Abstract: This research examined the Influence of Political Hate Speech on Voters’ Choice. The study was anchored on Source Credibility Theory and Technological Determinism Theory. The research used survey research method while the data collection instrument adopted in this study was questionnaire. Accidental sampling technique was used to selected respondents. The data collected were analyzed in frequency and percentage with the aid of tables using SPSS version 23. Findings show that many of the respondents came across hate speeches online particularly on Facebook. Equally, many of the hate speeches that were trending on Facebook at the time of 2015 and 2019 electioneering campaigns were dominated by ethnicity and religion. It was recommended that political terrain of Nigeria demands lots of adjustment and formulation of law to guide against the abusive of social media in the future election.
Keywords: HATE SPEECH
1.0 Background to the Study
In May 1919, the elective governance began in Nigeria, particularly with the Townships Ordinance which offered right to vote three members into Lagos Town Council. The was historically the first election in Nigeria. However, on 29th March 1920, the election into the Lagos Township Council was held. Meanwhile, in 1922, a new constitution (known as the Clifford Constitution) was enacted, which introduced four elected seats to the Legislative Council, three for Lagos and one for Calabar and on 20th September 1923, became the first general elections for the first time in the history of Nigeria. The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) was declared winner in three out of the four elected seats in the Legislative Council while Independence party won one seat (Olayinka, 2015) cited in (Annual Nigeria Report, 1923).
At that time, however, political mobilization, political education, and political participation were mainly carried out through newspapers. Radio was still in its infancy and was even in the hands of colonial dictatorships. From colonial times to post-independence election and to the enthronement of democracy in 1999, mass media has been an important platform for political communication, education and public mobilization to sustain democracy (Olayinka, 2015).
However, advances in communication technology this century, enabled by the Internet (new or social media), have paved the way for modern mass communication tools enabled by software and hardware. These have increased political awareness and participation and reduced political apathy. Therefore, advancement in Information and Communication Technology otherwise known as media convergence in the 21st century has revolutionalized all facets of human activities including communication, interaction and politics (Olayinka, 2015).
Kur (2004) postulates that the dynamics of the 21st and future centuries are based on technological revolutions. This position was in concomitant with what Marshall McLuhan prophesied in 1960 when he prophesied the concept of “Global Village” Pointing out that the entire planet has the potential to become a “global community,” it makes information and news from all corners of the world easily accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. (Christopher, 2012).
More recently, social media which enables public participation in political discussion, debates and mobilization) has become the media equivalent of grassroots democracy. This is because, as participatory democracy encourages its citizens to participate and contribute to the governance of the state, so citizen platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok etc allows for public engagement in the media practice.
Hate speech, however, is intended to describe any communication that denigrates a particular individual or group based on race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or any other characteristic. Widely used. It can take the form of language, gestures, actions, sentences or expressions” (Mrabure, 2016).
Equally, abusive language, insults and hate speech are also among the issues promoted on social media during Nigerian election campaigns (Nigerian Civil Society, 2015), though, such issues were also reported in the traditional media (radio, television, newspaper)
It should be recalled that the then Katsina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema enjoyed his supporters in 2015 general election to attack opponents and referred to his political opponents as cockroaches urging his supporters to kill them as they kill cockroaches (Mohammed, 2014).
Similarly, in January 2015, then-Ekiti governor Peter Ayodele Fayose repeatedly ran front-page ads in newspapers warning voters not to vote for APC presidential candidate Muhamadu Buhari. This “death wish ad” oriented advertisement suggested that the presidential candidate at the time was likely to die in office if elected like the late President Yar’adua.(Nigeria Civil Society. 2015).
Also, during a PDP presidential election rally in Kogi state then, the country’s first lady (Dame Patience Faka Jonathan) was reportedly calling General Buhari old and brain dead, unfit to serve as president of the country. I’m here.
At a separate event, Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan allegedly urged members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to stone anyone who promised change. “Change” is the motto of the All Progressive Congress (APC). In the same campaign speech delivered at a rally in Cross River state capital Calabar on Monday, March 2, Ms Jonathan is quoted as saying: Our men are not shildren born for the streets. This is a derogatory remark, apparently referring to the north of the country where the horrific practice of abandoning children known as ‘almajiri‘ is still practiced (Nigeria Civil Society, 2015).
