Social media has gained relevance in political processes in Africa and beyond. Recently, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been used for political campaigns, electioneering crusades, ideological trumpeting exercises, and the mobilisation of voters.
According to a study published in the Global Media Journal titled “understanding the implications of social media usage in the electoral processes and campaigns in Nigeria,” social media was used for political campaigns in the Nigerian 2015 and 2011 general elections due to its participatory nature. The study also finds that social media was employed to influence the thoughts of many young people, increasing their political awareness and cognisance, which in turn resulted in the presidential victory of the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), over the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Since the release of the official 2023 election timetable of activities by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in February 2022, the Nigerian social media sphere has been flooded with diverse political discourses both by political supporters and political candidates. In view of this, this report seeks to explore the social media activities of the leading presidential candidates ahead of the 2023 elections, focusing on Twitter and Facebook.
The report seeks to understand the usage of social media by the leading presidential candidates ahead of the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria. The analysis is limited to their activities on Facebook and Twitter. These chosen platforms offer a flexible and effective means of communication on a large scale, leading to many open, diverse datasets. Facebook and Twitter are Nigeria’s largest social media platforms, with millions of active users.
According to Statista, there were around 28 million Facebook users in Nigeria, representing 12.7 per cent of the population, as of December 2022. On the other hand, Twitter users were estimated to be 5.1 million that same year.
These justifications make it possible to source and analyse large amounts of data from the platforms.
The report is limited to Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP); Atiku Abubakar candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) as they are considered the leading presidential candidates of 2023 elections in Nigeria.
Further, the timeline of the report, which will determine the data collection and analysis, is categorised into two:
The first timeline:
- From June 3rd 2022: the end of primary elections determining candidates for each political party.
- To September 28th 2022: the official commencement date of campaigns by political parties (as authorised by INEC).
The second timeline:
● From September 28th 2022: The official commencement of the campaigns by political parties.
● To February 18th 2023: A week before the election day on February 25th 2023.
These crucial timelines are largely proposed to determine these candidates’ style and frequency of social media activities.
Data gathering and analysis
The social media posts made by these presidential candidates on the two platforms are collected as data based on selected and justified timelines. These posts were further categorised into their form of content (text, images, videos) for further analysis.
Additionally, each candidate’s Twitter followers were collated from June 2022, which marked the end of the primary elections, to January 2023, a month to the polls.
All collected data were categorised and analysed using Google’s Flourish data analysis and visualisation tool.
The presidential candidates’ Facebook and Twitter posts were extracted based on the stipulated timelines as data for this report. The analysis of the collated data is presented below.
Frequency of Facebook posts made by candidates
The race chart below shows the frequency of posts made by the three leading presidential candidates on Facebook based on the first timeline. The graphs show that within the four months (June, July, August and September 2022) after the primary elections up until the official commencement of campaigns. Obi made the highest number of posts on Facebook (238). Atiku with 208 posts closely follows him. While Tinubu made the least number (82) of posts within these periods, he made more posts than Obi in July; and slightly more than Atiku in September.
However, in the second timeline, when the campaigns officially started and leading up to a week before the elections (from September 28th, October, December, January. and February 18th), the activities of Atiku on Facebook more than doubled (500); he made an average of four posts each day. Although both Obi (357) and Tinubu (97) made more posts within the second timeline, Atiku was superseded only once in October by Obi.
Generally, in both timelines combined, Atiku made more posts than Obi (595) and Tinubu (179) on Facebook. The PDP candidate had made 708 posts on Facebook across both timelines. This data singles out Atiku, the leading Presidential candidate utilising Facebook for political activities in the 2023 election campaign.
Frequency of Twitter posts made by candidates
Based on the first time, from September 28th, October, December, January and February 18th, Atiku made more posts (249) on Twitter than Obi and Tinubu. In fact, there was no month within the stipulated four months of the first timeline that either Obi or Tinubu made more posts on Twitter than Atiku.
However, during the second timeline, when the campaigns began properly, Obi made more posts (417) than both Tinubu (262) and Atiku (368). The LP presidential candidate was tweeting an average of three tweets daily within the period. Tinubu is noted to have the least tweet in both periods and on both platforms.
Although Atiku has the highest number of tweets across both timelines (617), Obi’s spiral tweeting interest in the weeks leading up to the elections (2nd timeline) suggests he is the presidential candidate with a preference for using Twitter for political activities.
Total posts made on Facebook and Twitter across both timelines by candidates
The data presented in the chart below shows Mr Abubakar has cumulatively made more posts on Facebook and Twitter across both timelines than the other candidates. The bar chart also reveals Mr Tinubu as the presidential candidate with limited posts on both platforms.
Total posts on Facebook and Twitter: A comparison of the first and second timeline
The chart below shows an increase in the number of posts made by the candidates in the second timeline and on both platforms. This increase is likely due to the commencement of the campaign period, which falls within this period. Additionally, there is an increase in activities in this period as the elections draw near. While Tinubu has had the least posts on all timelines and platforms, both Atiku and Obi have made the most posts twice in different periods and platforms.
Twitter content categorisation for candidates (both timelines combined).
The charts below show all three candidates have extensive interest in tweeting content with images on Twitter. However, in both timelines combined, Obi used video content (9) the least in his tweets; he preferred text-based tweets (231). More than half of Tinubu’s tweets were either videos (19) or images (143). The APC candidate appears to have a keen interest in sharing multimedia content compared to his counterparts.
Facebook content categorisation for candidates (both timelines combined).
Like on Twitter, all candidates shared images in their Facebook posts. However, similar to the scenario on Twitter, Obi was the candidate with the least video posts and the most text-based content. A good part of Tinubu’s posts was also largely multimedia content. Yet interestingly, Atiku made more video posts on Facebook than Mr Obi and Tinubu combined.
Candidates’ increase of Twitter followers from June 2022 to January 2023
The race chart shows each candidate’s monthly increase in Twitter followers from June 2022 to January 2023. The collated data suggests an upward monthly follower rise for all three candidates. While Tinubu and Atiku have been interchangeably surpassing each other every month, Obi has led the race with an average monthly increase of over 100,000 new followers.
Summary of findings
As the 2023 general elections draw near, the report finds that the activities of the major presidential candidates are also intensifying on Facebook and Twitter. The official commencement of the campaign triggered a drastic increase in posts on both Facebook and Twitter, especially for Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi.
Additionally, the report finds that images were the main content shared by all three candidates on both platforms and periods. Besides that, more than half of the content shared by Tinubu were images and videos, while Obi and Atiku largely shared text-based content and images. Facebook was the preferred social media platform for Mr Atiku, while Obi was found to be predominantly active on Twitter; the same could not be said for Mr Tinubu, who was the candidate with the least social media activity.
There was a considerable increase in the Twitter followership of the candidates from June 2022 (after the primary elections) to January 2023 (a month before). Obi had the most steady increase of Twitter followers, with a spiral increase every month (from June 2022 to January 2023). In fact, the LP candidate alone has an average increase of 100,000 new followers every month.
Apuke, O. D., & Tunca, E. A. (2018). Understanding the implications of social media usage in the electoral processes and campaigns in Nigeria. Global Media Journal, 16(31), 1-8.
Statista Data (2022): “Distribution of Facebook users in Nigeria as of December 2022 by age group”,
Statista Data (2022): “Forecast of the number of Twitter users in Nigeria from 2019 to 2028,” https://www.statista.com/forecasts/1147316/twitter-users-in-nigeria