The 2023 Nigerian elections saw media agenda setting heavily influencing the opinions of young people. Media agenda setting is when news sources shape public opinion by focusing on specific topics.
It can impact which issues people think are important and even affect election results.
The public often relies on the media for information, so if a source is biased, their audience may adopt that bias as well.
In the 2023 elections, social media was a driving force and led to the creation of the “Obidient” movement. This began when Peter Obi, a popular candidate among the youth, was prevented from winning the People Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. Obi’s young supporters, calling themselves “Obidients,” rallied around him as he ran under the Labor Party.
Peter Obi’s relatable speeches and reputation for frugality and accountability attracted young people. He also impressed them with his ability to recall statistics quickly. Compared to past Nigerian presidents who struggled to connect with the electorates, Obi represented a refreshing change, making the Obidient movement understandable.
As the Obidient movement gained momentum, Peter Obi’s campaign made effective use of social media platforms to engage Nigerian youths.
They shared relatable content, focusing on issues important to them, such as unemployment, education, and corruption. By addressing these concerns, Obi’s campaign successfully positioned him as a candidate genuinely invested in the future of Nigeria and its young population.
Obi’s popularity among young Nigerians, however, caught the attention of mainstream media, which started scrutinizing his campaign and personal history.
As the media began to focus more on his alleged shortcomings and controversies, they shifted the public’s attention away from his policy proposals. This phenomenon is another example of media agenda setting, where news sources can influence public opinion by choosing which aspects of a candidate’s background to emphasize.
Despite facing challenges from the mainstream media, the Obidient movement continued to grow, largely due to its strong presence on social media.
This demonstrated the power of new media in shaping political narratives, as young Nigerians were able to bypass traditional media outlets and access information directly from the source.
In the end, the 2023 Nigerian elections served as a testament to the influence of media agenda setting on public opinion and political outcomes. It highlighted the role that both traditional and new media play in shaping the political landscape and the way people perceive candidates.
While Peter Obi’s campaign faced challenges, the Obidient movement’s ability to connect with young people through social media revealed the potential for new media to challenge established narratives and empower the youth in future elections.
The Obi phenomenon and Trumpism share similarities in their utilization of social media to connect with supporters and bypass traditional media outlets. Both movements gained momentum by resonating with a particular group of people who felt underrepresented or disconnected from mainstream politics. However, the two movements differ in their political ideologies and the issues they focus on. While the Obi phenomenon centered on youth empowerment, economic development, and accountability in Nigeria, Trumpism focused on nationalism, immigration, and economic protectionism in the United States.
In recent years, political campaigns have come to rely on new media tools—particularly social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter—to engage voters and shape the narratives of electoral processes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a prime example of this trend.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed in 2018, when it was discovered that the company had used personal data from Facebook users to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
Since then, political campaigns have been increasingly scrutinized for their use of digital technology to manipulate public opinion.
One notable difference between the Obi phenomenon and Cambridge Analytica’s activities is that Obi relied on social media as a legitimate means of connecting with Nigerian youths during his presidential campaign, although some will argue he capitalized on the emotions of the masses while Cambridge Analytica used unethical practices such as harvesting personal data without consent in order to manipulate public opinion.
The media can influence public opinion by shaping its agenda. Some people believe that the media’s power to set this agenda is too much, and that it does not reflect the whole truth about political issues.
It could even be argued that the media helps politicians’ control what issues matter to the public, or helps them avoid certain topics so they don’t lose support from their base. What’s more, the media can make something important seem unimportant when it decides not to cover it.
The media plays a large role in every society and culture. They are major sources of information, shaping the opinions of their audiences. It is easier to influence people when they are not actively thinking about something.
With banner ads, rich media and content aggregation being used to attract readers instead, clickbait etc., this phenomenon is more widely spread than ever before.
This could be problematic for the future of our democracy because it gives those with the most money an advantage in elections.
As technology becomes increasingly intertwined with government, there will always be those who wish to create public support for their actions through carefully constructed media agendas.
Meet the Writer:
Tofunmi Akinseye serves as the CEO and Publisher of Savvy Media Africa. She has copywriting and communications experience from her years in the digital marketing department at MTN Nigeria. With her PR company only established about a year ago, Tofunmi has already started working with notable brands, including Filmhouse Cinemas where she led a successful campaign of the West African Premiere of Black Panther Panther. Since graduating from the University of Ibadan, Tofunmi has worked towards creating opportunities for young people to succeed in life. She has and continues to do this through the Savvy Media Edtech Initiative, which has trained over 500 youths, equipping them with skills needed to thrive in the digital age, and partnering with Google, Facebook, StartWebAfrica, amongst others. Her magazine has been graced by notable personalities such as Kunle Afolayan, Niniola, Seyi Shay, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, Annie Idibia, Mike Edwards,Maria Chike Benjamin, Broda Shaggi, Ms Dsf, Kiddwaya and more. Tofunmi’s unwavering belief is that every individual has potential that will manifest if well invested in.