PROJECT TOPIC- ROLES WHICH THE MEDIA PLAYED AND THE VOTING PATTERN ADOPTED BY THE ELECTORATES IN THE 2015 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTIONS HELD IN EBONYI STATE
- Background of Study
The mass media are important partners in political communication. This is reflected in the news they transmit about political parties and their manifestoes, contestants and the general electoral processes which help voters make choices that are deemed reasonable. Television and radio, in particular, have proved to be immensely popular in enhancing political education and participation.
The government, non-governmental organizations, political parties, contestants and voters all recognize that media broadcasts as powerful tools to be employed during times of election. What the media chooses to show, say or write about the candidates and the electoral processes affect citizen’s participation and may help to determine electoral results.
In Nigerian elections, the vote is the foundation of political equality and the avenue through which ordinary members in a political system attempt to influence others. Voting in an election is the most important political decision that resolves who rules (Berman and Murphy, 1996, P.369). “The act of voting occupies a central place in political behaviour. Elections are a direct and generally accepted approach to popular consultation and are a basic component of democratic government.
By selecting one candidate or party over another, citizens express preferences regarding who should govern and which government policies should be adopted or changed” (Ethrigde and Handelamn, 2008, P.88). Nigerian is characterized by great history and great people of divergent culture and traditional values. These have initially been adopted to maintain unity in diversity and a strong federal constitution.
But one major obstacle that has been in Nigerian federation is ethnicity, tribalism, regionalism and strong religious affiliations that embedded the political system, democratic processes, the civil service and even the economic sphere of the country (relating to employment, banking sector and other financial agencies and institutions). Consequently, Nigerian politics continues to be the way it used to be, even though there were allegations of election rigging in the history of Nigeria’s elections, but the 2015 general elections remained an exception in Nigeria even in Africa.
Albeit there were cases of voting based on religious and ethnic ties, Nigerians have to a reasonable level voted democratically by ignoring ethnicity, religion and regional affiliation. Political communication is very important in any political system. Politicians, party supporters and political parties’ trade on effective political communication. The media are essential to democracy and a democratic election is impossible without media.
A free and fair election is not only about the freedom to vote and the knowledge of how to cast a vote, but also about a participatory process where voters engage in public debate and have adequate information about parties, policies, candidates and the election process itself in order to make informed choices. This is where political communication comes to play a role in influencing, informing and mobilizing the electorates.
Despite the fears and anxieties that preceded the 2015 general elections, the governorship elections conducted in Ebonyi State witnessed mass turnout of voters. Ebonyi state residents and indigenes across the country came out in their thousands to exercise their civil right to vote. The introduction of electronic registration and use of card readers for the election gave Nigerians hope for credible elections.
That was the first time that technology would be used for conduct of elections in Nigeria as against the manual process in previous elections, which is subject to election fraud. The introduction of electronic voting is an improvement on the manual on many fronts. For instance, the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was able to give Nigerians the exact figures of registered voters and number of Permanent Voter’s Card collected because records were captured electronically.
This, to an extent made malpractices difficult. The use of manual methods made this difficult in previous elections due to human errors and inadequacies, providing opportunities for reckless rigging. However, there were complaints in several polling units of non-functioning of the card readers. While in some cases it took a long time before the problems with the card readers were rectified, in others the problems experienced was due to lack of familiarity with the equipment.
For instance, there were many cases of non-functioning Card Readers that were due to the failure to remove the protective cover was one of the reasons for the Card Readers problem which called to question the training of personnel deployed for the elections. Adelaja (2015). Also, the few card readers that had to do with network problems were quickly resolved with the change to another network provider.
The elections were not all perfect but in our electoral history there is none fairer, freer and credible as this. Our research revealed that the April 11, 2015 governorship elections held in Ebonyi state which forms the crux of this research was conducted successfully with a candidate from People’s Democratic Party (PDP) emerging as winner, details will be discussed in the course of this study.
