On the 16th of February 2019, Nigerians will come together to decide the leadership of the country for the next 4 years. It will be the sixth quadrennial elections since the end of military rule in 1999 and aspirants have turned to the use of different strategies, techniques and tools to sway voters to their side. One of the most popular being the use of the internet and social media.
The use of the internet and social media in politics including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and recently Snapchat has dramatically changed the way campaigns are run and how Nigerians interact with elected government officials and political aspirants. It has become instrumental in pushing political propaganda and also in exposing the atrocities and schemes of elected officials as well as political aspirants. It has become a powerful tool that is gradually changing the Nigerian political scene one step at a time. Here are some ways the internet & social media has changed the political space in Nigeria:
Campaigns and Communications
A large number of political aspirants have taken their campaigns online in a bid to reach a wider and younger audience. The use of social media makes it easier to for them to get direct access to voters, tailor their campaigns to their audience, monitor campaign analytics and get instant feedback from members of the public. This also makes them more vulnerable to direct criticism and questioning by the general public. We have seen a lot of politicians get ‘called out’ on Twitter during interactive sessions and though most of their accounts are handled by aides and PR professionals it gives members of public an insight to who they really are.
The internet and social media have greatly influenced how people share and receive information. From Google searches to Twitter and Instagram posts and even Whatsapp BCs, people are sharing and receiving information about Nigerian politics like never before. Although there is a great risk of spreading fake news, these mediums make it easy for more Nigerians to get information about the upcoming elections, campaign portfolios and people running for various offices across the country. For example, Google recently released data reflecting the top search interests relating to different political topics in Nigeria for the first week of 2019 ( January 1 to January 8) and you get what Nigerians wanted to know, you can find out more about that here.
In the near future, I predict a lot more political and electoral activities being moved online. Elected officials and political aspirants will make social media their primary means of communication with the general public. We are also likely to see a huge shift from the use of traditional advertising to more online, social media-based advertising. The most exciting for me is the possibility of conducting elections online with the use of Blockchain technology.
A blockchain is a secure digital record (ledger) stored in a distributed network. The information is constantly reconciled into the database, which is stored in multiple locations and updated instantly. That means the records are public and verifiable. Although it is commonly associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain technology can be used for other purposes.
In 2018, Voatz’ a blockchain based online voting system was tested in West Virginia, USA. It allowed West Virginians currently living overseas cast their votes via a mobile device using secure tokens after being verified with biometric tools.
The possibility of this is exciting as it reduces the cost of running elections and makes the electoral process transparent. I see blockchain technology being used to conduct more elections in countries across the world in the near future but for now, remember to come out with your PVCs on the 16th of February to cast your votes.