A vibrant and tech savvy youth population is influencing the electoral process in Nigeria. The oil-producing West African nation is holding much anticipated legislative, presidential and gubernatorial elections this month.
With the growing penetration of Internet and telephone technology, the electorate has embraced social media platforms that are becoming increasingly popular around the world. In fact, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, nicknamed “The Facebook President,” first announced his candidacy on the popular social networking site.
Statistics show that more than 90 million Nigerians own mobile phones and millions more have access to the Internet.
Many Nigerians have used the new technologies to ask the various candidates about their policies, said Tola St. Matthew-Daniel, a Nigerian graduate student in Paris. St. Matthew-Daniel has been involved in a campaign to get Nigerian youth involved in the elections – by using social media to get them to register to vote.
Activism and mobilization of the youth
She recently worked with a coalition of youth groups to organize the first presidential debate to speak to youth issues. Social media are “a game changer,” she said, that have allowed candidates to engage their voter base like never before.
“You had them tweeting about what happened at a press conference…. They uploaded pictures; they commented on things like the weather…. It is something that they are using to stay in tune and in contact with their voting base,” she said.
Fad or revolution?
Many election watchers across the continent realize that social media is not just a fad but a genuine revolution. That may be one reason why media like Facebook were embraced by President Jonathan and his main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.
African politicians, said St.Matthew-Daniel, “use it to refute misinformation…make campaign announcements…. I think they realize that it’s a new reality.”
Social media are also being used to monitor the electoral process in real time.
“People are turning Facebook and Twitter to give firsthand accounts of their different experiences at polling centers. “People are paying attention to it.” said St. Matthew-Daniel