ENHANCING FASTER ELECTORAL INFORMATION DISSEMINATION IN NIGERIA THROUGH DIRECT-INFO BY INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Remi Kehinde Alao, University of Phoenix
Adero Allison, University of Phoenix; Chizoba Madueke, University of Phoenix; and Udoh
Maduemezie, University of Lagos
Presently, the major means of reaching the masses for election purposes is through a structured political campaign. The language used in communicating to the electorate is a key component of campaign strategy—which can be likened to gaming strategies. This study assessed the relationship between applying direct mail to improve Nigeria’s voters’ knowledge, awareness, trust and unbiased mind-sets. The study showed that to make Nigeria’s elections free of distrust, the application of SMS, E-mail, direct information and surface posts as components of direct mail is essential. This was verified by applying parametric and non-parametric tools of analysis. Series of sampling were done randomly before and after a pilot test election. It was discovered that “The closer the campaign to the grass-root, the nearer the candidate to the people and the closer the wining team to the interests of the masses.” Although the result of this investigation suggests that it is crucial that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission embrace direct-mail to enhance information flow and improve voter’s knowledge during elections in Nigeria, more research must be done to ascertain the negative effect of impersonators and political rivals who may use the channel to confuse voters and create chaos.
ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND MODERN INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
In our modern society, rarely does an election occur without campaign, whether grass- roots or delegate based. In either case, information is disseminated to enable the electorate make informed choices. Typically, the closer the campaign to the people at the grass roots level, the closer the candidate appears to be to them, and perceivably the closer the victor to the issues voters care about most. Historically, lobby groups and political parties have been inherent to the phenomenon of political campaigns. Yet, the goal still remains in today’s elections to link the campaign message to the needs of the people. And, reaching the people through an acceptable, low-cost and easy to manage system continues to be a paramount issue. Further, the message must not violate the cardinal rule of being clear and precisely target to voters’ interests. Thus, managing communication is essential to the success of a political campaign.
Nigeria electoral commission is working continuously to clean up voter registration and always update voter’s database prior to each election, nevertheless, holding a credible poll without local or wide-spread conflict is not always easy. Nigeria's most recent and the nation’s cleanest presidential poll was in 2015. Previous elections had been wrought with stolen ballot boxes, voter intimidation and contrived results. Arguably Nigeria’s presidential election of June 1993 was acclaimed the best election in Nigerian history largely due to the structured campaign language, namely “Hope ‘93”, that encompassed the people’s interests without ethnic or chauvinistic overtones. This controlled communication of hope offered a clear and simple message to the electorates that they were able to embrace easily. The language used in communicating to the electorate is a key component of campaign strategy.
In political campaign, certain campaign strategy is akin to gaming theory where the players are often given tasks such as thwarting the efforts of the villains. On the other hand, a detective campaign in the game focuses on the mystery that needs to be solved as the details and complexities of the game unfold. Such mysteries or complexities may include crimes or mystery of paranormal. Variations of these campaign strategies can be implemented by the players and exposed by providing a descriptive prefix to the word campaign to denote characterization. Based on gaming parameters, civilized campaign is often characterized by rules.
Some democratic elections move forward sans political campaigning, these ruling it out as potentially compromising the democratic character of the elections - perhaps due to campaigns’ vulnerability to financial influence and special interest groups. The principle campaign style and method of getting messages to the public is what matters most. Processing this information could be by direct mail—including the application of Short Message Services (SMS), E-mail, Face Book, Twitter, and other social networks. Every election candidate must clearly describe how the masses will be educated through the direct mail process. This forms E- information networking in elections. Regardless of the campaign strategy, whether through E- information networking or through traditional speeches, the electorate must be reached to enlighten them on their votes and rights.
Traditional campaign speeches bear significant leverage as emotional triggers. Typically, in American politics, environmental issues, taxes, jobs and good governance press the emotional buttons of voters. Yet, worldwide, candidates often use their words adroitly in their speeches to hide truths, to defend seemingly indefensible situations or to remain vague on certain topics. Regardless of the campaign strategy employed, the major focus of this work is to identify the effect of direct mail on information processing during elections.
