THE ROLE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA/INTERNET ON DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN N…
1.1 Background to the Study
Essential to the people in a democratic society is their freedom of expression, association and assembly, which is guaranteed and protected by the fundamental law of the land. Among other principles of democracy are equality before the law, periodic, free and fair election, majority rule, independent and impartial judiciary and accountability. These ingredients of democracy nevertheless would need a platform and channel of communication which the government and the people can freely and meaningfully use to contribute to the development of the democratic system.
The electronic media or internet has become almost an inseparable part of human life in places where they exist. In recent times, electronic media have evolved new forms of democracy, government, and have become a clear and more effective voice of many. In fact, electronic media have influences on all spheres of human life. The impacts of the electronic media or internet were obviously felt in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria. It was felt in the electioneering processes-campaign, and eventually the polling procedures. According to Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (2012), the 2011 elections in Nigeria witnessed a remarkable use of the electronic media as a tool for political communication. It was used for campaigns via television channels, radio stations, personal websites, blogs, all electronic media applications, and several other media.
The internet has become the most accessible source of information, particularly in the last two general elections in Nigeria. Before the day of the election, the internet disseminated many messages to the public that went viral. The internet communicated to the public a lot of information that could have caused unrest in some volatile nations. For example, the internet gave other reasons for the postponement of the election from 9th April 2011 to 16th April, 2011 aside from the unpreparedness of Independent National Electoral Commission. Reasons that made the public believed that the postponement was to the advantage of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) 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 nascent democracies of which Nigeria belongs (Oyenuga, 2015).
The electronic media/internet passes information freely, because they are unregulated. The information can come in the form of broadcast on electronic media application, like WhatsApp and BBM, blogs; or even text messages. With the unregulated nature of the electronic media, it is certain that many of the information are not subject to scrutiny and may be conjured, misrepresented, or even misinformed. Nevertheless, the role of the electronic media in political mobilisation and participation across the globe cannot be over-emphasized.
Consolidating democracy in Nigeria as a whole through the conduct of credible elections has remained an albatross. The history of Nigeria’s democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral politics have generated so much animosity which has, in some cases, threatened the corporate existence of the country (such as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election) and in other cases instigated military incursion into political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983 (Animashaun, 2010).
The 2011 general elections demonstrated the extent to which the electronic media has penetrated the urban populace in Nigeria. The benefits of the penetration of electronic media in Nigeria came to light during the 2011 elections. Since the return of democracy in 1999 to the 2011 general election there has never been such great political mobilization and participation from Nigerians as was expressed in the 2011 general election. This was largely as a result of the prevalent activities of the social media (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, 2012).
Although it seems obvious that electronic media contributed in no small measure to the success of the 2011 elections, it is pertinent to understand specifically how particular stakeholders in the 2011 elections, like INEC, politicians/political parties, the electorate, and CSOs, used the electronic media during the elections. It was not only INEC that tapped into the opportunities provided by electronic media for greater and more efficient political communication. Politicians and political parties also utilized the electronic media largely to engage with voters and constituents. Many candidates that contested the 2011 general elections had Facebook, Twitter, and/or Youtube accounts. Hence, this study explored the role of electronic media/internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria with a specific reference to the 2011 general elections.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The use of social media as a formidable force for social engineering and political electioneering has continued to grow. The technology is participatory, interactive and cost-effective. This has made it the medium of the moment as far as political communication and participation are concerned. Nigeria had her first true test of social media use for political participation during the 2011 general elections. Many positive results were recorded. For instance, both the local and foreign observers rated the election as the best in the fourteen year history of unbroken democracy in the country.
However, a Human Rights Watch report of April 18, 2011 says that although the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, they also were among the bloodiest. The reports further show that a total of not less than 800 persons were killed, more than 65,000 others displaced and over 350 churches either burnt or destroyed in the violence that precipitated the announcement of the 2011 general elections results in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara by Muslim rioters.
Adeyanju and Haruna (2011) believe that social media played a huge role in instigating and fuelling the violence. They argue that during the period, many Facebook pages were awash with false rumours and gossips that added to hitting up the polity and creating unnecessary tensions.
The GSM short message service (SMS) was used to spread false election results that differ from what INEC eventually announced. This made electorates believe that their votes did not count and that they were massively rigged. There was what Okoro and Adibe (2013) refer to as “social media war” on the various social media platforms, making use of all kinds of abusive languages, all manner of attacks and counter attacks among members and supporters of various opposition parties and groups. Several insulting and inciting messages flourished on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, BBM, blogs or even text messages. These culminated in the violence and tensions witnessed before, during and after the elections in many parts of the country, with some states ordering non-indigenes to leave.
Despite the global acknowledgement of social media as an instrument of social, political and economic cohesion, it nearly threatened the progress of Nigeria’s nascent democracy. Experts decried the wrong application of the social media platforms among users before, during and after 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.
Hence one begins to wonder if electronic media is consolidating Nigerian democracy or having a retrogressive effect on it. Hence, this research project investigated the role of electronic media/internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria with a particular reference to the 2011 general elections.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study are as follows:
i. To explore the effect of electronic media on political participation in 2011 general election.
ii. To examine the role of the internet in facilitating democratic deepening in Nigeria.
iii. To investigate the role of electronic media in post-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.
iv. To provide plausible recommendations on how to use the social media as a tool for political mobilization, awareness and participation.
1.4 Research Questions
The study was guided by the following research questions:
i. What is the effect of electronic media on political participation in 2011 general election?
ii. How is the internet facilitating democratic deepening in Nigeria?
iii. What is the role of electronic media in post-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the Study
It is anticipated that the analytical, conceptual and empirical studies will enhance the understanding of the link between electronic media/internet, democratic consolidation, political participation andpost-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.
The study would be significant to policy makers and policy implementers such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that is saddled with the mandate of conducting free and fair election Nigeria; election monitoring bodies; security operatives and the various political partiesin Nigeria.
The outcomes of this study would be a tool of intellectual pride to the Lagos State University’s library, as students and future researchers will have access to the final outcomes of the study.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This wok extends its frontiers to the link between electronic media/internet and democratic consolidation, it equally covers political participation and post-election violence in the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher faces series of challenges while conducting this research study of which was lack of adequate fund, this points to the fact that the researcher is not yet earning money but rather depend on family supports.
Another factor that almost marred the success of the study was time factor. The researcher was needed to go to the field, libraries and write the report and submit at the required time which also constituted a major constraint to the researcher.
In a whole, academic stress added to the problems but the researcher made his best efforts in optimizing the available resources and information without allowing the limitations to make the researcher lose sight of the objectives of the study. In essence, these limitations do not impinge on the reliability of the findings of this research study.
1.8 Research Methodology
This aims at a careful examination of the procedure, format and strategy to be adopted in the collection of data. Research methodology according to Hawking (2002) is defined as the specification of procedures for collecting and analyzing data necessary to help solve the problem at hand. Therefore this study used a qualitative approach. This study relied mainly on secondary sources of data which includes textbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc. which were also be sourced from archives of libraries like LASU library, University of Lagos Library, and the internet.