Since his assumption of office, Governor Seyi Makinde has dazzled not a few Nigerians with his style of governance. The Nigerian multi billionaire has shown himself to be different from run of the mill politicians with the way he seems to be rising above party politics to chart a new model of governance. From adopting a youth friendly approach to government to leverage on techies to solve extant perennial problems, the governor is seen as a trailblazer in Oyo political landscape. As a youth himself, one area he is showing leadership is his ability to deploy all the communication infrastructure provided by the internet and social media. His social media handles are actively running. He engages issues and shares his thoughts on them via social media accounts. This has continued to resonate with the demographics that seem to hail him for being tech savvy. What many did not know was that his communicative engaging culture dated back to the election period earlier in 2019 when the business man was making a third attempt to govern the pacesetter state.
In a research conducted by me and two other colleagues, we examined the social media usage of the then two most popular candidates in the race to the government house in Agodi. Two critical things made us carry out the study. One, the modern society is such that is characterized by interactive communication platforms which allow ordinary citizens to engage issues, air their views and get some kind of feedback either from co users or the traditional power holders. So, we intended to know if social media platforms would assist to deepen such communicative engagements in the highly contended 2019 Governorship election in Oyo State. Two, the use of social media seems be an emerging strategy in political campaigns in Nigeria. Attention was first paid to online and social media engagement of potential voters in the 2011 general election by the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
The former president compiled his interactions with users on Facebook (mostly youths), published and launched the book in Lagos in 2010 as a way to begin his campaign the following year for Nigeria’s presidency. Analysts were of the opinion that such deft move made the then president a darling of the Nigerian youth and thus led to his eventual emergence. Even though, there are fears in some quarters that social media may only help in accentuating the voices of the users but may not lead to the desired change, there is still evidence to show that online engagement is not all a waste. This made the researchers investigate the kind of communicative dialogue that took place between the two popular candidates and their followers or potential voters during the gubernatorial campaigns.
In doing this, the researchers sought to understand three areas of the engagement. We set out to know the focus and pattern of engagement as well as the trend of interaction between the two governorship candidates and their supporters. So, the researchers analysed the content of the available social media handles for the two of them. Of the two contenders, Seyi Makinde appeared more visible on the three social media platforms with some following – Facebook (60,800 followers); Twitter (12,800 followers) and LinkedIn (20,519 followers). Even though his online followers fall short of 100,000 threshold, it is better when he is compared with that of his rival. Bayo Adelabu had 6,623 followers on Twitter and 37,486 on Facebook with no presence on LinkedIn at all. The social media accounts of the two governorship contenders were monitored from December, 2018 to February, 2019 which marked an intense period of the campaign.
The two, as aspirants then, were found to have engaged their followers on social media handles. They lay bare their manifesto bordering on job creation, food security, functional educational and provisional of affordable health care facilities. However, the then Candidate Seyi Makinde was seen to be more creative in deploying the social media platforms for his campaign. The supporters of the two candidates were observed to have engaged the candidates on the different social media platforms with comments and questions on their posts. This notwithstanding, a one-way communication pattern was noticed in the engagement from both the candidates and the public they sought to engage. On the part of the two contenders, questions raised and observations made by the followers were ignored while some of the followers raised comments that did not align with the focus of some of the posts. This pattern of engagement pointed to some flaws in social media campaigns in Nigeria. Even though this was observed at the sub national level, it could have implications for online media campaigns in Nigeria in future campaigns.
Seven months after assuming office, Governor Seyi Makinde has continued the intense online engagement with the people of Oyo State. Some people within and outside of the state have expressed fears that he would soon lose the steam. Others believe otherwise claiming as he was prepared for the office. For the two sides, only time will tell.