PERCEPTION OF UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATES ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN ELECTIONS

Abstract: The study basically examined the Perception of University Undergraduates on the effectiveness of Social Media in Gubernatorial Elections in Kwara State. The emergency and rising of social media otherwise known as citizen media in this digital era have revolutionalised the socio- economic and particularly political development of Nigeria. It offers platform for political debates, political campaign and political mobilization. Survey research method was adopted in which data were collected among Kwara State University students using questionnaire. Four hundred (400) questionnaires were distributed, out of which, three hundred and sixty (360) copies were retrieved and analyzed. Findings show that many of the respondents maintained that, they participated in the 2015 governorship and presidential election while they also search and participated in political debate and discussions on social media before, during and after the election with many served as voters during the 2015 elections. In the same vein, social networking usage during the election was very high for the first time in Nigeria political history, no wonder many submitted that their participation in the election was as a result of the online discussion platform such as Facebook and twitters. Similarly, lots of respondents were busy reading and commenting on political matters during the 2015 electioneering period, they also, optimistic that the future of social media in election is very bright in Nigeria and some of the element that need to correct in future use of social media for elections include but not limited to “name calling” and “posting of unverified information or result during election”. It is recommended that social media should be improved to enhance better public mobilization, sensitization and true democracy in Nigeria through citizen sensitization programmes.


SOCIAL MEDIA IN ELECTION

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

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 has changed the course of time. Olaitan, S. O. (2014) observes that the fast development in technology is fuelling an information revolution which brings about citizen journalism and ends of government mono-poly of mass media platform.

The technologies that are making this development possible and easier are of phases: Devices: Smartphone, digital camera, tablet, computer, modem, wireless, internet etc. and

Social media e.g facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, whatsapp, wechat, blogs, Email e.g yahoo.com, gmail.com, outlook.com, aimmail.com, icloudmail.com etc., Search engines: e.g google.com, yahoo.com, bing.com, ask.com, Aolsearch.com etc., Blogs: Laittos.wordpress.com, lindaikeji.blogspot.com, naij.com, afriwatch.com etc (Olaitan, 2015).

ICTs are sweeping away the limitations of the analogue world and weakening the grip of government-owned platforms of information mono-poly and control. 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 creator, owner and actor instead of been a media consumers otherwise known as passive user (LMRI, 2015).

With the advent of citizen journalism practice, journalism is no longer restricted to the 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/electorates, political parties, political candidate, political activists, electoral umpire (INEC)  among others to use, 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 general 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 were growing in terms of political awareness and socialization through social media.

Also, through social media, political manifestoes and parties programmes became 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), Abdulfatai Ahmed vs Simeon Ajibola from the tone of their posts, creation of groups, messages, links sharing, likes, dislikes, post and people they are following its twits or sharing its pictures and video from either Youtube or Instagram among others.

In fact, few days to the poll it was political argument on who wins the state elections among social media users on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp in particular. Even before the Kwara state election, social media platform play a crucial role during Governorship polls in Osun and Ekiti State (June and August) and during the polls, citizen observers, the civil society, political party situation rooms, party agents etc. monitored the election process mainly through SMS, using Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram among others for the purpose of tracking happenings at the polling centres. Few hours later, results have been surfacing in poll units and were been disseminated through social media which them drawn the attention of political parties, local observers towards the analysis of the results.

Although, INEC constantly advised that genuine election results should not 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 examines the perception of university undergraduates on the effectiveness of social media in gubernatorial elections in Kwara state with a particular focus on Kwara state University students, Malete.

1.2       Problem Statement

Lack of gatekeeping, inaccurate, lack of objectivity, unfair posting and sharing of information that have never verified have been attributed as some of the problems hindering effective use of social media for true political campaign, political mobilization, public sensitization and particularly in posting and sharing election results.

With the rise of the 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, citizen 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 misused of the social media in the just conclude 2015 presidential election in Nigeria call for urgent attention on how to use social media during elections.

INEC and other stakeholder have severally warned citizens to desist from posting or sharing unverified information while announcement of elections results should be left for the electoral body (INEC) do 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 constitution mandate to do so but the mischievous and would not heed the caution.

As of Saturday night and Sunday, March 28th -29th 2015 (few hours after election) there were several result been posted even when in the area where election was considered inconclusive, this throwing some people into frenzied dance of victory while INEC had yet to announce any candidate as the eventual winner. This sordid and sad development call for a bills to be sponsored by INEC to the National Assembly barring any Nigerian from posting part or full election result online, with appropriate sanction to offender as it happens in China.

Other problem associated with online forum include name calling and use of abusive words and title for political leaders, politician among fans when discussing or commenting on political posts. Thus, the research study the perception of university undergraduates on the effectiveness of social media in gubernatorial elections in Kwara state with a particular focus on Kwara state University students, Malete.

 1.3       Objectives of the study

  1. To examine the level of social media usage among Kwara state university students in the 2015 gubernatorial election.
  2. To ascertain whether social media usage enhanced the level of political awareness, education and political mobilization of Kwara state university students during the gubernatorial election.

1.4       Research Questions

  1. What is the level of social media usage among Kwara state university students in the 2015 gubernatorial election?
  2. Does social media usage enhanced the level of political awareness, education and political mobilization of Kwara state university students during the gubernatorial 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 in scope to students of Kwara State University, Malete.

Hence, the demography of the respondents will be examined before the preparation and administration of research instrument (questionnaire) to the selected respondents and such factor include but not limited to age, sex, educational level, marital status among other things.

1.7       Operational Definition of the Terms

To effectively do justice to this research project, there is need to explain some of the key words:

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.

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. 

Gubernatorial election: It is the election to elect or vote for the governor and State 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.



PERCEPTION OF UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATES ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN ELECTIONS


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