On June 18, 2022, the journey of several months of preparing by political and electoral players for the 2022 Ekiti State Governorship election came to an end as eligible voters cast their votes at various polling units around the state. It also came to an end on June 19, 2022, when the State Returning Officer revealed the election results. Three major political parties fought tooth and nail in the election. Party primary elections were held prior to the election, with various difficulties surrounding the results, leading to defection of certain members, particularly from the main opposition party (PDP), to other parties. Former governor of the state, Engineer Segun Oni, was one of the politicians that switched to other parties. He switched to the Social Democratic Party and ran for office. Internal strife erupted among the main opposition party as well, allegedly as a result of the imposition of a particular candidate.
Our analyst says that, as with prior elections in the state, the expectation is that crises will affect election outcomes, particularly when reconciliation discussions fail to produce the intended results. The ruling party received 187,057 votes, while the Social Democratic Party received 82,211 votes, according to the electoral commission. The largest opposition party received 67,457 votes in total. The results show that the ruling party won in 15 of the 16 local governments, while the Social Democratic Party candidate won in only one. Prior to the election, popular opinion was divided on which of the two parties, the PDP and the SDP, would keep the ruling party on its toes. Our analyst notes that the former governor retains a strong personality and popularity in the state, which would have aided the PDP if he had been chosen as the flagbearer instead of Mr. Olabisi Kolawole. Mr. Oyebanji Biodun, the ruling party’s candidate, was previously the state government’s secretary.
Nigerians, particularly indigenes and residents of the state, have been experiencing mixed feelings about the results since they were announced a few hours ago. According to our analysis, the PDP’s defeat was caused by candidate imposition and internal issues, while the ruling party won the poll based on party popularity and the performance of the incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi. According to another set of public and political affairs observers, the ruling party won the election due to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC presidential election candidate’s popularity. While our analyst acknowledges that these submissions may play a role in deciding the winner, it’s equally important to note that low voter attendance should be considered. Before the election, 989,224 persons were registered to vote, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. A total of 36.94% of this group took part in the election. This means that the decision was determined by less than half of registered voters. Again, the validation of 97.35% of all votes cast (360,753) implies that voters who contributed to voided votes were also important decision-makers.
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Emerged Lessons from Stakeholders’ Participation
There are lessons for political parties, politicians, and voters to be learned from these insights. While political actors are adept at regrouping after elections and continuing to reap mutual benefits, it is critical that qualified voters carry out their civic responsibilities diligently. It is remarkable that netizens, particularly those in the state, who used social media to express their opinions about the election were unable to mobilize themselves for physical voting. In fact, the outcome suggests that elections cannot be won through social media platforms. Aside from the important takeaways, our analyst examines how the election outcomes were influenced by the candidates’ and political parties’ digital popularity six days before the election and on election day.
Political actors, as in past elections in the state, used a variety of digital media to promote candidates and parties’ positions on topics and demands. In this regard, our analyst observes that the actors and their supporters believe that, because Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest number of internet and social networking site users in the world, reaching out to the netizens via social media and the internet will help them gain the minds of eligible voters (netizens). The actors and supporters established and maintained a digital personality while marketing the politicians and parties. It becomes digital popularity, according to our analyst, when netizens engage in constant searching of the candidates and parties using search engines (especially Google) with the intention of applying prior knowledge gained from news media and/or opinion leaders.
Candidate Versus Party Personality, Popularity
Using the volume of searches each party and candidate received based on Ekiti public searches between June 12 and June 18, 2022, our analyst calculated digital personality and popularity. There were a total of 2, 965 volume searches for all three candidates and 3,250 volume searches for political parties. According to the analysis, the public was more interested in the SDP and APC candidates than the PDP candidate six days before the election and on election day (see Exhibit 1). When it came to political parties, analysis revealed that the public was more interested in the ruling party than the PDP and SDP. The comparison of public interest in the candidate and the party reveals a notable discrepancy between public interest in the SDP’s candidate and the party itself, while the PDP’s candidate’s unpopularity, as reported by some groups in the physical setting, pierced into the digital setting.
Exhibit 1: Candidates’ Share of Search Between June 12 and June 18, 2022
Exhibit 2: Main Political Parties’ Share of Search Between June 12 and June 18, 2022
Digital Personality, Popularity and Election Outcomes
Between June 12 to June 18, 2022, the public conducted an irregular search of both candidates and parties. From June 16 to June 18, 2022, the Ekiti public had a strong interest in the ruling party and wanted to know what was going on with it. This was done for the opposition parties as well (see Exhibit 3). Despite his party’s popularity, Mr. Kolawole Olabisi was the sole candidate who did not pique the public’s curiosity. Engineer Segun Oni also piqued the public’s curiosity more than the ruling party’s candidate. On the day of the election, Mr. Oyebanji had over 31% of the total volume of searches (n=944), which was also the day Engineer Segun Oni had his greatest percentage of searches (33.89%).
Exhibit 3: Trends of Search of Interest Per Candidate and Party
Our analyst used these shares as a representation of eligible netizen voters in order to better understand how digital personality and popularity influenced election outcomes. In the parties’ results, there is a positive and negative proportion of share of search. While the ruling party’s personality and popularity resulted in a favourable conclusion, the candidate’s own performance was bad. For the largest opposition party, the PDP, candidate personality and popularity had little effect, however party personality and popularity had a beneficial impact (see Exhibit 4).
Exhibit 4: Percentage of Share of Search Prediction in Party’s Results
According to our findings, the ruling party’s positive personality and popularity contributed to the party receiving over 60,000 votes out of the total votes released by the electoral authority. Based on its digital personality and appeal, SDP received over 33, 000 votes. The PDP received over 18,000 votes. According to our findings, winning significant votes from eligible netizen-voters is more a function of the party’s valuable personality and popularity than of the candidates’ personality and popularity.
Exhibit 5: Determined Votes from Candidates and Parties’ Share of Search