PROJECT TOPIC- ROLES WHICH THE MEDIA PLAYED AND THE VOTING PATTERN ADOPTED BY THE ELECTORATES IN THE 2015 GOVERNORSHIP ELECTIONS HELD IN EBONYI STATE
- STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Elections in Nigeria are often controversial, even disputed. In the 2015 general elections, the two main parties – APC and PDP had fought a hard and divisive campaign full of intemperate language. Politics in Nigeria has always been expressed through political parties, which are created to achieve political power. Political parties are structured around specific ideologies and ideas of human societies, these ideas and ideologies are communicated to the party faithful, the electorate and other members of the public.
The mass media therefore becomes the means to communicate these ideologies. The electorate in Ebonyi State witnessed an unprecedented increase in number and style of political advertising messages and campaigns in the 2015 Ebonyi governorship election. Most of the political parties sponsored one form of political advertising or the other, in order to bring to the attention of the voting public, the parties political manifestoes as well as the parties candidates for the various elective offices to the public. The essence of their campaign was to sell their parties and candidates.
However, that messages were disseminated does not inevitably mean that it was received; nor does it indicate that it was understood and accepted as true, whereby its influence on the behaviour of the electorate in Ebonyi State during the governorship election of 2015 could be implied. It is in the light of this that we sought to evaluate the influence of the mass media messages on the electorate’s choice of candidates in Ebonyi state governorship elections of 2015.
All political advertising must have a message capable of influencing attitude, behavior and opinion (Nwosu and Nkamnebe, 2006). However, it was also not clear whether voters’ choice of candidate during the gubernatorial election were informed by the unique selling propositions used in the political advertising campaigns. More so, it is not evidently clear whether the majority of voters who voted during 2015 election in Ebonyi State made informed voting decisions or choices as a result of their exposure to political advertising messages.
In political communication, the credibility of the source and medium used impact on the message believability. Voters too were faced with the dilemma of either accepting or rejecting the message based on the above fact. During the electioneering campaign, the governorship candidates used different media in delivering their message and some of the media used had a different confusing message which is not really clear if they had any impact on voters choice of candidate on the Election Day.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to assess the roles which the media played and the voting pattern adopted by the electorates in the 2015 governorship elections held in Ebonyi State.
Specifically, the study was meant to:
- Determine the role the media in the political communication with the electorate during the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi State.
- To ascertain the electorates primary channel of exposure to political communication during the 2015 governorship elections.
- To examine the extent this electorate was influenced by media messages on their choice of candidates during the 2015 governorship election in Ebonyi State.
- Identify the gaps associated with reading out to the electorate through political communication during the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi state.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study was guided by the following research questions.
- Did the media play any role during the 2015 Ebonyi state governorship elections?
- What was the electorates primary channel exposure to political communication during the elections?
- To what extent is the electorate influenced by political media messages on their choice of candidates during the 2015 Ebonyi state governorship elections?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
In the course of this research study, to achieve the targeted end, we put forward the following hypotheses as the imperative factor of explaining the phenomenon of “mass media, political communication and electorate voting pattern in the 2015 governorship election in Ebonyi state” there by raising the following hypotheses viz:
Ho1: The media did not play any role during the 2015 Ebonyi state governorship elections.
Ho2: The electorates had no primary channel of exposure to political communication during the elections.
Ho3: Voters’ choice of candidate in the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi State was significantly influenced by unique selling proposition of candidate’s political communication campaign
H04: Voters’ choice of candidate in the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi State was not significantly influenced by unique selling proposition of candidate’s political communication campaign
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significant in that it examines the use of mass media as a form of political communication, and the voting pattern of the electorates during the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi State. In essence our interest is in mapping out the patterns of voting and to see to what extent such patterns are directed by political party influence and media communications.
Election is believed to serve several purposes in a democracy. Apart from the equal chance to participate in politics, it is used to gauge the political health of a society or government by serving as a stamp of legitimacy for the government of the day. At the same time, election acts as checks on the government, since the elected are aware that they may not be re-elected for another term unless they fulfilled their electoral promises to the satisfaction of the electorate who gave their mandate. Election is both a process of changing governments and making governments alive to their responsibility. It is a means of bringing periphery into the political arena. Nnabuihe et al (2014)
Election is seen as providing peaceful change of government, it also provides social groups with the chance of resolving their conflicting needs peacefully. Voters are considered to be rational and intelligent in their choice among candidates.
