1 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUNDTechnology and as a result, social media, has become an integral part of the global society, connecting people across the world to each other. Information is more widely and quickly spread and everyone has a voice through platforms for social interaction. This has also translated into the political sector globally and political candidates now implement social media into their campaigns. The increase in the development of platforms that are being used by more and more people means that political candidates need to be conscientious in their use of social media for their campaigns and thus strategies and tactics to implement these strategies are increasingly necessary. For the purpose of this study, the definition of social media to be used will be one given by (Newson, Houghton, & Patten, 2008) which is “online tools and utilities that allow communication of information online and participation and collaboration.
“1. (Mayfield, 2008) describes these media as “online platforms that promote participation, openness, conversation and connectedness”. The role and ability of media houses and journalists in Nigeria to sensitize the masses about those vying for electoral positions cannot be overstated. The annulment of June 12, 1993 election by General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime was one of the times this role was emphasized. Media houses and journalists were able to sensitize the masses about the evils being perpetuated by the military and the elites who supported the annulment of the 1993 election considered being one of the freest and fairest polls ever seen in Nigeria. The Nigerian media made the Babangida regime became unpopular and eventually Babangida bowed to pressure by stepping aside on August 27, 1993.
In the 2015 general election, the social media became more potent tool and even a more lethal weapon. There were releases in the form of videos, voice notes, headlines, and broadcasts that made and marred many political parties and individuals. For example, a publication on Senator Buruji Kashamu almost marred his political ambition and eventually his swearing in. A hate video was broadcast on both General Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu. In other countries, especially developed countries were the government and the people in it are held to account with more vigor than in developing countries, these publications might have ended the candidates’ political careers. The internet and by association, social media has become the most accessible source of information, which has been shown increasingly, since the 2011 presidential elections and of course the 2015 elections. Social media was the major channel for disseminating messages to the public, some of which went viral before the day of the election and could have cause unrest in more volatile nations.
The postponement of the election from February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015 was an example of the effect of social media, although it was only one of many reasons for the postponement, one of which was the unpreparedness of Independent National Electoral Commission. The use of social media during the election was also one of the reasons that the public believed that the postponement was to the advantage of the ruling party as it was believed that it would provide the opportunity for the ruling party to manipulate the election in such a way that the power of the electorates would amount to nothing. This sort of report could have caused anarchy if the country was more volatile at the time.
Nigeria held its Presidential Elections on the 28th of March, 2015 and contrary to expectations, the elections were free, fair and devoid of wrangling. The opposition party held sway and gained the upper hand in the polls. The opposition; All Progressives Congress (APC) also took the majority of the Senate seats and enjoyed wide support and acceptance from the populace. Prior to the election, the presidential and vice presidential candidate of the opposition party opened Twitter accounts and made their presence known on social media in which they engaged directly with the young people. Several issues were raised and the candidates were able to sell their programs and policies directly to those who mattered most.
Posts were favourited and retweeted by thousands and the ripple effect meant that young voters had access to information on the go and were able to make up their minds as to who to cast their votes for. Several campaigns were also started by young people in which they became volunteers, campaigners and actively canvassed votes for their preferred candidate. The “Change” slogan floated by the opposition party as its rallying and campaigns was widely embraced by all. Lively discussions, posts and virtual town hall meetings held almost on a regular basis on cyber space. People were able to air their opinions, and for once in the bistros if the country, the young people became actively involved politically.
For any Government to actively involve and engage with its youths, it must go where they are. And right now, the youths spend most of their time on social media and the internet. Information is available on the go and people make up their minds on issues in the split of a second. On the day in which the results were being announced there was no electricity, which is one of the issues Nigeria faces at the moment and which, hopefully, will be addressed by the incoming administration. Still people were able to follow up with the trends, news and announcements on Twitter as several young people were tweeting the results on the go as they were being announced. Social media really helped shape the opinion of many youths in the elections and increased the political awareness and consciousness of the Nigerian youths, be it by offering a platform for the candidates to interact directly with the voters or offering a setting to hold virtual town hall meetings. Trust social media to play an even bigger role in reporting non-official election results, mapping of troubled spots and sharing users’ voting experience. Social media is now a new battleground for any election in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMThe increasing popularity of social media has evolved a new form of citizens’ participation in democracy. This effectively enhances the responsibility that the government has to its people and the voices of the people as well of many. The impact of social media was felt strongly during the 2015 presidential elections.
According to (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre Nigeria , 2012) the 2011 elections in Nigeria witnessed a remarkable use of the social media as a tool for political communication. It was used for campaigns via personal websites, blogs, all social media applications, and several other media. Apart from this, the social media was equally used as a tool to undermine and even destroy the image of other political parties, most especially the People’s Democratic Party.
Social media will continue to play an increasingly important role in Nigeria’s democracy in the coming years. Nigeria currently records a population of 67 million people and with technological innovations being put forth every day, this population will increase over the years. This will inevitably lead to an increase in the phenomenon of digital citizenship which is defined by (Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2007) as “digital citizenship is the ability to participate in society online”. The advent of freedom for people to make their opinions known through social media platforms will be benefit to those who know how to effectively incorporate social media into their communication activities, including and especially the government. 1.
3 RESEARCH OBJECTIVESThe purpose of the study is to:1. To discover the extent to which digital driven campaign strategies assisted the four Anambra governorship election candidates2. To analyze the effect that digital driven strategies had on the image perception of the four Anambra governorship election candidates3. To discover ways in which digital-driven campaign strategies can assist political campaigns in the Nigerian political environment 1.
4 RESEARCH QUESTIONSThis study seeks to answer the following research questions:RQ1: What role did social media play in the Anambra governorship election?RQ2: What effect did social media have on the success of the candidates in the Anambra governorship election?RQ3: In what ways can well-administered social media strategies assist Nigerian political candidates? 1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDYThe study will be significant in politics and political campaigns as it will help understand how social media can assist political candidates in Nigeria. It will serve as a reference point for many political candidates seeking for the best ways to successfully incorporate social media strategies into their campaigns. The study will also be relevant to scholars and researchers as there are not many studies on this subject matter as it relates to the Nigerian political environment.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY· The study will look at the campaigns done by the Anambra political candidates and compare the degree to which each candidate’s use of social media aided their success in the election· The study will look at political campaigns that successfully utilized social media in other countries and draw lessons from them 1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY:This research study will be limited by time and money.
1.8 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS:This research study will cover the following keywords and concepts:1. Social Media: These are Internet-based tools and services that allow users to engage with each other, generate content, distribute, and search for information online. In other words, the social media are interactive web-based media platforms that offer citizens opportunity and place to connect, share opinions, experiences, views, contacts, knowledge, expertise, as well as other things like job and career tips.
Popular examples include Twitter, Facebook, among others.2. Election: This is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. 1 Alex Newson, Deryck Houghton and Justin Patten, eds, Blogging and Other Social Media: Exploiting the Technology and Protecting the Enterprise, (England: Gower Publishing Limited, 2008), 3.