Prior to the millenium, the mainstream media was the primary source of information for most of the world. Due to the absence of several current technology, news dissemination was not as immediate as it is now. This study focused on the impact of social media on youths participation in Nigeria’s elections 2015-2019 using undergraduates of University of Abuja as case study. The study is was specifically focused on determining the impact of the social media on youths participation in the Nigeria general elections, examining whether or not the social media influences the perception of youths on politicians’ image on social media, examining whether one youths’ political activity on social media messages can affect other youths’ political thinking and determining the level of credibility Nigerian youths attach to political messages on social media. The study was guided by the agenda-setting theory.
The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 381 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent are undergraduates of University of Abuja.
The study found that youths also regard social media as a credible medium for political discourses and majority also testified to the social media as making them become more politically active. This does not come as a surprise if one considers how often and how much time youths spend on social media daily.
1.1 Background To The Study
Prior to the millenium, the mainstream media was the primary source of information for most of the world. Due to the absence of several current technology, news dissemination was not as immediate as it is now. Some news articles were published weeks or months after they occurred because reporters had to travel several miles between news beats in order to deliver information. The days of writing a letter to a friend who lives overseas and having to wait three months or more for him to get it and another three months or more for him to reply are long gone.
However, the technical revolution that began with the introduction of the Internet in the middle of the 1990s cleared the way for social media and microblogging websites starting in the 2000s. News can be distributed instantly thanks to social media and, by extension, the internet. A tremendous breach in the communication barrier that has existed since the beginning of space and time is made when sending and receiving information is no longer constrained by space and time.
The social media idea, according to Ayankoya, Calitz, and Cullen (2015), entails the use of web-based apps and services for communication, collaboration, content production, and sharing by both people and groups. Social media primarily focuses on the communication that occurs, the manner in which it occurs, and the connections that grow out of these conversations. Through social media, people and groups may create, maintain, and remain linked to a network of other people and people who share their interests (Ayankoya et al., 2015).
According to statistics from 2019 (zephoria.com), 2.38 billion individuals access Facebook each month. According to additional research, people typically spend roughly 25% of their internet time on the various social media platforms that are accessible, with Facebook users accounting for 33% of all online time. Thus, social media is a crucial medium that businesses and organisations should use to connect with their target demographics (Ayankoya et al., 2015).
A notable usage of social media as a tool for political communication was seen during the 2011 elections in Nigeria, according to Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (2012, quoted in Adedeji, 2015). Campaigns were conducted using it through a variety of media, including blogs, social media sites, and personal websites. In addition to this, social media was employed to attack and even demolish the reputations of other political parties, particularly the People’s Democratic Party and the All Progressives Party.
Social media increased in power and even became a more deadly weapon during the general election of 2015. Many political parties and people have had their reputations built or damaged by disclosures in the form of films, voice notes, headlines, and broadcasts. For instance, Senator Buruji Kashamu’s political aspirations and subsequent oath of office nearly suffered due to a publication on him. Both General Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu were the targets of a hate film. Normally, these recordings may have put a stop to these people’s political ambitions in other countries (Adedeji, 2015).
In Nigeria’s general elections in 2015, social networking services including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs were widely used. Social media have developed into genuine and major tools for political campaign planners in carrying out election campaigns and other electioneering operations, political engagement and mobilisation, among other things, due to its participatory, interactive, and cost-effective character. As a result, it is now clear how important social media is for mobilising political support (Chinedu-Okeke, Chinonye, & Obi, 2016).