However, an opposing view sees elections as merely symbolic ‘in character. According to this position, elections are a secular ritual of democracy (Niemi and Weisberg, 1976; 3). This view is in opposition to the one which holds that voters are intelligent and informed about their choice of candidates and that voters vote as a fulfilment of their civic duty. Voters are aid to know next to nothing about the candidates is irrelevant to governance.
This study is therefore significant
- To the Researcher: It is believed that the research study will be of tremendous help to the research at the end of the findings.
- Democratic Nations: the study deems appropriate for true democratic nations for rapid growth and development.
- To Government: The state government will benefit much from this research because most of the pitfalls and voting pattern observed during the 2015 governorship elections in Ebonyi State have been examined and analyzed for successful subsequent elections.
- To scholars: Our present and future scholars will see this research worth having in their private and official libraries for future research and consultation.
- The public: This research will be very imperative to the Ebonyians in particular and Nigerians in general as well as true democratic nations within the world.
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF STUDY
In the study of political communication, there has been a continuous debate about the more or less powerful effects of the media on the public. Instead of reviewing these positions and their empirical claims as far as political communication and the 2015 governorship elections are concerned in Ebonyi State, we have examined in more general terms the role of the media within the broader framework of the media influence on their audiences as well as the social, cultural, political or economic power structures of society.
In order to focus this discussion better, we limit it to the news media, and in particular to Radio and Television broadcasting thus de-emphasizing the undoubtedly pivotal role of Newspapers and other media genres of mass political communication in the State during the period under study. We believe that this covers more appropriately political communication in the urban and rural areas of the state as Radio in particular is more common for political communication in those areas because of the ability to use batteries to operate radio when there is any power failure or erratic electricity supply. Broadcasting is the most pervasive and therefore, one of the most powerful agents for influencing men’s thoughts and actions, for giving them a picture, true or false, of their fellows and of the world in which they live, for appealing to their intellect, their emotions and their appetites, for filling their minds with beauty or ugliness, ideas or idleness, laughter or terror, love or hate”.
The personalities on whom political communication in the State focused during the period were mostly/mainly election contestants under the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There were other less focused parties in the race. In particular, the personalities were the Governorship candidates of the APC, PDP, SDP, Labour Party, among a host of others.
1.8 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
According to Olayiwola (2016) Political communication is a sub-field of Political Science and Communication that deals with the production, dissemination, procession and effects of information, both through the mass media of communication, the newspaper press, radio, television, social media, ora-media and interpersonally within a political context.
The word media is the plural of medium, which comes from the Latin medius for middle (Media, 2001). There are three senses of the word media. The first is as an “intervening or intermediate agency or substance”, the second is a “conscious technical sense, as in the distinction between print and sound and vision as media”, and, lastly, “the specialized capitalist sense” in which a newspaper or broadcasting service that already exists is seen as a medium for something else- as in advertising (Williams,1983, p.203). Overtime, all three of these senses seem to have converged and formed the way that people currently think about media.
Mass media refers to “technological tools, or channels, used to transmit the messages of mass communication” Mass media include print media such as books, magazines, newspapers, and electronic media such as audio, television, movies, and the Internet (Hanson, 2010).
Electorates refer to all the people in a country or area who are entitled to vote in an election. The independent electoral commission of Nigeria puts those eligible to vote from the age of 18 years.
Voting pattern also known as voting behaviour is a form of political behavior which explains how and why decisions were made either by public decision-makers, which has been a central concern for political scientists, or by the electorate. To make inferences and predictions about behavior concerning a voting decision, certain factors such as gender, race, culture or religion must be considered. Moreover, key public influences include the role of emotions, political socialization, tolerance of diversity of political views and the media.