Nigerians are getting set for the general elections to elect various leaders into elective positions, Osun is not being left out with the gubernatorial poll held in 2018 out of it. SOLOMON ODENIYI in this report looks at the perceived dull campaign activities that have so far characterized the preparations for the contests, as well as the new trends adopted by contesting candidates in the state, including the aggressive use of social media platforms.
Political parties parties and candidates contesting the various elective positions for Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly in the State of Osun have since emerged through different processes adopted by parties under which they are contesting.
Political activities such as campaigns that will lead to election and eventual emergence of acceptable candidates have been on, following the lifting of ban by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on November 19, 2018, which gave candidates the green light in accordance with the law to go about such activities.
Unlike others in states where the activities of candidates vying for political positions are more pronounced and attention given to the candidates, same could not be said of those who are contesting in many part of Osun. Political commentators agree that the just-concluded gubernatorial election in the state swerved attention off the forthcoming election in 2019 which has made the usual intensified electioneering jamborees not felt in the state. This is not to say that various candidates have not been engaging in diverse tactics and techniques in their quest to realize their political ambitions.
As observed, many of the candidates have been canvassing the support of electorates, disseminating their political messages, monitoring happenings in the public space, wooing electorates and support groups towards the actualization of their political ambitions through various social media platforms such as whatsapp, facebook, twitter and instagram among others. This, they have done aggressively and has actually reduced the patronage on the engagement usually done through the conventional media such as the radio, television and newspaper. This has been a departure from the normal electioneering routine in the state where cities are covered in posters and banners, the newspapers carry campaign adverts of candidates in different districts while trying to find ways around the limitations.
According to reports, the usage of the social media to solicit supports from the electorate began during the 2008 United States (US) presidential election. President Barack Obama’s campaign included the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Others included podcasting and mobile messaging and as a result, the election was tagged by many as a ‘Facebook election’.
It was also observed that the trend came into use in Nigeria during the 2011 general elections. The immediate past president of the country, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was said to have made good use of the social media platforms when he declared to an estimated 217,000 fans of his on the world’s most popular networking platform (facebook) of his intent. 24 hours later, 4,000 more fans joined his page, and by the day of the election, on 16 April 2011, he was reported to have had over half a million followers. His closest rivals then, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC, Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN and Alhaji Shakarau of the ANPP were also among those that made heavy presence on facebook and other social media platforms.
An extract from the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech where he stated that ”I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media” emphasized the important role the social media played in his emergence in election that went against the run of play where for the first time in the history of the country a sitting president was ousted. ‘Kingmakers’, a website that tracked what the Nigerian public were thinking by analyzing Twitter data generated within the Nigerian borders in relation to the 2015 elections, noted that the heavy usage of the social media helped to increase the participation of young Nigerians which was alarmingly poor prior to the 2015 elections.
Now, almost every institution involved in Nigeria’s elections has leveraged on social media by conducting aggressive social networking outreaches, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, candidates, media houses, civil society groups and even the police to engage citizens. This, in its own way has helped and led credence to elections, as politicians, political parties, the electoral body and the electorates view it as a platform for political participation.
The statistics of social media users in Nigeria show that more citizens prefer to use social networks. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country is home to 92 million Internet subscribers. While it stated Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have the highest, Bayelsa, Yobe, Ebonyi, Ekiti and Zamfara have the least number of Internet users in the country.
A lot of parties, candidates in Nigeria use social networks to promote themselves, hence candidates participating in the 2019 election in Osun have depended largely on the social media network and the most prominent amongst this social media platform have been whatsapp and facebook.
Adeniyi Oluwaseyi, a Social media Influencer said, the advantage of the social media is that it allows citizens to express themselves, as well as getting to interact with candidates while getting a timely response which makes them feels part of the process.
“Social media provides a platform through which all individuals irrespective of tribe, religion, sex, educational background, etc can be reached without sentiment or discrimination. It also makes it possible for a large number of audience, scattered all over the country and even beyond to be reached at the same time without geographical limit. Another benefit of the social media is that it provides a platform for the target audience to be reached at almost zero cost. The huge sum that is usually spent in mobilization is reduced.