The idea of youth differs from civilization to society and from one culture to another. The transition from infancy to youth in the majority of Nigerian civilizations involves certain formalised rites of passage. These ceremonies have symbolic value since only by partaking in them, a person can advance in rank and position. By receiving actual support and action from the community, this new status becomes legitimate. One thing is certain: the lines separating childhood from adolescence and adolescence from adulthood are blurring, and the entry into each new stage now takes varied forms. It might be challenging to define youth worldwide in terms of a certain age range since the changes that young people must deal with don’t happen as reliably as they did in the past. The United Nations and other organisations frequently use the age range of 15 to 24 for statistical purposes, however in many circumstances, this distinction is too strict for nations like Nigeria. Aside from the statistical definition, the term “youth” has continued to take on new meanings as a result of shifting political, economic, and sociocultural conditions. For instance, the transition to maturity for males in many African nations may take place until their late twenties or early thirties in order to achieve the economic and social stability that comes with stable job (Second National Youth Policy Document of Nigeria, 2009).
The terms “young” and “youth” have so far been subject to several meanings and proposals. On these terms and concepts, there isn’t, however, total agreement. However, some concepts and definitions are crucial. Youth, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is the time when a person acquires the talents and social skills necessary to be prepared for the financial rewards and responsibilities that come with the adult position. Therefore, rather than being a time period with set age bounds, youth may be seen as a specific stage of life with distinct social, economic, psychological, and political aspects (Melike, 2017). However, according to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a youngster is defined as any individual between the ages of 15 and 29 (Third National youngster Policy Document, 2019).
Nigeria is now the world’s fastest growing country and the sixth most populated country overall. According to worldometers.info (2019), Nigeria’s population is now estimated to be 200,950,000, with a median age of 17.9 years. According to the census, Nigeria had 50 million people in the 15–34 age range in 2006, which roughly corresponds to the 18–35 age range used in the 2009 National Youth Policy to define youth. This youth population figure represented 35.6% of Nigeria’s total population at the time. In Nigeria, 33.4 percent of men and 37.9 percent of women were between the ages of 15 and 34 in 2006.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics and the Federal Ministry of Youth Development’s 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey, there are 64.1 million youths in Nigeria between the ages of 15 and 35 and 52.2 million between the ages of 18 and 35. 51.6 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 35 and 52.8 percent of youths aged 18 to 35 were female. According to the Third National Youth Policy Document (2019), Lagos State had the greatest proportion of youths in Nigeria (ages 18 to 35) (6.3%) and Kwara State had the lowest (1.3%) in 2012.
Youth turnouts in elections have historically been lower than those of other age groups, although they have been falling over the past several decades. youngsters laziness is a common explanation for this issue, despite the fact that today’s youngsters volunteer more than past generations did. Another cause can be that young people do not feel included in society. Owning a home and having children offer you a more direct say in how hospitals and schools are run, which in turn sparks more political engagement (Erica, 2017). Recent evidence from European democracies demonstrates that, in addition to declining much more quickly than that of any other social group, youth electoral engagement is also systematically unequal when compared to adult levels of participation (Sirinic, 2017). This is particularly concerning.
When Prof. Atthahiru Jega, the then-chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced the election results live on television in 2015, citizens at home and abroad who were unable to watch the broadcast could follow via live streams on various social media platforms. In fact, as the INEC Chairman read out the results, citizens were posting them on social media.
And since a new general has just come to a close in 2019, political parties and its candidates once again used social media to great effect. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for president in this year’s election formally announced his decision to run via Facebook, much like Dr Goodluck Jonathan did in 2011 when he first announced his candidature. Omoyele Sowore, a candidate for the African Democratic Congress, Kingsley Moghalu, a candidate for the Young Progressives Party, and even Muhammadu Buhari, a candidate for the All Progressives Congress, all maintained a very significant social media presence, demonstrating once more the importance of social media in any political process.
The goal of this study is to determine how social media use affects undergraduate students at the University of Abuja’s degree of political involvement. The research looks at whether social media may actually be used as an instrument of social control, much like traditional mass media.