Role-Playing Games and Elections
In role-playing games, a campaign is a continuous storyline or a set of adventures typically involving characters whose main purpose is to introduce a further aspect of the game. Some of these aspects could foster development, growth improvement or degeneration of the characters. In a campaign, a single session becomes a scene or an act within an overall story arc. At its inception, a campaign may or may not have a defined conclusion. A campaign by definition spans more than one session of play. Certain aspects of the game are nearly always constant throughout a campaign. These include the setting, the players and the game-master. The game-master is said to run the campaign. Elections and campaigns generally serve the same purpose. Without an election, there is typically no campaign. Similarly, without a campaign, the result is typically a low voter turnout or compromised election, (Wikipedia, 2016).
Most important to a campaign strategy is that it stays on message. The campaign message is the core concept a politician wants to convey to voters. It is the idea a politician wants voters to think of when they hear of his or her candidacy. After the campaign team does its research, planning and developing the campaign message, each communication with voters must revolve around that message. Regardless of the mechanism used by the campaign to speak to voters, the candidate must seize each opportunity to succinctly drive his or her message home. This strategy of staying on message requires detailed planning and is an important tool used by political candidates to sway the opinions of voters.
Some political pundits opine that voters have short memories, thus, calling for the candidate’s issues and communications revolve closely around the campaign’s primary message. Of course, one of the best ways to get the voters to remember a candidate’s message is to devise a political slogan that can sum up the message in a short phrase. Political observers in Nigeria note that political campaign speeches there often focus more on marketing the candidate and directing attacks on opponents than on positive issues of national interest. This phenomenon can be attributed to such factors as voters’ level of education, political literacy, content and structure of marketing messages among others.
Researchers of Nigeria political campaigns have listed campaign marketing messages into three categories, Opeibi, T. (2005), (Olujide, J.O., Adeyemi, S.L., and Gbadeya, R.A., 2010). The first is the positive marketing message, focusing on the merits of the candidate. The second is the contrasting marketing message, which, along with highlighting the candidate’s strong points, also discredits opponents. Finally, the negative marketing message sets out to attack opponents in full force. Another view of the aesthetic use of language in campaign speeches is based on a stylistic analysis of the language used in political campaigns in Nigeria. Here, researchers posit that Nigerians consider politics an exercise associated with lies, deceit and propaganda. It is observed that political campaign language is characterized by propaganda through attack, exaggeration, vagueness and diatribes. Furthermore, rhetoric in the form of promises, religious allusions, repetition, figurative expressions and coinage are also observed as essential components characteristic of the campaign language in the country known as the giant of Africa.
Whether analysing a campaign’s marketing message or a stylistic approach, what matters in a political campaign is the power of words. Along with Firth’s echoes of 1937 (Van den Bouwhuijsen, 1995), and Austin’s Speech Act theory of 1962 (Oishi E., 2006), two pioneer works that recognize the power of words, contemporary scholars have pushed the argument further, asserting that statements and utterances are purposeful and not arbitrary. Thus, the role of language in disseminating political information is immensurable and renders the deployment of linguistic facilities in campaigns as the initial determiner of a candidate’s acceptability. A message that is too narrow can alienate voters or force the candidate into spending time explaining details.
A campaign team, which may be as small as one inspired individual or as large as a heavily-resourced group of professionals, decides what the campaign message will be what the campaign will do to recruit volunteers, how it will raise money and how the campaign message is to be communicated. Available avenue for spreading political campaign messages are limited by factors that include election rules and regulations, resources availability, and the imagination of the campaigns' marketing team. In modern campaign, Internet technologies are used for cause- related fundraising, lobbying, volunteering, community-building and organizing. Individual political candidates are also using the Internet to promote their election campaigns. The United States presidential elections of 2012 showcased the importance of the Internet by utilizing various forms of social media and new media—including Facebook, YouTube and a custom generated social engine—to reach new target populations. These strategies offered a low cost approach to mobilizing voters and increasing participation among diverse voters. This new media was especially successful in reaching young voters while helping all populations organize and promote action.
