ROLE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA/INTERNET ON DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA
ROLE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA/INTERNET ON DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background for the Study
People in a democratic society rely on the freedom of expression, association, and assembly, which is guaranteed and safeguarded by the fundamental law of the land. Other principles of democracy include equality before the law, regular, free, and fair elections, majority rule, an independent and impartial judiciary, and accountability.
These democratic ingredients, however, would require a platform and channel of communication that both the government and the people could freely and effectively use to contribute to the growth of the democratic system.
Electronic media, or the internet, has become nearly an inseparable element of human existence in areas where it exists. In recent years, electronic media has evolved new kinds of democracy and administration, becoming a clearer and more powerful voice for many.
In reality, electronic media have an impact on all aspects of human life. The impact of electronic media or the internet was clearly felt in Nigeria's general elections in 2011. It was felt during the electioneering process, campaign, and, eventually, polling procedures.
According to the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (2012), Nigeria's 2011 elections saw a remarkable usage of electronic media as a weapon for political communication.
It was utilised for campaigns on television channels, radio stations, personal websites, blogs, all electronic media applications, and a variety of other platforms.
The internet has emerged as the most accessible source of information, especially during Nigeria's previous two general elections. Before the election, the internet distributed numerous messages to the public that went viral. The internet disseminated a wealth of knowledge to the general people, potentially causing instability in some vulnerable countries.
Apart from the Independent National Electoral Commission's lack of preparation, the internet provided other reasons for the election's postponement from April 9th to April 16th, 2011.
Reasons that led the public to feel that the postponement was beneficial to the People's Democratic Party (PDP) because it would allow the ruling party to influence the election in such a way that the electorate's authority would be nullified. This type of report has the potential to spark anarchy in developing democracies like Nigeria (Oyenuga, 2015).
Because electronic media and the internet are uncontrolled, information can be freely transmitted. The information can be broadcast using electronic media applications such as WhatsApp and BBM, blogs, or text messaging.
Given the unregulated nature of electronic media, it is certain that many pieces of information are not susceptible to inspection and may be conjured, misinterpreted, or even mislead. However, the importance of electronic media in political mobilisation and involvement around the world cannot be overstated.
Consolidating democracy in Nigeria as a whole through the holding of legitimate elections has remained a burden. The history of Nigeria's democratic experiments demonstrates that elections and electoral politics have sparked so much animosity that,
in some cases, threatened the country's corporate existence (as happened after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election) and, in others, prompted military intervention into political governance, most notably in 1966 and 1983 (Animashaun, 2010).
The 2011 general elections highlighted the extent to which electronic media had permeated Nigeria's urban population. The advantages of electronic media penetration in Nigeria became clear during the 2011 elections.
Since the introduction of democracy in 1999 until the 2011 general election, Nigerians have never demonstrated such political mobilisation and participation as they did in 2011. This was largely due to the widespread use of social media (Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, 2012).
Although it appears that electronic media contributed significantly to the success of the 2011 elections, it is important to understand how specific stakeholders in the 2011 elections, such as INEC, politicians/political parties, the electorate, and CSOs, used electronic media during the elections.
Not just INEC used electronic media to increase and improve political communication. Politicians and political parties also used electronic media extensively to communicate with voters and constituents.
Many contenders for the 2011 general election had Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube accounts. As a result, this study investigated the impact of electronic media/the internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria, with a focus on the 2011 general elections.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The use of social media as a powerful tool for social engineering and political campaigning has grown. The technology is participatory, interactive, and cost-effective. As a result, it has emerged as the dominant medium for political communication and engagement.
Nigeria's first true test of using social media for political involvement came during the 2011 national elections. Many positive findings were obtained. For example, both local and foreign observers praised the election as the greatest in the country's fourteen-year history of uninterrupted democracy.
However, according to a Human Rights Watch study dated April 18, 2011, the April elections were touted as one of the fairest in Nigerian history, but they were also among the deadliest.
According to reports, Muslim rioters killed at least 800 people, displaced over 65,000 others, and burned or destroyed over 350 churches in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara prior to the announcement of the 2011 general election results.
Adeyanju and Haruna (2011) believe social media played a significant role in inciting and fueling the violence. They believe that during that time, many Facebook pages were inundated with false tales and gossip, which contributed to the politicisation of the situation and created unneeded tensions.
The GSM short messaging service (SMS) was used to disseminate fraudulent election results that differed from what INEC later declared. This led electorates to feel that their votes were invalid and heavily rigged.
There was what Okoro and Adibe (2013) refer to as a “social media war” on various social media platforms, with members and supporters of various opposition parties and groups using a variety of abusive language and launching assaults and counterattacks.
Several disrespectful and inciting statements spread via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BBM, blogs, and even text messages. These culminated in violence and tensions before, during, and after the elections in various parts of the country, with several states forcing non-indigenous residents to leave.
Despite the global recognition of social media as a tool for social, political, and economic cohesiveness, it jeopardised the growth of Nigeria's fledgling democracy. Experts condemned the improper use of social media platforms by users prior to, during, and following the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria.
As a result, one wonders whether electronic media is strengthening or undermining Nigerian democracy. As a result, this study project looked into the impact of electronic media/the internet on democratic consolidation in Nigeria, namely the 2011 general elections.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The study's aims are as follows.
i. To investigate the impact of electronic media on political engagement in the 2011 general election.
ii. Investigate the role of the internet in promoting democratic deepening in Nigeria.
iii. To explore the role of electronic media in post-election violence during Nigeria's 2011 general elections.
iv. To make reasonable recommendations about how to use social media as a tool for political mobilisation, awareness, and involvement.
1.4 Research questions.
The study was guided by the following research questions.
i. How has electronic media influenced political participation in the 2011 general election?
ii. How is the internet promoting democratic development in Nigeria?
iii. What role did electronic media play in post-election violence during Nigeria's 2011 general elections?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The analytical, conceptual, and empirical research are expected to improve our understanding of the relationship between electronic media/internet, democratic consolidation, political involvement, and post-election violence in Nigeria's 2011 general elections.
The study would be useful for policymakers and implementers such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in Nigeria; election monitoring bodies; security personnel; and Nigeria's various political parties.
The findings of this study will be a source of intellectual pride for the Lagos State University library, as students and future scholars will have access to the study's final results.
1.6 Scope of Study
This work goes beyond the link between electronic media/internet and democratic consolidation; it also addresses political engagement and post-election violence in Nigeria's 2011 general elections.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher encounters a number of problems while doing this research project, one of which is a lack of enough funding, indicating that the researcher is not yet earning money and instead relies on family support.
Another element that nearly derailed the study's success was time constraints. The researcher was expected to go to the field, libraries, write the report, and submit it on time, which was a major constraint for the researcher.
Overall, academic stress exacerbated the challenges, but the researcher did his best efforts to maximise the available resources and information while not allowing the restrictions to cause him to lose sight of the study's aims. In essence, these restrictions have no bearing on the credibility of the conclusions of this research investigation.
1.8 research methodology.
The goal is to carefully examine the technique, format, and strategy to be used in data collection. Hawking (2002) defines research technique as the specification of procedures for gathering and analysing data required to answer the topic at hand.
As a result, the study took a qualitative approach. This study relies mostly on secondary data sources such as textbooks, newspapers, magazines, and the internet, as well as library archives such as the LASU library and the University of Lagos Library.