posting and sharing election results.
With the rise of information communication technology and social media, the public domain is growing; information that used to be in the expert domain is becoming publicly available and new mechanisms for public involvement are being explored. Also, citizens did not know the level of freedom they enjoy in terms of freedom of expression and speech both online and offline while their limitations to the freedom of information remain unknown to them.
Also, the gross misuse of social media presidential election in Nigeria calls for urgent attention on how to use social media during elections.
INEC and other stakeholders have severally warned citizens to desist from posting or sharing unverified information while the announcement of elections results should be left for the electoral body (INEC) to make the pronouncement been the sole authority i.e citizen to desist from posting fictitious and frivolous election result on social media one had restricted that only INEC has the constitutional mandate to do so but the mischievous and would not heed the caution.
As of Saturday night and Sunday, March 28th -29th 2015 (a few hours after the election) there were several result been posted even when in the area where the election was considered inconclusive, this throwing some people into a frenzied dance of victory while INEC had yet to announce any candidate as the eventual winner. This sordid and sad development calls for a bill to be sponsored by INEC to the National Assembly barring any Nigerian from posting part or full election results online, with appropriate sanction to the offender as it happens in China.
Other problems associated with online forums include name-calling and the use of abusive words and tittle for political leaders, politicians among fans when discussing or commenting on political posts.
It is against this backdrop that the research examine the influence of social media as emerging tool for political participation in Nigeria. (A study of 2015 Presidential Election).
1.3 Objectives of the Study
1. To examine the level of social medial usage in the 2015 presidential general election among students in Ogun state.T
2. To ascertain whether social network site usage enhance the level of awareness, education and political mobilization of electorate in the 2015 general election.
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the level of social medial usage in the 2015 presidential general election among students in Ogun state?
- Does social network site usage enhance the level of awareness, education and political mobilization of electorate in the 2015 general election?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This research which is relatively new to the field of mass communication, although some scholars have writing on the role of mass media in mobilizing people for political participation and enlightenment yet only few of them ever written on social media in political participation in Africa and Nigeria in particular.
Therefore, being a new aspect, the work will benefit individuals, corporate bodies, government, researchers, students, media professionals, political parties, political aspirants, politicians, INEC, Security \operative among others.
Individuals/electorate will benefit from this study as they will know the extent at which they can post or share information online particularly how to verify information before it is like, comment, repost, share, retweet, follow among etc.
Corporate bodies such as Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, CDHR and other advocacy bodies will through the research know how best to utilize social media and other information technology to mobilize people on political matters such as winning mobilizing people for the use of Card Reader during Poll e.t.c
Government through its agencies is expected to see social media as one of the targeted media of dissemination of information to be used in disseminating socio-political economic information to the public.
The National Assembly should as a matter of urgency pass a bill as is been sponsored by the INEC to prevent people from announcing part or all election results without prior announcement from INEC due to abuse of the media by so many citizens in the last general election.
Future researchers who many what to carry out research in this area or related aspect will find this materials very useful and serve as reference material.
1.6 Scope of the Study
Due to time factor, fund and other logistics all students in Nigeria tertiary institutions cannot be effectively studied and that is while is narrowed down to in scope to students of University of Agriculture, Babcock University and Mashood Abiola Polytechnic, all within Ogun state.
Hence, the demography of the respondents will be examined before the preparation and administration of research instrument (questionnaire) to the selected respondents.
1.7 Definition of the Terms
To effectively do justice to this research project, there is need to explain some of the key words:
Information and Communication Technology: I.T is the application of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data, it also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as computer hardware, software, electronics,
Social Media: A group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2.0 and that allow the interaction, creation and posting of political messages and other information.
Citizen Journalism: This is the practice to describe the act of individual within a given society, community, state or nation engaging in the gathering, processing and publishing of news materials such as posting and given support to a particular candidate in an election, posting comment on issue of public interest.
Public Participation: It means making people to take part or the process of mobilizing people towards political activities.
Electoral education: It refers to the process of sensitizing and enlighten the public on electoral matters such as how to vote, how to use Card reader, importance of PVC among others.
Political Aspiration: This is the use of social media to enhance political desire, interest and participation in the 2015 general election.
Presidential election: It is the election to elect or vote for the president and National Assembly member which take place every four years in Nigeria.
General Elections: This refers to the voting of political leaders in the country from the President to the State House of Assembly Level.