Social Media Usage Among Students During Endsars Protest: A Study Of Ibbul
The advent of the Internet has triggered the emergence of improved and user-friendly media tools known as social media. These media channels allow the effective sharing of audio-visual messages across the globe within seconds with the click of the button. As a result of their (social media) effectiveness in the provision of entertainment, information and education across societies, they are seen as being handy in facilitating the political education and mobilization of the people. The study examined the impact of the social media during the endsars protest. Social media plays significant roles in the provision of political education and mobilization of the people. Against this backdrop, it is recommended that governments and non-governmental organisations alike should ensure that they incorporate the use of Twitter with the mainstream media of information sharing for the provision of the needed education on politics and governance for further political mobilization of the people. Also, political parties, candidates and other political movements should not leave behind Twitter outlets while embarking on the political communication of their programmes, policies and manifestoes.
1.1 Background To The Study
Before the turn of the millennium, the world majorly relied on the mainstream media for information. Dissemination of news was not instantaneous as it is now because some of the technologies available now were missing then. Correspondents had to travel several miles to and fro news beats in order to relay information making some news stories to be published weeks or months after their occurrence. Gone are the days when you write a letter to your friend living abroad and he receives it in possibly three months and you also have to wait as long as that to get his reply.
However, the revolution in the technological industry that started with the launching of the Internet in the mid-1990s paved way for social media and micro-blogging sites since the 2000s. The social media and by extension the internet, allows for instantaneous dissemination of news. Sending and receiving information can no longer be limited by space and time, a huge break in the communication barrier that has stood since the beginning of space and time.
According to Ayankoya, Calitz and Cullen, (2015), the social media concept involves the use of internet based applications and services for communication, collaboration, creation and exchange of contents by individuals and groups. The main focus of social media is the communication that takes place, how the communication takes place and the relationships that develop based on these communications. Social media allows individuals and groups to develop, maintain and stay connected to a network of other individuals and people with common interests (Ayankoya et al., 2015).
Statistics show that 2.38 billion people visit Facebook monthly (zephoria.com, 2019). Further studies have shown that Facebook users spend 33% of their online time on Facebook and that generally individuals spend about 25% of their online time on the different social media platforms that are available. Social media is thus a very important platform for businesses and organizations to utilize in order to reach their target audiences (Ayankoya et al., 2015).
Youth, as a concept varies from culture to culture and from society to society. In most societies in Nigeria, the progression from childhood to youth involves some systematic rites of passage. These rites have symbolic significance in that, simply by participating in them, an individual achieves a new status and position. Such new status gains validity through genuine community action and recognition. One thing is clear, the boundaries defining the transition from childhood to youth and from youth to adulthood are shifting, and the crossover into each new stage is now manifested in different ways. The changes that young people must negotiate do not occur as predictably as in the past, therefore, defining youth globally according to some exact age range can be a very difficult task. The age range 15‐24 is often used by the United Nations and others for statistical purposes, but in many cases this distinction is too narrow for countries like Nigeria. Apart from the statistical definition of the term “youth”, the meaning of the term “youth” have continued to change in response to fluctuating political, economic and socio‐cultural circumstances. In many countries in Africa, for example, the male transition to adulthood, in terms of achieving the economic and social stability that comes with steady employment, may extend into late twenties and mid-thirties (Second National Youth Policy Document of Nigeria, 2009).
A lot of definitions have been made and various ideas have been put forward about “young” and “youth” so far. However, there is not an absolute consensus on these definitions and ideas. Yet, some definitions and ideas are of importance. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines youth as the period in which a person develops capabilities and social skills required to be ready for the financial gain and responsibility to be brought by the status of adulthood. Accordingly, youth can be deemed as a special period of life with unique social, economic, psychological, and political characteristics rather than a period limited to determined age boundaries (Melike, 2017). The Federal Republic of Nigeria however concludes on a youth to be any person between the ages of 15 and 29 (Third National Youth Policy Document, 2019).
Nigeria is currently ranked as the seventh most populous country in the world and the fastest growing nation. Nigeria’s population is currently put at 200, 950,000 with a median age of 17.9 years (worldometers.info, 2019). According to the Census, in 2006, Nigeria had 50 million people in the age group 15-34 years – which roughly covers the age bracket of 18-35 years that chronologically defined youth in the 2009 National Youth Policy; this youth population figure represented 35.6 percent of the Nigerian population at the time. By sex, age 15-34 years constituted 33.4 percent of males and 37.9 percent of females in Nigerian in 2006.
