Social Media and the Prevention of Electoral Violence in Nigeria - SUSO Advocate Writes

By NG YouthSDGs On Thursday, December 22, 2022

Social media has now become a major part of our daily lives. Almost everyone in and out of Nigeria seems to be consumed by it. With each day that passes, more people become more engrossed to the influence of social media. According to the findings of Data Reporter (2022), 15.4% of Nigerians are on social media. While 51.0% are active internet users at the beginning of year 2022. 

While many have deployed and taken advantage of Social Media, a few are also abusing it resulting to peddle fake news, unfounded rumors, and the detention of people’s time among others. Though Social Media it has its own advantages including timely sharing of information, networking, advocacy, campaigns and mobilization and for business facilitation, in this article, I will focus on the negative effects of social media if it is not used properly and how its abuse can trigger abuse and violence and especially electoral violence as we approach 2023 General Elections.

There are several literatures on how Social Media use negatively affects young people, distract them, disrupting their peace through rumor spreading, amplifying unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. Social media is a world itself. As a young person, social media causes a lot of post traumatic issues and can lead to depression and disconnect people from their loved ones or friends. 

Social media affects us in more ways than we can imagine. It has contributed to so much fake news, lifestyle, and influence in the society, which in turn birthed what we know as online violence which also fuels electoral violence. As Nigeria prepares for 2023 General Elections, we are beginning to see a lot of social media posts from certain individuals, young and old securitizing certain ethnic groups and individual for political gains. Hardly, would you go on social media a week without seeing derogatory posts or images of certain personalities. This is not humanity and therefore we must do all we can to stop it from happening. 

How does social media violence occur?

Sometimes ago, I attended the Youth4Peace hangout organized as part of the implementation of the Speak Up Stand Out Nigeria project in Abuja and the topic was “The Role of Social Media in Preventing Electoral Violence.”  It was an interactive session with the invited guest, a renowned journalist who shared his experiences on the importance of positive use of social media and the implications of doing otherwise.  

A real-life case situation that occurred some months back around Dei Dei, Abuja, where a bike man had an accident with a woman and it seems she died. People around arose, hijacked the bike from the bike man, and burnt it. Infuriated, the bike man went on and called his gangs friends to come and fight for him, and the situation escalated before the security agencies got there which resulted to lots of burning of shops in the market. Now this was just a fight within a specific circle, but some people took videos, and posted online and it spread around on Facebook and twitter promoting the news that Igbos are being killed by the northerners and burning all their businesses, that war has broken out. Of course, this wasn’t true but because of the social media influence brought about by the fake news of some users, this triggered another violence in other parts of Abuja.

The problem we now face is that everyone now feels like they have to be the first to report on a particular discovery. People have to hear it from them first… prompting them to post about unverified and unchecked news or situations and not even realizing how their actions may affect other people or trigger some violence somewhere else. This, in turn, create issues and chaos among fellow citizens and even people outside causing them to be misinformed or have a bad orientation about our nation. 

Once it’s election time, we know how it always turn out. People go out to vote but do so in fear. Goons are there to attack or cause havoc on poor souls just because they want to rightly vote. And in some way endangering lives of people. And sometimes I really wonder, why must this happen? As a kid, I grew up seeing this happen at every election period and kept wondering what the trigger was and what the authorities were doing about it. Why can’t we have a simple peaceful election? Why can’t people simply just go out and comfortably vote for who they want without having to worry about some goons? 

How do we prevent social media violence ? 

As Nigeria prepares for 2023 General Elections, as young people, we must know that we need to be accountable and responsible for the kind of things we share on social media. We have to be aware and also avoid the spread of fake news. Often times, people intentionally share fake and harmful post just to trigger violence. This must be avoided as much as possible. The safety and security of all Nigeria must be our priority. 

How do we now prevent Electoral Violence through social media? 

A lot of ideas were shared at the Youth4Peace hangout and I must admit that they are quite revealing. But first it’s accountability as a people. We must be responsible for our post and understand how it may affect other people. We must verify news or post before we share it across. We also do well in the prevention of electoral violence by always preaching peace to people. We must also indulge in making sure fake news don’t travel far by simply not sharing it further. Understand and learn more about conflict resolution and help engage more in creating awareness and educating people on peace advocacy and why it matters.

Lastly, I must say the role of social media in curbing electoral violence is very essential for that’s where news travels fast. We need to tackle situations before they pass on to other people’s timelines. We must stop fake news and unverified post before they go viral, that way, the prevention of electoral violence through social media will be a success. 

Written by:

Aliey Abbas 

Creative writer | Aviator 

Advocate, Speak Up Stand Out (SUSO) Project Nigeria 

Keywords: social media election electoral violence prevent peace & security NGYouthSDGs SUSO advocate change

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