Cyberpolitics and re-engineering of political communication in Africa create most radical possibilities to human experience, says NCC boss, Maida

Adebisi Aikulola
Adebisi Aikulola
Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan

Aminu Maida, the executive vice chairman, CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has said that the Internet and its associated technologies and tools, including software applications, have created some of the most radical possibilities in the human experience, particularly in the last decade.

These, he said, have certainly extended the frontiers of human freedoms and expression, while similarly enabling innovation across different forms of utilisation, and, more so, serving as catalysts for the ability of citizens to engage with political processes—for good and for bad.

Dr. Maida, who spoke at the special book reading and further reviews of a book “Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography, and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria” authored by Omoniyi Ibietan, PhD, Head, Media Relations Management at the Nigerian Communications Commission, said that despite an earlier period in which there were deliberations on the possible roles and impacts of digital platforms, such as social media, on political participation and elections, the increased access to the Internet and broadband, alongside the wider uptake of social media as essential to human reality, have made the interface between these platforms and elections a lot clearer. This has especially been evident in the last few electoral cycles, whether in the United States, Europe, or Nigeria.

Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan's Cyber Politics.
Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan’s Cyber Politics.

The 2008 presidential election in America, he said, could be considered a watershed moment for a new form of voting behaviour, evolving with the widespread usage of platforms like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, podcasting, and mobile messaging in the communication of political interests with citizens.

Dr. Ibietan’s path-breaking book, Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography, and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria, Dr. Maida said, broaches a radical new territory in bridging psephology (i.e. the study of elections) and communications scholarship through an examination of the interface between social media networks and voting behaviour in the country. “It draws its insights from a deeply methodical study of Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election, unearthing the intersections of social and demographic factors, digital social mediation and the remarkable impact of these variables on the voting behaviour of the electorate.

“It is worthy of note that the referenced national polling presented one of the most significant evidences of how social media use can shape the course of an election, with the then political opposition gaining huge mileage from its ability to deploy social media platforms towards shaping and controlling public debates, and hence triumphing at the ballot.

“These days, the preponderance of data more easily reveals the impact of social media on political engagement and elections, both in emergent and evolved democracies. It requires little clairvoyance that, with the spike in upheavals instigated by economic dysfunctions across the world, social media will certainly play more consequential roles in driving electoral choices going forward.

“Dr. Ibietan’s book speaks to the reality of how the demographics of voting are now in favour of digital natives, whose engagements are set to upend the traditional media approaches, hence the great value in seeking an understanding of the growing interface across cyber politics, social media networks, and social demography. Specifically, the author utilises tested theoretical models and research methods to scrutinise the impact of social media on contemporary politics.”

Most significantly, the NCC boss said that the cutting edge of this vibrant scholarly endeavour is its proposal of a bold new methodology and approach to communications, described as the Channel-Factor Model, which situates the relationship among social media and other variables within a political environment. It is a framework for re-engineering political communication in Africa that is as radical as it is innovative.

“Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria is an absorbing and persuasive book that adds huge insightful value to an understanding of the interactions between politics, social media networks and other variables that influence the behaviour of voters in a democracy. Therefore, we particularly appreciate Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan,  a staff member of the Nigerian Communications Commission, for this contribution to political communication scholarship,” Dr. Maida said.

President of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN), Prof. Umaru A. Pate, congratulated Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan on the successful publication and presentation of his book on cyber politics in Nigeria.

“As an active member of the ACSPN, I am glad that he is on the frontlines of promoting some of the association’s objectives of promoting innovative communication education through publications and other knowledge sharing platforms.

“Without a doubt, the academic community and communication scholarship require a deeper understanding of the evolving trend, influence, and impact of cyber politics in the country. I am glad Dr. Ibietan has been able to undertake intensive and extensive research in the area. Happily, the study has been transformed into a textbook for wider circulation.

“A cursory reading of the book indicates that the author has been able to achieve the objectives of contributing to the conceptual and empirical dimensions of the subject in the context of political communication.

“Personally, I am enriched by the arguments and conclusions in the book. The book has increased my understanding of the relationship between the ever-growing social media and politics in the country. This is very important for obvious reasons, some of which relate to the popularity and influence of the new media, particularly among the most active components of the population.

“While welcoming the book as a positive addition to the growing body of literature in the area, especially as it gives the Nigerian context, I am strongly recommending it as a worthy book for all students of communication studies, political science, and allied fields. Our political tacticians and gladiators and other scholars of the interface between society and information and communication technologies will find the text appropriate and generously useful in helping them to deeply understand the strategies and impact of social media in Nigerian politics.

“Definitely, the author’s effort is clearly manifested in the quality of the content in the book, its appropriate theoretical grounding, and sound conclusions that are reliably valid in the Nigerian context.,”  Prof. Pate said.

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