Proliferation of mobile phones also provides another effective approach to advertising and promoting campaign messages. With features comparable with the Internet, mobile phone information dissemination enables politicians to reach voters in a fraction of a second. Further, use of mobile phones in disseminating political messages allows the sender to reach the receiver wherever he or she may be and on a 24 hour a day basis. On the other hand, in less affluent societies, Internet political campaigning leaves out entire portions of the population, namely those without computers or mobile phones. And even during the U.S. presidential campaign in 2012, older generations—those who do not use the Internet or social media—were left out because they don’t use this new media.
A key promise of new media is the democratization of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content. Therefore, this study focuses on the use of new media by political parties in Nigeria for political campaigns. One of the definitions of political advertising is that, it is any communication that is paid for and directed to a target audience through radio, television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet with the aim of creating awareness about a candidate. Thus, advertising has to do with informing the people about the existence of something, so as to draw attention to it. Modern politics is incomplete without political advertising. Political advertising encompasses all forms of advertising pertaining to building support for any political campaign. No political campaign will be complete without putting the power of social media, political email advertising and search engine marketing to work.
A properly prepared message posted to social networks can go viral in a matter of minutes, bringing tens of thousands of people to a candidate’s website and ultimately to his or her campaign message. Political email advertising can essentially do the same. Interactive media, such as the Internet and social networking, allows politicians to gain insight about the needs, concerns and reactions of the masses regarding their platforms. Interactive media may also be employed in the form of polls and surveys as a means of determining the popularity of a politician among the masses. Thus, new media is not only concerned with the production and distribution of messages, but mainly concerned with the processing, exchange and storage of messages. Further, new media is not typically regulated to the same degree as mass media, making messaging less rigid and allowing for globalization of the candidate’s platform.
The collection of data involved a questionnaire by random sampling through field. The questionnaire was distributed bearing in mind that the minimum age requirement to be part of the electoral process in Nigeria is 18 years. The questionnaire was distributed to 300 participants and 285 (95%) were returned and collated. The process of sampling involved a pilot/conditioning election which involved test messages sent to electorates numbering over 320. This was done severally before the test election. Analysis was done using dependent theory which involved cross tabulation. The study involved analytical tests of Variance (ANOVA) measured at 95% level of confidence, Correlations (Pearson and Spearman’s) measured at 95% level of confidence and Multiple Regression(R) measured at 99% level of confidence. Parametric and Non parametric were applied to place emphasis on each variable.
The objective of the study fundamentally is to verify the usefulness of direct mail to process election information. The direct mail components involved are Direct Information, Direct E-mail, Direct Short Message Services (SMS) and Surface Post. The major test hypothesis is to verify the use of direct mail components to solve the problems of information dissemination during election campaigns. In verifying these hypotheses ANOVA and Multiple Regression(R) were adopted based on their results and, the principle of generalization was applied for application. The major tenets of this analysis are based on test results which involved dependent variables and respective predictors of direct mail. This applied the use of Direct Information, E- mail, SMS and Surface Post. This was imposed to verify the influence of direct mail components on trust in electoral process, unbiased sources of information, level of electoral awareness and level of knowledge.
Statistics Of Respondents’ Level Of Electoral Knowledge As Influenced By Direct Mail.
|Predictors||LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE|
|Pearson’s Moment||Pearson’s CoD||Spearman’s Ranked CC||(%) Spearman’s C of D||Multiple Regression||(F) ANOVA|
From table 1 above, the test was done at 95% level of confidence for both correlation and ANOVA and 99% level of confidence for the multiple regressions. In respect of direct information, there is a positive correlation with the value of 0.183 by Pearson’s Moment correlation coefficients and 0.168 by Spearman’s Ranked correlation. Both measurements have 3.4% and 2.8% coefficient of determination respectively, which are seen to be very weak. As can be seen in the table, Direct E-mail also has weak positive correlation which measures 0.125 for Pearson`s and 0.163 for Spearman’s Rank correlation. These make up a coefficient of determination of 1.6% and 2.7%, respectively. Also, the introduction of direct SMS for election education is positively correlated since at Pearson’s Moment Correlation, it reads 0.066 and at Spearman’s’ Ranked correlation, it reads 0.058 which is also low. On their coefficient of determination for fitness, Pearson’s measured 0.4% and Spearman’s measured 0.3% thus, showing their level of weakness. On the effect of surface post for election education, Pearson’s Moment Correlation measured 0.113 and Spearman’s Ranked correlation, measured 0.100 and both of them, have a coefficient of determination of 1.3% and 1.0%, respectively.
