Abstract: The objective of this research was to evaluate new media as tools of political communication The paper was founded on the theory of Technological Determinism Theory. The survey research method as a quantitative research design was employed. Residents of Delta State’s three senatorial districts were selected using quota sampling technique and questionnaire was administered to elicit responses from them given a questionnaire. The data were analyzed inn frequency and percentage method. Findings shown that In the current political climate, politicians and those in elected office, such as the president and governors, created and maintain social media profiles, typically on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms, to engage with supporters. Political candidates and leaders expressed their political performance and rallied support for them. It was suggested that social media be improved to improve better public mobilization, sensitization, and true democracy in Nigeria through citizen sensitization programmes, registration, and national identity card.
Keywords: POLITICAL COMMUNICATION
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 for sustaining our democracy. The art of politicking has always relied upon the promotion of one party, candidate or point of view over another. The only thing that has changed is the method and techniques available to political communicators are media availability. In the early days of political advertising and campaign, communicators relied upon the dissemination of audacious handbills and word of mouth, newspaper, magazine, radio, television, billboard and posters.
As technology evolved the channels available to political advertisers grew exponentially. The twentieth century marked the first time in political advertising history that political communicators had the means to reach audience on a mass scale through social networking platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram etc.
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 and enhanced freedom and access to information.
A report by the NCC in June 2015 puts the number of subscribers browsing the internet on Nigeria‘s telecoms networks at over 87 million as at April, 2015 (Ubabukoh, 2015). The number of Facebook users in Nigeria increased from 400, 000 in 2007 to over 11 million in January 2014 (Social Media Week, 2014; Ehidiamen, 2013). Some statistics put the current figure at 14.8 million in 2015 (Nwabasha, 2015) in (Odeyemi, and Mosunmola, 2015).
The country also boasts a sizeable number of Twitter and YouTube users, running into millions. George (2015), for instance, puts the number of active Twitter users in Nigeria at 6 million by 2013, while the other social media sites account for another 6 million. These figures may overlap; someone can maintain accounts on multiple social media sites (George, 2015) cited in (Odeyemi and Mosunmola, 2015).
Some of the technologies that are making this development possible and easier are smartphone, digital camera, tablet, computer, modem, internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Whatsapp, Wechat and blogs etc. ICTs are sweeping away the limitations of the analogue world and weakening the grip of government-owned and privately own media platforms of information mono-poly and control.
2015 general election is characterized as the most e-electioneering or digital democracy 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 general election. The prospects of these new media platforms in their desired electoral victory endeared the political actors to join the online community.
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.
i. What is the level of new media usage in Kwara state in the 2015 presidential general election?
ii. Does social network site usage enhance the level of awareness, education and political mobilization of electorate in Kwara state?
Objectives of the Study
i. To examine the level of new media usage in Kwara state in the 2015 general election.
ii. To ascertain whether social network site usage enhance the level of awareness, education and political mobilization of electorate in delta state in the 2015 general election.