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SOCIAL MEDIA AS POLITICAL COMMUNICATION PLATFORMS IN NIGERIA

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Abstract on POLITICAL COMMUNICATION:

The study investigates social media as emerging political communication channels in Nigeria with a focus on students of Clifford University Abia State. The emergency and proliferation of social media otherwise known as citizen media has reshaped political education and mobilization in Nigeria. It offers platform for political debates, cyber activism, political campaign and political mobilization. The paper was anchored on Technological Determinism and source Credibility Theory. A across-sectional survey method was adopted while the data collection instrument was questionnaire to elicit responses from the respondents. The paper found that the political dispensation, political office holders, politicians, including president, governors and their supporters now have and manage social media account particularly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram among others. Political leaders and political candidate now share their political agenda and mobilize people towards it 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.


INTRODUCTION

In the past politics and democracy, political mobilization, education and participation were done mainly by newspaper, magazine, radio and television. From the colonial day’s election, to post independence polls and to the enthronement of democracy in 1999; mass media have been a major platform for political communication, political awareness and public mobilization during political electioneering campaigns.

However, advancement in this century has paved way for modern means of mass communication facilitated by the internet called new media or social media. This which has boosted and reshaped means of passing and creating political awareness, participation and reducing political apathy among youth especially students. Odeyemi, and Mosunmola (2015:1) “describe election as the central component and the minimum necessary requirement for representative democracy, remains the only legitimate instrument for leadership turnover”.

Meanwhile, social media has become a powerful tool for political mobilization in Nigeria in recent years. With a population of over 200 million people and more than 98 million internet users, Nigeria is one of the largest and most digitally connected countries in Africa (Nigerian Communications Commission, 2021). This has provided an avenue for political actors to reach out to a large audience and mobilize them for political purposes. Hence, study, examines the role of social media as a tool for political mobilization in Nigeria, with a focus on the 2023 general elections.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp have become a popular means of communication among Nigerians. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 84% of Nigerian adults own a mobile phone, and 70% of them use social media (National Democratic Institute, 2021). This has created an opportunity for political actors to reach out to a large audience and mobilize them for political purposes.

During the 2019 and 2023 general elections in Nigeria, social media played a significant role in mobilizing voters. Political parties and candidates used social media platforms to disseminate their campaign messages, engage with voters, and mobilize supporters. For instance, the campaign team of President Muhammadu Buhari used social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to young people, who make up a significant portion of the electorate (Olayinka, 2020). The campaign team of the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), also used social media to mobilize supporters and spread their message (Onoja, 2020).

Social media also played a role in election monitoring and reporting. Nigerians used social media platforms to report cases of electoral malpractice, including vote buying, ballot box snatching, and violence. This helped to expose electoral fraud and hold politicians accountable (Olayinka, 2020). However, social media has also been used to spread fake news and disinformation during elections. Political actors and their supporters have used social media platforms to spread false information about their opponents and to manipulate public opinion. This has led to tension and violence in some instances (Onoja, 2020).

It is therefore, worthy to emphasize that social media has become a powerful tool for political mobilization in Nigeria. Political actors and civil society groups have used social media platforms to reach out to voters, mobilize supporters, and monitor elections. However, the use of social media has also led to the spread of fake news and disinformation, which can undermine the credibility of elections. It is against this backdrop that the research examines social media as emerging political communication channels in Nigeria with a focus on students of Researchcage University Uyo.

Statement of the Problem

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.

Also, the gross misused of the social media in the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria call for urgent attention on how to use social media during elections. Lack of official gatekeepers, inaccurate reports 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. This research thus examines the social media as emerging political communication channels in Nigeria with a focus on students of Researhcage University Uyo.


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