On a general note, the results indicate that they are all positively correlated. Results of the regression analysis carried out at 99% level of confidence, indicate a value 0.194, which is closer to the values of correlation (Spearman`s and Pearson`s). The result indicates a significant association between voters’ electoral knowledge and direct mail, because the closer the regression value to the two correlation values, the more evident is the relationship between the predictors. On the measurement of the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) measured at 95% level of confidence, it is clear the at 4 Degree of freedom, the value of the Fisher’s (F) statistics, is 1.52 which is less than the calculated value of 2.73. Thus, we agree that there is a direct relationship between direct mail and education of the respondents through the stated means. Hence at this level of application, there is a weak correlation because; both the correlation and regression are weak.
Test Statistics Of Respondents’ Level Of Electoral Awareness As Influenced By The Direct Mail.
|Predictors||LEVEL OF ELECTORAL AWARENESS|
|Pearson’s MCC||Pearson’s CoD||Spearman’s Ranked CC||Spearman CoD||Multiple Regression||(F) ANOVA|
Table 2 shows the relationship between electoral awareness by the respondents and the effect of direct mail. From the table, the direct influence of direct information, measured by Pearson moment and Spearman’s Rank correlations, are all positive but with a weak relationship. According to all the correlation coefficients, Pearson’s moment Correlation measured 0.283 while Spearman’ Rank measured 0.278, and their coefficients of determination are 8.01% and 7.73% respectively thus, not showing a strong effect on awareness. By the content of Direct E- mail predictor, Pearson’s Correlation coefficient measured 0.274 and Spearman’s value is 0.281. When measured at 95% level of confidence, the relationship is positive but weak. In analysing the strength of direct SMS, the Pearson’s correlation value measured 0.208 while Spearman’s Rank value is 0.204, indicating a positive and direct relationship although without a strong effect. Their correlation coefficient of determination is 4.33% and 4.16% respectively at both Pearson’s Moment and Spearman’s Rank correlation.
For the surface post, the Pearson’s moment correlation has a coefficient of 0.178 while the Spearman’s Rank correlation, has 0.181 and both having a coefficient of determination of 3.17% and 3.28% respectively, both also show a positive correlation. This also indicates that awareness level is also dependent to some extend on the influence of direct mail and its components. When the level of regression of the components of direct mail on the awareness of the electorates was measured at 99%, it indicates a value 0.321 which is also close to the correlation coefficients. The ANOVA coefficient is also high at 8.039 measured at 95% level of confidence and at 4 degree of freedom. This implies that it is above the value at Fisher’s table which is 1.5. Therefore, the alternative proposition that there is a direct relationship between direct mail and the level of awareness of the electorates on election matters holds.
Test Statistics Of Respondents’ Choice Of Candidate As Influenced Direct Mail
|Predictors||IMPROVED TRUST IN ELECTORAL PROCESS|
|Pearson MCC||Pearson CoD||Spearman’s Ranked CC||Spearman’s CoD||(R) Multiple Regression||(F) ANOVA|
Table 3 shows the statistical relationship between direct mail and improvement in respondents’ trust in electoral processes. By the provisions of the correlations (Pearson Moment and Spearman), it is obvious that there is a positive and strong relationship since the values of the correlated predictors tends towards the regressed value. On the relationship of direct information with trust improvement, there is a fair relationship since at 95% level of confidence, the values of both Pearson’s and Spearman’s correlation are 0.339 and 0.351 respectively. This measured their coefficient of determination to be 11.49% and 12.32% respectively thus, being below 30. On the effect of direct E-mail on improvement on electorates trust in election process, there is also a direct relationship since the values measured at 95% level of confidence are positive. Pearson measured the value at 0.442 and Spearman’s Rank was 0.458, which amounted to 19.54% and 20.98% respectively on their level of coefficient of determination. The relationship of direct SMS is also positive since all the correlation results are positive.
