Abstract: The primary focus of this study was to evaluate social media as platform for political education in Nigeria. The scope of political communication in Nigeria has been redefined by the growing usage of social media in this digital age. However, in this era, political discussion and mobilization takes place on social media. The study’s foundations were the Social Viral Model and Technological Determinism Theory. The data were gathered through a survey research method among students at Bingham University using questionnaires. The data were retrieved and analyzed in frequency and percentage method while the data were presented with the aid of tables. According to the study, many respondents engaged in political conversation and debate on social media during electioneering. It is suggested that social media be enhanced to boost public mobilization, sensitization, and true democracy in Nigeria through citizen sensitization programmes.
Keywords: Political Education
1.1 Background to the study
Elective democracy was introduced to Nigeria in May 1919, when the Townships Ordinance gave the right to vote for three members of Lagos Town Council to some men. The first elections to the council were held on 29 March 1920. In 1922 a new constitution (known as the Clifford Constitution after Governor Hugh Clifford) was promulgated, which introduced four elected seats to the Legislative Council, three for Lagos and one for Calabar and the first general elections were held in Nigeria for the first time on 20 September 1923. The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) won three of the four elected seats in the Legislative Council while Independence party won one seat. Annual Nigeria Report (1923)
However, political mobilization, education and participation were done mainly by newspaper because radio was an alien medium which was even in the hand of the colonial dictatorship. From colonial day’s election, to post independence polls, to the enthronement of democracy in 1999 mass media have been a major platform for political communication, education and public mobilization in order to sustain our democracy.
Meanwhile, advancement in communication technology in this century has paved way for modern means of mass communication facilitated by the internet called (new media or social media) which are made possible by software and hardware. These which has boosted the political awareness, participation and reducing of political apathy.
Also, the advent of social networking is a cyber-revolution that has changed the course of time. New media is 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. Social media e.g Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Whatsapp, and Wechat, 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. Odeyemi and Mosunmola (2015), describe election as the central component and the minimum necessary requirement for representative democracy, remains the only legitimate instrument for leadership turnover. It is a core aspect that requires the active involvement of citizens.
However, beyond elections, the flowering of democratic practice depends largely on the active participation of the people through different forms of political activities such as in the electoral process. One of the areas in which this active participation of the people has been enhanced, world over, is in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) platforms, being an instrument of political socialisation and means of political education, ICTs have galvanised massive citizen awareness and enhanced liberal values of individualism (Odeyemi and Mosunmola, 2015).
In the meantime, the quality of governance has been enhanced over the years as a result of many factors; among which is revolutions in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This has, in turn, impacted participation of citizens in public affairs; in relation to plurality of voices, advocacy, activism and electoral activities, enhanced by ICT platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Internet, thus deepening the democratic process (Diamond, 2010).
The power of these platforms as viable mechanisms for political mobilisation was first noticed in advanced democracies in the mid-90s (Tedesco, 2004). Ever since, events and processes have further highlighted their utility to democratic politics, most notably, to the electoral process.
This was underscored by the extensive use of the social media by Barack Obama in the build up to the 2008 United States of America presidential election. This, perhaps, marked the beginning of e-electioneering (Vaccari, 2010). So profound was the impact of the Internet to Obama‘s electoral success that Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, declared that were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president (Campantey, Durante and Sobbrio, 2013).
Instructively, by using interactive Web 2.0 tools, Mr. Obama‘s campaign changed the way politicians organize supporters, advertise to voters, defend against attacks and communicate with constituents (Miller, 2008).
Stakeholders in several other democracies have since harnessed the utility of ICTs platforms in their electoral process, and Nigeria, despite structural challenges, is not exempted. The social media was first used in a remarkable way in the 2011 elections (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, 2012), especially by President Goodluck Jonathan, who used his Facebook account to garner country-wide support. Ever since, stakeholders‘ use of ICTs platforms for election-related activity has risen (Shehu Musa Yar‘Adua Foundation, 2012).
2015 and 2019 general election is characterized as the most e-electioneering in the history of Nigeria politics because of the high level of technology adopted at that time from the bio-metric card reader machine initiated by the electoral umpire, to the use of social media and digital platforms to mobilize, educate, enlighten, sensitise, debate and argue on political matters which eventually directly or indirectly influenced the voting pattern and choice of electorates.
However, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Instagram.com and Youtube.com are considered to lead other digital platforms in terms of patronage by Nigerians during 2015 and 2019 general. It is against this backdrop, the research examines social media as tools for political education: A study of Facebook and Twitter in the 2015 and 2019 presidential election among Bingham University students, Karu and also appraise the contribution of these platforms on the credibility and the general conduct of the 2015 and 2019 poll, with a projection into how new media (social media) platforms can be better utilize for future elections in Nigeria and other Africa countries.
1.2 Problem Statement
With the rise of the information communication technology (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 remained unknown to them which is reflecting on their post, comment, tweet and what they follow or like online.
Also, the gross misused of the social media in the just conclude 2015 and 2019 presidential election in Nigeria call for urgent attention on how to use social media during elections as unverified election results were tweeting, posting and sharing on Twitter and Facebook respectively.
Nevertheless, Facebook and Twitter offer unique platform for political education, debate, opinion exchange, dialogue, modification of opinions among others.
To this end, research determines to examines social media as tools for political education: A study of Facebook and Twitter in the 2015 and 2019 presidential election and also appraise its influence on the credibility and the overall conduct of the 2015 and 2019 poll with a projection into how new media (social media) platforms can be better utilize for future elections in Nigeria and other Africa countries.
1.3 Objectives of the study
- To examine the degree of Facebook and Twitter usage among students of Bingham University in the 2019 presidential poll.
- To study whether voting choice of electorates during the 2019 presidential election was as a result of their exposure to Facebook.com and Twitter.com.
1.4 Research Questions
- What is the degree of Facebook and Twitter usage among students of Bingham University in the 2019 presidential poll?
- Did voting choice of electorates during the 2019 presidential election was as a result of their exposure to Facebook.com and Twitter.com?
1.5 Significance of the Study
Since social media have emerged as tool for political communication, 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.
Voters: 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, re-tweet, follow” among etc.
National Assembly: 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.
Researcher: 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.
Corporate institution: 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
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study focuses on the influence of social media on political education using Facebook and Twitter in the 2019 presidential election. The work has been narrowed in scope to Bingham University Karu particularly those participated in 2019 general election and use social media in the course of sharing, debating and discussing 2019 presidential election due to the time, geographical locations, fund and other logistics. This cannot be effectively discussed without considering the demographic factor of Bingham University Karu, this include age, sex, education, marital status etc.
1.7 Operational Definition of the Terms
Influence: It refers to the impact or contribution of social media on voters’ choice of candidate.
Social media: It is a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2.0 which allow the interaction, creation and posting of political messages and other information such as Facebook, Twitter, and blog sites used to mobilize and sensitise among citizens in 2019 presidential election in Nigeria.
Choice of candidate: This dwells on factors influencing voters’ reasons for selecting candidate
2019 presidential election: The voting exercise to opt president and members of National Assembly in Nigeria.
Blogs: A blog (a contraction of the term “web log”) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Such as Naij, naija-mouted, linda ikeji among others.
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, tweet and given support to a particular candidate in an election on the internet.
INEC: Independent National Electoral Commission.