“These advantages have their significant impact in enhancing political mobilization. What is required therefore, is that politicians, through the normal grassroot level, should endeavour to also take their campaign to the internet world, which exist on its own. The internet provides a larger scale for mobilization and campaign. Politicians can harness the avalanche platform provided especially platforms like Twitter and Facebook to market their manifesto and also gain support from the populace which is done by gathering large number of followers on social media platforms and intimating them on planned policies and programmes’’.
He added that social media does not win elections, but plays a pivotal role in shaping opinion, helps to make campaign activities more pronounced, gauge the mood of the electorates as well as that of the office seekers, checkmate irregularities, locked down results among others.
Tolulope Lawani warns that though it is good that the social media is being used to engage the citizen, the tendencies of leading the electorates astray should not be treated with kid gloves.
She said, “The use of the social media these days by politicians will only in a matter of time spell more a doom than the good we think it will bring to the nation. As we all know, the social media space is unfiltered and no one can be held responsible for the content shared there, unlike the traditional media which is censored though not without its shortcomings”.
Another observed means of canvassing for supports in Osun ahead of the poll have been through the ward to ward consultations, door-to-door as well as bus-to-bus campaigns which have relegated the conventional rallies where hordes of supporters gather themselves to assure the candidates of their support.
Although, this is quite on the low as compared to the social media campaigns done by candidates in the state, however, political observers are of the view that the change was as a result of the outcome of the September 22nd 2018 governorship election. They said the election was about personalities and as such, some electorate wants to have a feel of those that would be representing them.
A public affair analyst, Muritala Ayodele stressed that this might be as a result of the serious stance of the electoral umpire to bring to book any defaulting candidates on their spending.
He said, “For the first time the INEC is having a say over the spending of political parties and candidates in an election. During the 2015 election some candidates were spending hard currencies. It was all over the place and none could deny it. But this time around, the INEC is taking keen interest in how much it is being spent. This has helped reduced political campaign finances. The second reason I see is that the economy is generally bad, that in a way accounted for low key campaigns. There are very few posters, billboards. This is an unusual campaign period when much is not expended.
Barrister Yomi Obaditan, a public affairs commentator noted that what was responsible for the lull and dull electioneering period was a situation beyond the candidates.
He added that unlike the 2015 elections were the merger between the APC, CPC, ANPP and part of the APGA raised a lot of hopes and the incumbent governor was enjoying the goodwill of all, the same could not be said of the current dispensation.
“Our economy was good and the PDP had money to throw around, unlike now that corruption has been checkmated to an extent. The APC here enjoyed the goodwill of the people due to the massive projects by the incumbent which candidates contesting various positions are riding on. Today people are hungry and angry. They are hungry as a result of frustration of high expectation that have not all been met.
“This year’s remains the dullest elections period I have witnessed. In the Osun Central Senatorial Candidate for example, apart from Barrister Ajibola Basiru, SRJ who is the senatorial candidate, I have not been seeing campaigns of other aspirants. Though, they have adopted the new media but how many people in Osun has access to the internet, how many can afford to pay for one? Even those who have bill boards have been doing combine billboards where you have the pictures of candidates in a district and that of their presidential aspirants on a bill board. The candidates themselves do not have funds so it is beyond them.”
He added that the directives from the president as well as the Economic Financial Crime Commission played a big role in the low campaigns activities in the state.
“Recall that the president had warned politicians contesting elections against the use of public funds to prosecute elections campaigns. EFCC has also warned commercial banks in the country to refrain from lending money to politicians contesting the 2019 general elections. In the past, these used to be their major source of revenue to finance their elections. Since they can’t access funds, there campaign activities are meant to be dull. ”
However, a say that 24 hours in politics is a long time may still be relevant here. As the presidential and national assembly election are about three weeks away, after which the state House of Assembly election would hold, contesting candidates and political parties might probably be waiting for the last minutes to hold their conventional rallies towards the election.