Many youths have a vested interest in politics. As someone lightheartedly said, during the Nigeria 2023 general elections, many people became “political analysts.” The synergy of young people for the EndSARS movement, which led to the advocacy for restructuring Nigeria, spilt over to the presidential and gubernatorial elections.
Nigerians were determined to be instrumental in deciding who would be their leaders; as a result, they campaigned for their preferred electoral candidate while paying attention to the electoral process.
In recent years, social media has allowed over one billion people, including millennials and Gen Z, to share their opinions, engage and connect fondly with others. Many people use TikTok to engage in entertainment trends, Twitter for activism, and Facebook for sharing narratives. The rise of social media usage inevitably led to increased claims around the Nigeria 2023 election being shared on the platforms.
As a member of the Nigerian Fact-checking Coalition; and one of the editors that worked on the 2023 Nigeria election live fact-check, I found many claims fascinating.
While many youths leaned in support of the Labour Party (LP), with sentiments that the Presidential Candidate of the LP, Peter Obi (61), is the most youthful, some leaned towards Bola Ahmed Tinubu (70), a political Godfather and presidential candidate of the All Progressive Party (APC). Others favoured Abubakar Atiku (76), Nigeria’s former vice president and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, an honourable call for a better Nigeria among supporters of the major political parties did not translate to an ethical means for the electoral campaign. Many citizens shared false and misleading claims about opposition parties to influence their preferred candidate’s success.
However, the double-edged sword of social media also fosters the revelation of some election gimmicks. One of the shocking allegations which turned out to be true was the upload of an election result on IReV for a polling unit where no voting occurred. See details here.
Undoubtedly, some claims by Nigerian social media users aided election transparency. It, however, reflects the people’s sentiments, biases, and hopes. It further highlights the importance of fact-checking.
One of the hopes implicit in some viral claims was the celebration of the APC gubernatorial candidate in Adamawa State, Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, as the Governor-elect of Adamawa. Social media users shared heartwarming sentiments as they congratulated the senator. While the claim is false, as INEC, as of March 27, 2023, is yet to declare the winner, it shows many people had hoped for more female governors and would celebrate such a milestone.
In contrast, some viral false narratives reflect people’s bias against women. It was explicit in the accusation of the Labour Party’s Deputy Governor candidate, Abiodun Oyefusi, as a person smoking hookah. It was a sexist strategy deployed to discredit a female candidate of the Labour Party. The Peoples Presidential Party candidate for Deputy Governor in Lagos State, Funke Akindele, also had similar sexist propaganda tailored towards her with attempts to discredit her on her marital status.
Ironically, some Nigerians share false narratives and propaganda about female candidates, leveraging sexism to sabotage their chances of winning while criticising women for low representation in political positions.
To have more female political representation in Nigeria, including significant numbers of female governors, every individual must work towards checking their bias against women. Unlearn patriarchal and sexist ways of thinking and adopt egalitarian and feminist ideologies as it would foster citizens campaigning and voting for women without prejudice. It would also lead to a nation where all of its sexes, not just half, largely participate in its progress.
To not be pawns in the political games of others, it is also crucial to fact-check narratives. Follow fact-checking organisations like DUBAWA to get verified information and share claims with the same establishments when in doubt.
Also, rather than propagating false electoral results, citizens must cast their votes, allow electoral bodies to share results, and critique appropriately. Sharing inaccurate data regarding elections only undermines Nigeria’s democracy.
Journalists must also continue to monitor social media platforms and fact-check posts while aligning with journalism’s central principle: trust.
Finally, to foster democracy and meaningful change in the country, we must all embrace facts. Narratives shared must be free from bias, misinformation, and disinformation.
Simbiat Bakare is a Copy Editor at DUBAWA. She is also a women’s rights advocate. She has an interest in socio-political discourses. You can contact her at email@example.com.