Social media is essential for representative democracies and its users could influence electoral outcomes, but conscious political participation must improve among voters, particularly the middle class. This is according to panelists at the New Media Conference (NMC) 2022 themed “The Viral Economy”.
The conference was held on Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Lagos at the British Council Nigeria office with attendees from across the continent. The 2022 edition of New Media Conference focused on how viral media is shaping different facets of human interaction including arts, technology, finance, fashion, content creation and politics. The event was hosted by Isabella Adediji, the founder of Yellow Tamarind Productions, a media, and PR company based in Lagos, and sponsored by The British Council Nigeria.
“The world today is more digitalized than has ever been in human history and this has revolutionized communication and many facets of life,” said Oluwatosin Ajibade, Founder/Convener, of New Media Conference and OloriSuperGal (OSG) Media. “Understanding what the Viral Economy is, the opportunities and challenges it presents for all, and how to position within the space is imperative.”
The Virality during Elections panel session which included thought leaders and experts such as Joyce Daniels, Debo “Mr Macaroni” Adedayo, Anto Lecky, Kunle Lawal and moderator Kolapo Olapoju, also suggested that viral media could help deepen voters’ education and serve as the new town square for democratic deliberations although caution must be taken to mitigate risks associated with virality, especially misinformation.
“The voters are not all on social media, but the people that influence the thoughts of voters are,” said Kunle Lawal, Executive Director of the Electoral college Nigeria. “The middle class in Nigeria, like in any other country, dictate how people vote because they are the real godfathers being the economic provider class.”
Debo ‘Mr Macaroni’Adedayo, a popular thespian and activist, said that even though voters at the grassroots might have surrendered their political power due to economic disenfranchisement, Nigerians in the middle class must become politically conscious and active to drive transformation. “Nigerians have been cursed with the spirit of survival and the average Nigerian tends to accept disadvantageous situations rather than refuse such,” he said. “But freedom won’t come on a platter of gold.”
Debo advised against nonchalance from the educated voter class and suggested better political participation. “Either we become the grassroots or merge with the grassroots,” he said.
In its deliberation, the panel noted the influential role that social media has played in encouraging young Nigerians to obtain their Personal Voters Cards (PVCs) ahead of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria. This claim is corroborated by INEC data which shows that 7.2 million new voters or 76.5 percent are young people between 18-34 years and 3.8 million or 40.8 percent are students.
In addition, social media has been a key campaign battleground for the front runners in the 2023 presidential elections, resulting in political movements among young people such as the Obidients, Atikulates and BATified.
Joyce, Social engineering practitioner and an alumna of The Prestigious School of Politics, Policy, and Governance, pointed out that for political education to reach the grassroots, viral media must not be thought of in exclusion to platforms like Twitter and Tiktok. “If the content we are creating is Whatsapp Friendly, which is available to everyone, then social media can win the election,” she said.
In a similar spirit, Anto Lecky, Educator and Entertainer, advocated for the right messaging and responsible use of the platform especially to bring visibility to the plight and needs of less privileged voters. “Literates must speak for illiterates,” Anto Lecky said.
On tackling disinformation, Anto Lecky advised Nigerians to take due diligence to do more research on all forms of news before sharing. At the same time, Joyce admonished that beyond social media virality, accountability on a personal and societal level is necessary to strengthen our democracy. “The tools we need to have victory are tools of common sense, tool of truth, tool of accountability, tool of self-esteem and tool of value,” she said.
The panel session concluded on a high note with the audience given the opportunity to interact with panel members and network.
The event is powered by OSG Media and supported by the British Council Nigeria. Media partners for the event are News Central TV, Goldmyne TV, and Media Room Hub. For more information, visit www.newmediaconference.ng.