All these statements attributed to some prominent Nigerians were also traded on social media platforms, resulting in a lot of actions, comments and reactions. As an effort to curb and prevent such things in the future: a bill titled “Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions” was sponsored in the National Assembly by Senator Bala Na’allah of the Kebbi South, All Progressive Congress for its first reading on November 24th 2015 at the Senate and a second reading passed December 2nd, 2015, though, it did not see the light of the date. It is against this background that the research set out to influence of hate speech campaigns on voters’ choice.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Critics are increasingly distrusting social media platforms for their lack of objectivity, accuracy, fairness, etc. due to distorted information, insinuation, hate speech, disproportionate reporting, and a lack of gatekeepers as major problems inherent in the usage of social media in the 2015/2019 general election.
Prior to the 2015 and 2019 general elections, there was little research into hate speech or hate campaigns, especially in Nigeria and even where it exists, nothing of such focus on social media and hate speech campaigns since the social media and internet for political campaigns, mobilization and other political decisions were still at its infancy during the last decades.
However, preliminary observations suggest that hate speech influenced and influenced people’s beliefs and perceptions of elections during the 2015 political era. Rwanda is a classic example of the consequences of hate speech on the continent, and nothing compares to what can happen if a country as large as Nigeria falls into the catastrophe of a hateful conflict. The mere sight of it is enough to turn one’s eyes away from what causes strife and conflict. Even a cursory look at Syria and South Sudan is enough to stop someone in his tracks of anything that will bring strife and conflict.
For example, before the 2015 elections, Rotimi Amechi made scathing remarks that the (APC) would form a parallel government if the 2015 elections were rigged. Still, as General Buhari called him at the time, he said that if the 2015 elections weren’t played fairly, “dogs and baboons will be bloody.” Did you mean “would have soaked”? Who are the “monkeys” and baboons? But have Nigerian politicians and partisan activists ever been convicted of hate speech and violence?. The National Assembly as at one time or the other proposed what they tagged anti-frivolous bill and another one on hate speech which has reached the second stage at the National Assembly.
1.3 Research Objectives
Basically, the general objective of this research is to examine influence of Facebook political campaigns hate speech on voting decision of electorate in 2019 with an overview of its implications on future elections in Nigeria especially as 2023 General Election. The specific objectives are:
- To determine the extent to which users perceived political campaign hate speech on Facebook in 2015/2019 presidential election.
- To determine the extent to which political campaign hate speech on Facebook affected the decision of the electorate to vote for the party of their choice.
1.4 Research Questions:
Below are some of the research questions that generated to elicit responses from the respondents.
- To what extent did users perceive political campaign hate-speech on Facebook 2015/2019 presidential election?
- To what extent did the political campaign hate-speech on Facebook affect the decision of the electorate to vote for the party of their choice?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study would be very useful to political office aspirants on how to effectively manage communication about themselves especially in this emerging social media space.
This research will benefit both parties and candidates in the future elections (the 2023 General Election and so on), particularly on how to use social media in mobilizing, enlightening, and gain public support to win political seats.
This study contributes to the existing body of knowledge available in journalism, media studies, mass communication, public relations, political advertising/marketing and political science as not much literature is available about political hate speeches on social media.
Future researchers and students would find the material relevant as it forms bulk literature that exist in the field of mass communication, political communication, etc that they can lay hands on when carrying out research related or similar to this.
Public relations, campaign managers and political media relations team or unit will learn How to counsel and advise their political party and candidate on the likely implication of their actions, statements, etc could cause the society.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The research which examines the influence of political hate speech on voters’ choice was narrowed in scope to Lagos electorates particularly to major strategic LGAs within Lagos mainland i.e Shomolu LGA, Ikeja LGA, Kosofe LGA, Oshodi/Isolo LGA respectively. The rationale for chosen Lagos is the believe that Lagos comprised almost every state in Nigeria and they can easily be represented since there is financial constraint to travel to the six geo-political zone of the federation. Proximity to the researcher was the main reasonle that made Lagos mainland a choice.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Influence: It refers to how hate speeches campaign via Facebook determines electorate voting in 2015 presidential election.
Political Campaign: This refers to various political communications during electioneering for the purpose of gaining majority and win 2015 Presidential election.
Hate Speech: These are statements that are unethical, sectional and of propaganda innunendo and abuse nature used against one another during the presidential election in 2015. i.e any communication that denigrates a particular person or a group on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.
Voters Choice: This entails the decision of electorate to vote for a particular candidate or party during the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.