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
The majority of democratic countries in the world, including Nigeria, have adopted social media as a specialised platform for contemporary human communication. One of the most popular methods of communication between politicians and the electorate is social media use, which is heavily and strategically utilised by politicians all over the world to achieve their specific objectives in terms of projecting favourable images, winning elections, and maintaining relationships with their constituents. Social media has been helpful in facilitating information flow between political candidates and the electorate. It informs voters and influences their political preferences, attitudes, beliefs, and conduct towards certain political candidates (Victor, Ikechukwu, Gerald & Chinedum, 2017).
In Nigeria, however, the daily use of social media by politicians and the way that user-citizens engage with political social network sites and pages have gotten less attention. Political gladiators of all stripes, ideologies, intents, and goals use the media in the belief that political communication through them might exert pressure or have an influence on people’s perceptions and behaviours. In essence, politicians expect the communication relationship to be positive and beneficial to them. The historical and cultural hegemony of print and electronic media, as well as the imagined hypodermic needle effect of mass media messaging, are analogous to this view of social media’s impact. 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 in light of the perceived impact of the media, whether from the perspective of “maximalists” or “minimalists” (Victor et al., 2017).
The administration, and particularly the presidential contenders, have used social media in addition to traditional media to mobilise young people for the 2019 general elections. This research will look at how social media is used as a real mobilisation tool during general election campaigns. The study will also look at how young people voted in the recent presidential election and how they used social media.
Despite the aforementioned, the goal of this study is to examine how well social media is used as a political platform in Nigeria and how its growing advantages can be used to empower voters to exercise their political sovereignty by transparently electing and removing representatives and governments in a democratic manner without undue interference or obstruction (Chinedu- Okeke et al., 2016).
In order to determine if social media is genuinely impact in creating a favourable image of political candidates, this study attempts to examine the influence of social media as a tool used to persuade youths to vote.
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 Nigeria general elections.
- 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 Nigeria general elections?
- 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
First off, the importance of this study will be shown by the gap it closes through the resolution of its research questions. Second, the study will be extremely helpful to politicians, political parties, media consultants, election judges, and government at all levels because it will enable them to understand the advantages and effectiveness of using social media tools and the best ways to use them to project their clients’ images and raise public awareness of the candidates.
The results of this study will help Nigeria’s democracy grow steadily over time. It is crucial to do research and studies on the political and social behaviour of young people since they are the future and engine of any nation (Adedeji, 2015).
Finally, because it will add to the body of knowledge already available on the usefulness of social media in politics and also broaden the present extensive knowledge in it, this study will be extremely helpful to academic scholars and other knowledge seekers.
1.6 Scope Of The Study
This study aims to examine the influence of the use of social media as a political/mobilization tool on the voting behaviour of Nigerian youths. Only undergraduate students of the University of Abuja from the ages of 15 years through 29 shall be polled. This study will examine the political participation of the aforementioned youths for the 2019 general elections only.
This study will focus on undergraduate students of the University of Abuja, Ilorin, with the aim of determining how social media influence their perception of political candidates and their participation in elections. The undergraduate students of the University of Abuja are students currently undergoing their first degrees in the 15 faculties the institution currently boasts.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The researcher encountered problems during the course of carrying out this research; such problems were as a result of selected respondents who refused to accept and participate and also encountered difficulty in acquiring relevant materials and items. The attitude of selected subjects to fill the questionnaire to time so as not to delay the result of the research also posed a problem. However, the researcher appealed to the participants through persuasive means.
1.8 Operational Definition Of Terms
- 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 University of Abuja students.
- 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 University of Abuja students.
- Undergraduates of the University of Abuja: These are undergraduates of the University of Abuja 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.
1.9 Organizations of the study
The chapter one consist of the introductory part of the study which includes the study background, the statement of the research problem, the study objective and scope of the study.
The second chapter is a critical review of other literatures relevant to the study and its objectives including the theoretical framework for the study. While the third chapter is methods of data collection, sampling and data analysis used in conducting the study. The fourth chapter centres around the research findings including an analysis of how it relates to previous findings. The fifth chapter consists of the summary of findings, conclusion and recommendations base on the study objectives.[email protected].[email protected].