SOCIAL MEDIA AND 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
Information and communication technology has become a potent force in the transformation of social, economic, and political life globally. More and more, development strategies are based on the need for developing countries to embrace information technology both as a way to avoid further economic and social marginalization as well as to offer opportunities for both growth and diversification of their economies. The role of the Nigerian media in actualizing democracy cannot be overemphasized. The annulment of June 12, 1993 election by General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime tested the effectiveness and strength of the media. 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. Ordinarily, these videos might have ended the political ambitions of these individuals in some other places. The social media have become the most accessible source of information, particularly in the last two (2011 and 2015) general elections. The social media disseminated many messages to the public that went viral before the day of the election. The social media communicated to the public a lot of information that could have caused unrest in some volatile nations. For example, the social media gave other reasons for the postponement of the election from February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015 aside from the unpreparedness of Independent National Electoral Commission. Reasons that made the public believed that the postponement was to the advantage of the ruling party as 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 can cause anarchy in some volatile countries that are not stable.