THE ROLE OF TWITTER AS A TOOL FOR POLITICAL EDUCATION A STUDY OF THE END SARS PROTEST
Background to the study
The growth of modern technology and the ever changing complex nature societies of the world have revolutionalized the way and manner information gathering and dissemination is carried out. Citizens, with this development, have utilised the opportunity created by modern technologies in satisfying their quest to keep abreast of happenings around them. The internet has become the biggest technological revolution of the 20th century with a sizeable number of the population of the world having access to it. It is now the biggest market place where one can find products, services, information, ideas and knowledge at the mere click of a button. The use of these technologies is the provision of efficient, cost-effective and convenient sharing of vital information among the people via online media tools known as the social media.
In every democratized society, the quest for power and the agitation for change have been recurrent decimals. Politicians who seek for control seek to achieve their aims through political parties that support their ideologies, visions, and aspirations. In the same vein, those who seek to change the status and champion the ideas of revolution also form groups to actualize their visions. Both parties however cannot achieve their aims and ambitions without getting the support of the generality of the people.
However, the target supporters need convincing information before they could also join the train. This is where the media comes in as a veritable tool of political socialization.
The entrance of globalisation into world politics has changed the socio-political milieu of global politics. Globalisation stands as an Octopus with its tentacles in every aspect of human activities and interactions. However, the strength of globalisation lies in transformations and technological advancements in the nature, timing, and efficacy of the internet. The internet, which supports various social platforms such as the Facebook, twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, telegram, and many others, are faster and open to quicker response than the orthodox media forums such as the print media, television, radio, and telephony, and therefore has become veritable instrument of information gathering,dissemination, and evaluation. With social media, one is wont to align with Friedman (2007),
Therefore, the internet in this era of globalisation plays a vital role in shaping political attitudes, promoting political involvements and influences voting behaviour globally. The social media is defined as “the new information network and information technology, using a form of communication utilizing interactive and user- produced content, and interpersonal relationships are created and maintained. (Sanatokeskus TSK: Sosaalisen median sanato. Helsinki 2010).
Twitter therefore promotes interaction and public participation over various issues of human concerns. Therefore, the unhindered interactive nature of Twitter has given vast opportunities to the public to engage in interactions over several issues that relates to Nigeria. This study would, reveal that the opportunities created by Twitter have given the users of Twitter, largely, the power to affect the political and social aspects of Nigeria.
During Twitter revolution period, there was a debate about online activism between the “cyber-enthusiasts” and the “cyber-skeptics” (Gadi et al, 2013, p.1). Cyber- skeptics gave little importance to new media in achieving social change through activism as the web gives people a misconception of political participation and prevents them from partaking in physical protesting; while the cyber- enthusiats saw the use of the internet has a tool to mobilise and inform people for greater social transformation. However, over the years, the cyber-enthusiasts have won the debate as online activism particularly hashtag activism has been used in achiving social transformation as with the example of #OccupyWallStreet, #BlackLivesMatters #BringBackOurGirls #Ferguson, #ArabSpring and recently the #Endsars campaign in Nigeria which has yielded lots of success.
Online activism in Nigeria can be traced back to 2009 when former Nigerian Rapper eLDee took to Twitter to express his discontent about erratic power supply in Nigeria. This came after his friend could not have a surgery done due to power outage. He canvassed four other young Nigerians, Sheile Ojei, Amara Nwakpa, Seyi Kuyinu and Nigerian Singer, Banky W to join in public discussion of the poor power situation in the country (Odewale, 2014). During their online conversation, the phrase “Light Up Nigeria”
Today, Nigerian politicians and their political parties at one time or the other utilize the Twitter to provide vital information and education to the people about their programmes and/or manifestoes. That is, the social media and Twitter in particular serve as veritable tools in the hands of politicians and others alike in providing relevant political education to the citizens. It is against this backdrop that this research study investigates the use of Twitter and its influence on political education and mobilization.
Statement of the problem
The problem is that the political activists in Nigeria have had difficulties in mobilizing their political actions, and communicating with mass audiences and their possible supporters through mainstream media. The problem arises from the nature of mainstream media. Mainstream media companies in Nigeria belong either to the government or to corporations which target profit maximization. In either case, it is hard for alternative political or anti-governmental ideas to find a place in mainstream media. The study focuses on the question “Whether Twitter can be an alternative to mainstream media for political activists to spread their ideas freely and efficiently and moreover mobilize political protests”.
Objective of the study
The main objective of this study is to evaluate the usefulness of Twitter as a tool for political education in Nigeria with focus on #EndSars protest in Nigeria. Specifically, This research study seeks to achieve the following objectives:
To establish whether Twitter have any impact on political education of the people in Lagos State.
To find out the extent to which the use of Twitter has provided political education to the people in Lagos State.
To identify the ways through which Twitter has provided political education to the people of Lagos State.
Significance of the study
Being a relatively new field in the ever-dynamic field of communication in Nigeria, the study will provide additional knowledge on the subject matter. It is hoped that the study in its practical value will educate politicians and political parties on the importance of Twitter in contemporary political communication, since social media tools are yet to be fully explored for political campaigns in Nigeria. Also, this study will provide insights to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and civil society organizations in designing programmes that would promote the use of new media technologies in the political process in Nigeria. Lastly, the findings of this study would serve as a springboard for future research in the field of political communication.
The study will answer the following research questions
Do Twitter have any impact on political education of the people in Lagos State?
What is the extent to which the use of Twitter has provided political education to the people in Lagos State?
What are the ways through which Twitter has provided political education to the people of Lagos State.
Scope of the study
The study on the usefulness of Twitter as a tool for political education will focus on the recent EndSars protest. It will focus on the effectiveness of Twitter during the peaceful protest across Nigeria with Lagos state as case study.
Limitation of the study
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.