• Wed. Oct 4th, 2023

    BOOK REVIEW: Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics: Unraveling Social Media, Demography, And Voting Trends In Nigeria

    ByHybrid Communications

    Aug 21, 2023

    My role today is to provide a review of the book at hand, rather than delve into the life of its author. However, as the author is the creator of the book, I am tempted, much like Oscar Wilde, to succumb to the allure of discussing the man behind the work.

    Speaking of which, for those unfamiliar with the significance of the “P” nestled within the author’s name on the book cover, it stands for “Paul,” a cousin often found in nursery rhymes alongside “Peter.” A disclosure, not exactly shrouded in secrecy: Despite his current bourgeois veneer, the author first emerged as a student union leader at the Kwara State College of Technology, Ilorin, and subsequently at the University of Abuja.

    His academic journey was marked by an infamous incident known as the Niyi Ibietan & 45 others v. University of Abuja & 2 Others case, which led to his rustication. Born to parents hailing from the old Kwara State, he later resumed his studies at the University of Uyo, where, despite a decade-long academic disruption due to his activism, he graduated at the top of his class.

    This achievement undoubtedly brought solace to his parents, who had navigated their way through his tumultuous childhood, including a life-threatening rash that struck within his first six months of life in Kaduna. While I’ve revealed a portion of his story, the link will become clearer in due course. Let’s now turn to the heart of the matter: “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics: Unraveling Social Media, Demography, and Voting Trends in Nigeria.”

    My first participation in a Nigerian election in 1983 coincided with the nascence of the Internet, which at the time was nameless and undefined. Four decades later, as I cast my ballot for the fifth time, my daughter, who only reached voting age thirteen years ago and has voted just once thus far, shared her opinions on my voting choices from her residence thousands of miles away. Such experiences are not isolated incidents.

    A close friend and the managing director of a prominent Nigerian media outlet recounted how political divisions in his household during the 2023 elections prompted a family resolution to abstain from political discussions until after the polls. However, “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics” is not solely concerned with the most recent general election or familial disagreements. Instead, it delves deeper into the journey embarked upon by Niyi P. Ibietan, tracing back to his early student days, his fascination with political communication, and its interplay with sociology.

    What began as a mere curiosity during his undergraduate years and initial professional experiences regarding the media’s role in bolstering freedom transformed into a passion that found expression in his journalistic endeavors and monographs. This passion, nurtured throughout his Master’s dissertation, has now culminated in the substantial scholarly work under review. Across twelve chapters spanning 460 pages (inclusive of the bibliography) and contextualized against Nigeria’s 2015 general elections, “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics” takes an in-depth look at the intersection of cyber culture, social demographics, and political communication.

    This subject has been a focus of research for decades, as scholars continue to probe the intricate factors underlying voter behavior during elections.

    Seventy-five years ago, the inquiry into voter behavior ventured into the streets of North Carolina under the guidance of Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, & McPhee). The Columbian studies, as they have come to be known, revealed that media and campaigns wielded limited influence over voters. To paraphrase Bernard Cohen, while the press garnered heightened awareness and significance, its effect on voter attitude and behavior was less pronounced. This notion emerged amidst the backdrop of the “Hypodermic Needle” theory, which posited that individuals were passive receptors of information, akin to “sitting ducks,” particularly in the aftermath of the rise of Hollywood and Hitler’s propaganda machine.

    Marshall McLuhan’s observations in “The Gutenberg Galaxy” (1962), predicting that rapid communication would erode geographically rooted power imbalances, marked a turn in the narrative. By then, scholars such as Lazarsfeld, Melvin DeFleur, and others had illuminated the role of social factors in mediating information influence. The relevance of these historical narratives intertwines with the central theme of “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics,” which hinges on whether President Donald Trump’s continued use of Twitter to rile voters aligns with a shift from the hypodermic needle paradigm. Moreover, the pivotal role attributed to social media in events like the Arab Spring raises questions on the extent to which these platforms have diverged from their predecessors.

    The book delves into earlier research and studies on the sway of social factors, including peer, opinion leader, and familial influences on voter behavior. The author’s exploration of the book’s central objectives transpires against the backdrop of Nigeria’s 2015 elections. Anchored in the exploration of Nigeria’s 2015 elections, “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics” scrutinizes the interactions among Nigeria’s approximately 33 million active social media users, particularly influential voices, and their potential impact on the 2015 election results.

    Notably, on page 89, it’s revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari, the victor of that election, attributed his success in part to the influence of social media. This poses the question: Did social media truly shape his victory, and did this medium contribute to President Goodluck Jonathan’s waning momentum, given that he had initially declared his presidential bid on Facebook in 2011? The book navigates these inquiries, building on existing literature that has also touched on the nexus between the 2015 elections, voter behavior, and social media.

    While “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics” shares common ground with prior studies, its distinctiveness becomes evident in its laser-focused examination of three key social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. These platforms are dissected in relation to their impact on voter behavior, particularly during the 2015 elections.

    Politicians, it seems, are convinced of social media’s efficacy, even though its relevance at the ballot remains a separate question. As evidenced by a BBC report (www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zd9bd6f/revision/7), politicians heavily invest in websites, blogs, podcasts, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter to reach voters. For instance, during the 2019 election campaign, the Conservative Party allocated one million pounds exclusively to Facebook, generating a staggering 2,500 advertisements.

    While “Unveiling Cyber Political Dynamics” furnishes explanations for frequently used terms such as “cyber politics,” “social media networks,” “voting behavior,” and “public servants,” it transcends mere definitions. The book’s pages delve into how these terms converge within the realm of Nigeria’s 2015 elections. Chapters Four, Five, Nine, and Ten delve into research questions, theoretical frameworks, and models, introducing concepts like the “Channel-Factor Model,” which provides an intrinsic perspective on political communication within Africa.

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