THE PRESIDENTIAL FACE OFF ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The most hotly debated elections of Africa, 2015, saw the rise of Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army general and former Head of state of Nigeria, as the president.
As the country stood on a standstill, waiting for the electoral results to be out, thousands of impatient Nigerians took to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to discuss, contemplate and predict the election. With the postponement of the results, the excitement and contemplation of Nigeria reached a new level.
Digital media and social technology played a decisive role in helping Buhari win the presidential title. Here’s how the Nigerian presidential elections played out on social media.
With 14 candidates up for the contest, only Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general and sitting President Goodluck Jonathan stood a realistic chance of winning.
With Nigerian technologists consistently posting on the numerous social networks after the polling units were closed, the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was gradually apparent long before it was announced officially by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Unofficial updates by enthusiastic Nigerians volunteering as electoral officers were seen trending on Twitter. The electoral process was covered and debated over at every step of the way through popular hashtags like: #Nigeriadecides #thisisbuhari #gejwinsit #forwardnigeria #apcforchange #apcnigeria #thingsmustchange #apckingdom
The Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG), formed by broadcast organizations, civil society organizations and various professional groups, came to life on the Facebook to deliberate over the presidential elections. ‘To organize an avenue for issue based debates amongst candidates so as to provide the electorates a firsthand opportunity to assess the presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls and make informed decisions while casting their votes during the elections’, was the group’s cited mission.
PDP relegated consistently that “elections are not won on social media”. However, the social media networks were instrumental in shaping the views of the Nigerians. Social media campaigns, today, have a crucial role to play in determining the scenario on the electoral front. Neglecting the power that the social media asserts on the public was a fundamental mistake on the behalf of the PDP.
Muhammadu Buhari sealed the deal with his online followers, sharing his personal life and experiences with them, through constant updates on Facebook and Twitter. The reformed democrat posted photographs of his personal life on Facebook seeking compassion from the crucial voters.
The general’s first tweet: “Good afternoon my friends! This will now be my official Twitter handle to communicate with you. – GMB” got around 1000 retweets. The 72 year old has garnered 18000 followers since he joined Twitter.
The APC flooded the online world with perfection.
While PDP continued to lose faith, especially in the light of the Boko Haram violence, the APC established itself amongst the millions of Nigerian internet users.
As is the case with every business endeavor, social media campaigning is essential in the political arena too. Social media hubs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and other platforms are necessary tools to connect with citizens and reaching out to them on a wider, more global scale. The online network provides p
opular options wherein the people, too, can raise their voices and get their messages heard across the table.