The 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey, undertaken by the National Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, estimated the population of youths aged 15-35 years in Nigeria as 64.1 million, and youths aged 18-35 years as 52.2 million. Females constituted 51.6 percent of youths aged 15 -35 years and
52.8 percent of youths aged 18 – 35 years. Lagos State had the highest percentage of youths (age 18-35 years) in Nigeria (6.3%) while Kwara State had the lowest (1.3%) in 2012 ( Third National Youth Policy Document, 2019).
Historically, youth turnouts in election have always been lower compared to other age groups, however the turnouts have decreased over the past few decades. A general explanation for this phenomenon is that young people are lazy, although today’s youth are volunteering in a larger extent than previous generations. Another explanation could be that youth do not feel like they are a part of the society. Owning your own property and having children are given a more direct interest in how hospitals as well as schools are administered and therefore generating more political interest (Erica, 2017). Recent evidence from European democracies shows that not only is youth electoral participation spiraling down at a much faster rate than with any other social group, but what is even more worrying – youth electoral engagement – is also systematically unequal compared to the levels of participation among adults (Sirinic, 2017).
In every democratized society, the quest for power and the agitation for change have been recurrent decimals. Politicians who seek for control seek to achieve their aims through political parties that support their ideologies, visions, and aspirations. In the same vein, those who seek to change the status and champion the ideas of revolution also form groups to actualize their visions. Both parties however cannot achieve their aims and ambitions without getting the support of the generality of the people.
However, the target supporters need convincing information before they could also join the train. This is where the media comes in as a veritable tool of political socialization.
The entrance of globalisation into world politics has changed the socio-political milieu of global politics. Globalisation stands as an Octopus with its tentacles in every aspect of human activities and interactions. However, the strength of globalisation lies in transformations and technological advancements in the nature, timing, and efficacy of the internet. The internet, which supports various social platforms such as the Facebook, twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, telegram, and many others, are faster and open to quicker response than the orthodox media forums such as the print media, television, radio, and telephony, and therefore has become veritable instrument of information gathering,dissemination, and evaluation. With social media, one is wont to align with Friedman (2007),
Therefore, the internet in this era of globalisation plays a vital role in shaping political attitudes, promoting political involvements and influences voting behaviour globally. The social media is defined as “the new information network and information technology, using a form of communication utilizing interactive and user- produced content, and interpersonal relationships are created and maintained. (Sanatokeskus TSK: Sosaalisen median sanato. Helsinki 2010).
Twitter therefore promotes interaction and public participation over various issues of human concerns. Therefore, the unhindered interactive nature of Twitter has given vast opportunities to the public to engage in interactions over several issues that relates to Nigeria. This study would, reveal that the opportunities created by Twitter have given the users of Twitter, largely, the power to affect the political and social aspects of Nigeria.
During Twitter revolution period, there was a debate about online activism between the “cyber-enthusiasts” and the “cyber-skeptics” (Gadi et al, 2013, p.1). Cyber- skeptics gave little importance to new media in achieving social change through activism as the web gives people a misconception of political participation and prevents them from partaking in physical protesting; while the cyber- enthusiats saw the use of the internet has a tool to mobilise and inform people for greater social transformation. However, over the years, the cyber-enthusiasts have won the debate as online activism particularly hashtag activism has been used in achiving social transformation as with the example of #OccupyWallStreet, #BlackLivesMatters #BringBackOurGirls #Ferguson, #ArabSpring and recently the #Endsars campaign in Nigeria which has yielded lots of success.
Online activism in Nigeria can be traced back to 2009 when former Nigerian Rapper eLDee took to Twitter to express his discontent about erratic power supply in Nigeria. This came after his friend could not have a surgery done due to power outage. He canvassed four other young Nigerians, Sheile Ojei, Amara Nwakpa, Seyi Kuyinu and Nigerian Singer, Banky W to join in public discussion of the poor power situation in the country (Odewale, 2014). During their online conversation, the phrase “Light Up Nigeria”
Today, Nigerian politicians and their political parties at one time or the other utilize the Social Media to provide vital information and education to the people about their programmes and/or manifestoes. That is, the social media and Social Media in particular serve as veritable tools in the hands of politicians and others alike in providing relevant political education to the citizens.
The focus of this study therefore is to examine the impact of the use of social media on the Endsar Protest. The study attempts to examine if the social media can be a veritable tool of social control like the traditional mass media.
