Social Media Influencers, Religious Beliefs, Ethnicity: What Sways the Vote of the Average Nigerian?

Social Media Influencers, Religious Beliefs, Ethnicity: What Sways the Vote of the Average Nigerian?

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Its common knowledge that the internet has democratized the concept of celebrity. In today’s world, anyone can say anything on whatever platform they so desire, and this has given rise to some of the world’s most influential people.  

Social media influencers are the cool kids of the social media space. To use any 90-2000’s high school movie worth its weight in salt as an analogy, influencers are the popular kids and everybody else is well…everybody else. They set the trends, they go for all the best parties, hang out with the high and mighty and get all sorts of cool freebies. They lead charmed lives that make us green with envy and all that good stuff, but when it comes down to it, how much influence do these people really have in the scheme of things?

 As elections inch ever closer this question is very important. 

To provide an answer to my question, I’d say they do have the wherewithal to stir up the polity somewhat. They can decide to make divisive statements on their social media handles for example, this could cause people to engage in a war of words in the comment section. They could even go as far as endorsing a candidate and proceed to throw shade at people that don’t side with them. Yes, that sort of rabble rousing could definitely ruffle feathers, but as far as I’m concerned it won’t cause that much damage and this why I think so.  

First of all, the base that social media influencers appeal to, are the educated elite. These people have way more agency than a person living in abject poverty in a backwater community, in the north east for example. The opinions of the educated elite would not be as easily swayed as their uneducated counterparts. They are also less likely to vote, so they aren’t your typical politician’s target audience in the scheme of things. In my experience “Stomach infrastructure” isn’t likely to sway the average educated Nigerian, compared to their poorer less educated counterparts. 

Also, throughout Nigeria’s embattled history, there is a tried and tested duo that has never failed to deliver desired results to people who choose to employ them. Good old divisiveness along ethnic and religious lines, are part and parcel of our murky polity and it is amplified during election season. 

It gets scarier. There is a new kid on the block that has caused this infamous duo to morph into a winning trifecta, that third element is called fake news. Considering its far reaching effects in America’s 2016 presidential race, it is indeed one to fear. 

Ethnic bias, Religious strife and fake news, a truly deadly combination. 

In all of this madness, what then can we do to avoid playing into the hands of people who hope to profit from our country plummeting into anarchy?

The first tip would be to not allow ourselves to be swayed by so called religious and traditional leaders, who are for lack of a better phrase “stirring shit up” to make a quick buck at the behest of their patrons.

It would also be useful to get acquainted with the many ways we can spot fake news and allow our mobile devices be the place fake news comes to be buried. Here are a few tips courtesy Facebook:

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the link. A phony or look-alike link may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the link. You can go to the site to compare the link to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

Credit: Tobi Akhanamoya

Author Bio

Tobi Akhanamoya is your typical millennial. She loves selfies, has an occasional penchant for punctuating with cuss words and wants to “change the world”.

She works as a corporate communications officer at MTN Nigeria by day and by night? Well….you’ll find her asleep on her comfy bed and fluffy pillow after a long hard day of stirring up controversy.

Instagram : @Osione_Akhanamoya 

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