Ahead of the 2023 general elections, politicians and relevant stakeholders have been charged to as a matter of urgent importance engage only professional media practitioners to help in media and publicity committees to ensure that the right information is passed to the gullible social media consumers.
The charge was given by the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Delta State Council, Comrade Michael Ikeogwu, while delivering a paper at 2022 Young Lawyers Symposium held at the NBA Asaba Bar Center, on Thursday, 8 December, 2022.
Presenting his lecture titled “Democracy and the Electoral Act: The Impact of Social Media on Electioneering Process In Nigeria”, Ikeogwu noted that social media consumers must carry out fact-checking of every information to verify the source and authenticity of information they read on the social media so as not to be fed with fake electioneering reports.
He said there is no doubt that the coming of smartphones, tablets and computer has altered the media space which has made ways for major shift from what the world was known for to a new innovation that has made anyone with a smart phone connected to the Internet a broadcaster or a reporter on the platform of the new media as the case may be.
He disclosed in his paper that Statistics of Social Media Users in Nigeria according to the report has an estimated population of 211,400,708. I54,301,195 persons are connected to the Internet as at 31 December 2021 while a total of 31, 860,000 persons are Facebook subscribers as at 30 April, 2022, making Nigeria the second ranking Facebook subscriber in Africa after Egypt with a population of 105,530,371 persons with 51,741,493 Facebook subscribers. That it was easy to read fake news from the social media.
Ikeogwu asserted that “there is no gainsaying the fact that the social media has gradually graduated into playing an important role in electioneering process not only in Nigeria but the world at large.
“Findings shows that the use of the social media has grossly affected the participation of individuals in the day to day political process. As a developing country, Nigeria must embrace this platform in other to ensure greater participation of her populace in government activities.
While reeling out advantages and disadvantages of social media on electioneering, the Delta State No 1 journalist, posited that the increasing awareness on the use of social media to raise concerns among Nigerian citizens, particularly the youths has attracted the curiosity and interest of critical stakeholders, who in reaction to this have recruited social media actors to prosecute their campaigns.
“Apart from known bloggers who have been engaged to do the bidding of their pay masters, unsolicited bloggers have also joined the vanguard of posting on social media to promote the candidate of their choice.
“More than two thousand bloggers, Facebook users and social media influencers have been drafted into media committees of different political parties in Delta State alone. Only the People’s Democratic (PDP) has over six hundred persons in its media and publicity committee while the All Progressives Congress (APC) has over 300 persons in her media committee. This trend has never been witnessed in the political history of the state.
“Both the legally appointed and citizens now use the social media platforms to give daily reports and updates regarding election circumstances in their area. Some for the interest of their choice candidates, may stay on the social media for a long time monitoring events of their opponents and also responding as the case may be.
“No doubt the ongoing campaigns across the length and breadth of the states in the country have had very remarkable presence on the social media. Some paid social media tigers have formed the habit of tagging along with perceived opponents with a view to finding faults and mistakes of the opposition which they will capitalise to discredit their opponent.
While commending the enviable group of young and vibrant lawyers led by U.A.J. Aki Esq and his executive for organizing such educating program, Ikeogwu said from the forgoing, the use of the social media has come to stay considering the high network of its users. That it is a reality that every individual must embrace or risk not to do so and remain technologically redundant.
In his presentation on ‘Voter Education’, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Rev. Monday Udoh-Tom, said voter education typically addresses voter’s motivation and preparedness to participate fully in elections.
The Delta State INEC Resident Commissioner who was represented by INEC Public Relations Officer, Nwaubani Ugochi (Mrs), said voter education pertains to relatively more complex types of information about voting and the electoral process, which is concerned with concepts such as the link between basic human rights and voting rights, the role, responsibilities and rights of voters.
“Voter Education is a smooth train to the conduct of a free fair credible and inclusive elections as it seeks to build confidence and trust with electoral process and the Election Management Body, promote attitudes and behaviour that will make election peaceful, free from malpractice etc”. The Delta State INEC Resident Commissioner stated.
The National Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Akorede Habeeb Lawal Esq. also presented a paper on Election Tribunal process and the New Electoral Law at the Young Lawyers Forum in Asaba.