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
Social media has served as a specialized platform of modern human communication and is now part of the political culture of most democratic nations across the globe, Nigeria inclusive. Usage of social media is one of the most dominant forms of communication between politicians and the electorate, and it is massively and strategically exploited by the politicians across the globe to achieve their targeted goals as regard projecting positive images, retaining offices, and maintaining relationships with their publics. Social media has been useful in aiding exchange of information between the political candidates and electorate; it helps citizens to be informed and influence their political choices, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour towards certain political candidates (Victor, Ikechukwu, Gerald & Chinedum, 2017).
Incidentally, in Nigeria, the everyday use of social media by politicians, and the manner in which the user-citizen interacts with the social network sites/pages of politicians has received rather less attention. Essentially, politicians expect the communication relationship to be positive and of benefit to them, thus, political gladiators of all shades of opinions, ideologies, intents and goals use the media with the belief that political communication through them might exert pressure or have an influence on people’s perception and behaviours. This conception of the effect of social media is akin to the historical and cultural dominance of print and electronic media and the perceived hypodermic needle effect of mass media messages. In view of the perceived impact of the media whether from the ‘maximalists’ or ‘minimalists’ perspective, profit driven mentality of competition for political space has given rise to both ethical and unethical political communication using all available platforms of interpersonal and mass communication (Victor et al., 2017)
Apart from the traditional media, the social media is another medium through which the government and especially the presidential candidates reached out to mobilize youths in the EndSars protest. This study is to examine the use of social media as a veritable mobilization tool for electioneering campaigns in general elections. The study will also examine how the use of social media had influenced youths with regard to the EndSars protest.
The foregoing notwithstanding, this study intends to investigate the effectiveness of the use of social media as a political platform in Nigeria and how the increasing advantages of social media can be harnessed and applied in making the electorate to possess their political sovereignty by transparently voting–in and voting–out political office holders and governments democratically without undue interference or hindrance (Chinedu- Okeke et al., 2016).
This research therefore aims to look at the impact of the social media as a tool used by the youths during Endsars protest vis-à-vis whether or not social media is actually instrumental in projecting a positive image of political change.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objectives of this study are
- To determine the impact of the social media on youths participation in the EndSars protest.
- To examine whether or not the social media influences the perception of youths on politicians’ image on social media.
- To examine whether one youths’ political activity on social media messages can affect other youths’ political thinking.
- To determine the level of credibility Nigerian youths attach to political messages on social media.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the impacts of social media on youth political participation in the EndSars protest?
- Do the social media influence the perception of youths on politicians’ image?
- What is the believability level of what youths read on social media?
- To what degree do youths regard social media messages as credible?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Firstly, the significance of this study will be found in the gap it fills by answering its research questions.
Secondly, the research will be of immense benefit to politicians, political parties, media consultants, electoral umpires and government across all levels as it will help them to know and appreciate the gains and efficacy of using social media tools and how best to handle it for projecting the image of their clients and increasing awareness of the political candidates.
The findings of this study will contribute to the sustainable development of democracy in Nigeria. The youth are the future and drivers of any country, therefore conducting researches/studies into their political, social behavior is of paramount importance (Adedeji, 2015).
Finally, this study will be of great benefit to researchers and other seekers of knowledge in the academia, as it will contribute to the existing literature on usefulness of social media in politics and also widen the current expansive knowledge in it.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study aims to examine the influence of the use of social media as a political/mobilization tool for the endsars protest.
Only undergraduate students of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Lapai from the ages of 15 years through 29 shall be polled.
This study will examine the political participation of the aforementioned youths for the EndSars protest only.
This study will focus on undergraduate students of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai, with the aim of determining how social media influence their perception of political candidates and their participation in elections. The undergraduate students of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai are students currently undergoing their first degrees in the 15 faculties the institution currently boasts.
1.7 OPERATIONAL DEFINTION OF TERMS
1.7.1 Social Media: Social media is the term often used to refer to new forms of media that involve interactive participation (Manning, 2014). They are internet-mediated technologies that allow people to connect with each other virtually. This study focuses on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram due to their high-level of popularity among Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai students.
1.7.2 Political Participation: Political participation has been defined as “those activities by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of governmental personnel and/or the actions they take” (Enkman and Amna, 2012). This study looks at the level of political participation among Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai students.
1.7.3 Undergraduates of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai: These are undergraduates of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University lapai studying in various departments in the fifteen faculties in the institution.
Youths: According to the Third National Youth Policy Document of Nigeria (2019), youth refers to any Nigerian between the ages of 15 and 29.