Pearson measured the correlation effect as 0.436 and Spearman measured it to be 0.426 with their coefficient of determination being 19.01% and 18.15% respectively. Surface post also has a positive and direct relationship with trust in electoral process. Based on the outcome, Pearson’s Moment correlation measured 0.442 while that of Spearman rank correlation measured 0.454 thus; showing strong relationship between the two predictors. The basis of all correlation coefficient is measured at 95% level of confidence. The resultant function of correlation and regression is that the closer the correlation value is to regression value, the better the relationship. Thus, the multiple regression of the components of direct mail at 99% level of confidence is 0.488 which is also strong and positively indicating a push up of the functions. At the ANOVA measured at 95% level of confidence and 5% level of significance, it reveals a strong value 21.840 as a calculated value at 4 degree of freedom which is above the value at Fishers table which is at 1.52. Thus, since the value calculated is above value at table, there is prove that there is a strong direct relationship between the effects of direct mail and respondents trust in election result.
Test Statistics Of Respondents’ Choice Of Information From Organizer As Unbiased Source As Determined By Direct Mail
|Predictors||Unbiased source of electoral information from the Organizer|
|Pearson MCC||Pearson CoD||Spearman’s Ranked CC||Spearman’s CoD||Multiple Regression||(F) ANOVA|
From Table 4 above, there is a measurement of the relationship between direct mail components and the effect on the source of information from organizer during election as being unbiased. From the table of measurement, every correlation is measured at 95% level of confidence and 5% level of significance. On the effect of direct information, there is a Pearson`s Moment correlation of 0.296. Its coefficient of determination is 8.76%, which is not strong. Therefore, there is a positive correlation of direct information albeit a weak relationship. Also, Spearman’s Ranked correlation at 0.95 level of confidence, reads 0.326, with a determinant factor of 10.63%, implying a positive correlation as well, but at a fair level. The effect of direct E-mail based on Pearson `s correlation and coefficient of determination are 0.336 and 14.29% respectively, implying a strong effect on electoral information among others. Direct SMS measured at the same level of confidence shows Pearson’s Moment Correlation as 0.281 and Spearman’s Rank as 2.83 showing a positive relationship but, without a strong effect. Their coefficient of determination is less than 10% which measured 7.9% and 8.01% respectively.
Thus, it has a fair determinant factor within the possible outcome. Surface post measured at 95% level of confidence shows that Pearson’s Moment Correlation is 0.349 and Spearman’s Rank correlation is 0.397. This also shows positive relationship with a strong percentage coefficient of determination of 12.18% and 15.76% effect on election information among others. The results exhibited so far, shows that there is a direct and positive correlation since the regression is also within the range of 0.378 measured at 99% level of confidence and at 1% level of significance. There is therefore, a fairly strong relationship between the components of direct mail and electorates trust in information from the organizer. This is also proved by the ANOVA which is measured at 95% level of confidence and at 4 degree of freedom. Thus, there is a positive relationship between direct mail and the respondents accepting information from the organizer as unbiased.
The flow of direct mail through various means can be traced from the improvement in technology. Today, most people are more concerned with the development of more suitable and reliable information technology that will minimize the dichotomy in information dissemination. Thus, political practitioners, from the indices of information management systems have also developed a means of getting across information to the public without stress via the use of direct mail systems. This includes direct information system, Short Message Service (SMS), E-mail and surface post (Bill board). The combination of these four forces in elections has proved to be trustworthy, especially via SMS denotations, which was highly applied in the U.S. presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Most people were informed beyond their imagination, turnout was improved, trust in the process was restored and other electoral inconveniences were reduced drastically.
