The fear of social media is the beginning of political wisdom.
For the past few months I have been an ardent follower of what the Internet and social media can do for a country’s politics and it’s practice of democracy.
As the revolutions raged in Tunisia and Egypt, Nigeria was undergoing a somewhat more peaceful one using the exact same tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Emails, SMS and more.
It’s no news that as Nigeria neared the season for another political transition, the youths decided that this was the time to rise up, have a voice and restore hope to millions of citizens.
Activist groups sprang up around the country to usher in a new political modus operandi. What I found most compelling was how these groups shunned exclusivity and banded together for one cause. The cause was to ensure a truly democratic election in 2011, void of rigging and other ‘Methuselic’ ills that have plagued Nigeria’s political climate for so long.
Some of these groups are: Vote or Quench, Enough is Enough (RSVP), Sleeves Up Nigeria, Light Up Nigeria etc. They collaboratively set up a youth-centred presidential debate, shared intelligence to push forward one another’s campaign and openly promoted one another on social media platform. It was such that any outsider would find it difficult to tell which head activist belonged to which group.
This to me was a very good development, as there seems to have been a dearth of unity in the country since the days old-time activists managed to fight for Nigeria’s independence. Nothing beats having a common enemy.
Social media played a crucial role in Nigeria’s 2011election in ways I am fairly certain the political players never bargained for.
A number of events were revolutionary, and I will list them (if you have any to add, please drop a comment):
- Goodluck Jonathan announced his bid to run the presidential race for the first time ever on Facebook
- Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria absolutely revamped their website to become more user-friendly. I think you only go the extra mile to really refurbish your house if you are expecting visitors. Unlike the past, visitors were definitely on the way this time, and they were prepared.
- INEC also set up a Twitter account through which it educated people on how to go about voting, debunked false rumours about the commission or voting process, responded to queries and looked out for reports on rigging.
- INEC handed out a BlackBerry Pin via Twitter for voters to send reports from their polling booths
- A group of tech-savvy Nigerians developed an application that voters could download on their phones or simply participate via SMS to monitor the elections – REVODA
- Google (Africa) partnered with these groups in monitoring the elections
The above mentioned are just a few. I would be updating the list in this post as more events come to my notice.
Below is an example of how social media was used to ensure a free and fair election.It is a Youtube video captured by a citizen journalist where one woman thumb-prints on numerous ballot papers. On Twitter, she was fondly tagged The Last VoteBender, LOL. It has come to my notice that INEC has taken up the issue.
Thankgodfornigeria is now trending on my Twitter timeline. The people (except in the North where there are reports of riots and unrests) seem to be happy with the turn out of the result. The digitalsphere is ablaze with positive reactions to Nigeria’s 2011 Presidential Election and iROGER their enthusiasm.
I will definitely be searching much deeper into the significance of social media to democratic practice and how it can be utilised for development. It has proven to be a tool that cannot be ignored in political communication and democratic culture. And if it’s so powerful, I suspect some would be looking for ways to engineer a takeover control (especially in Africa where it’s penetration is not yet so solid). It is my job to foresee these policies and analyse their impact if they ever see the light of day.
Congratulations Nigeria. This is another landmark election since June 12. A top activist tweeted something today that made me smile, he said:
When foreign press begin to withdraw their reporters because ur narrative is ‘boring’, yoou know it’s time to#ThankGodforNigeria
Bad news is good news ‘innit?