Direct information is a primary practiced pattern in Nigeria followed by the use of surface posts. The use of posters for election campaigns have resulted in defacing public places and the environment in Nigeria. This caused Raji Fashola, the former Governor of Lagos State, to ban the placement of posters on walls within Lagos metropolis during the last election. This embargo has limited the use of surface posts in elections and is spreading to other states in Nigeria. Thus, campaigning with surface posts is on the verge of extinction—fostering a need for diversification into other direct means of information dissemination to boost election knowledge, awareness and trust in Nigeria’s election process. Clearly, there is a need to counterbalance the declining surface post system with technology influenced information dissemination system (E- mail and SMS).
There is enough evidence to show that the application of direct mail will improve electoral knowledge in Nigeria. And, there is a direct relationship between election awareness by applying the components of direct information, E-mail, SMS and surface posts. The election of Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was based on selected SMS alert system, which was very limited in operation. By using SMS, most people became aware of the upcoming election, thereby improving voter participation.
What has fundamentally affected Nigeria’s electoral process is lack of knowledge. Most people are not aware of the person they are voting for, often vote for the wrong person and suffer the consequences because they were not fully informed about the candidates and issues at hand. Most of the votes in Nigeria are based on tribal concepts or sentiments and not on quality of the candidates. Most areas also cannot be reached during a traditional campaign, rendering voting in most rural areas based on hearsay or rumour. Knowledge of electoral principles and ethics is low in Nigeria. Direct mail offers a common, simple process that can be adopted to educate citizens about elections and make them part of the system. The application of direct mail will enhance knowledge in the same way noted that the components have direct relationship with knowledge.
Election awareness is relatively important to the success of election. Electoral processes in Nigeria have been conducted severally without actually considering the level of awareness required. On the full awareness tendency, it is a major role of the electoral body and candidates to appreciate the use of direct mail components to promote awareness. Because most people use mobile phones, the application of SMS alerts concerning elections will be highly appreciated. Typically, surface posters and direct information have been used to disseminate information across to the public. Because SMS and other components apply a direct relationship to the effect of awareness, it will likely produce a positive impact on the promotion of political awareness among the electorates. Thus, there is a role playing game in the system.
Lack of trust is the key problem in Nigeria’s electoral system. Electorates typically anticipate a manipulation of the result following an election there. And because this anticipated result is produced, distrust continues to rise. This has been the bane of electoral structure in Nigeria since the colonial era. For Nigeria to enhance trust in elections, it must validate the application of direct mail systems, especially the use of E-mail and SMS alerts to disseminate information before and after elections.
Information about election times, availability of materials, voting booths and other relevant information can be forwarded to the electorates at intervals before the deadline. Also, election results and updates—especially at the local levels—must be communicated to the electorates. This will reduce the level of election rigging and increase trust in the upcoming 2015 elections. Barack Obama’s “Change” campaign was carried to grass roots voters through SMS alerts, thus eliminating the bias of digital information being offered exclusively to electorates of higher classes. In political campaigns, if the grass roots participants are not included, there will be no complete campaign and a biased-mind election will result. Use of direct mail is very important in correcting this problem as removal of biased mind elections and direct mail has a positive relationship.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Finally, an electoral process is positive if the campaign processes and information flow are considered to be positive. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should reassess its mode of disseminating electoral information and communication management, especially the adoption of direct mail method to reach the electorates. Reaching the electorates directly via a combination of direct mail elements will be the starting point for improving voters’ awareness, knowledge, trust and removal of electoral bias. Elections cannot be meaningful to people at the grass roots level if their interests are not directly addressed. A level playing ground must be created for all segments of the electorates to ensure equal participation in the process. Although the result of this investigation indicates positive responses from all the elements of direct mail—including direct email, direct SMS, and direct surface posts—further investigation is needed to determine the contributions of illiteracy to the efficacy of each of these elements. Despite the fact that illiteracy levels in Nigeria are still very high, each home in Nigeria typically has someone who is able to read and understand email and SMS. Further investigation is also needed to determine the effect of poor and imbalanced deployment of electoral campaign infrastructure on and accessibility of the electoral services to the electorates and by extension the credibility of the whole exercise.
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