The emergence of social media as a medium for political protests in the US and Nigeria has been a phenomenon of global significance. Its democratization and its ability to affect citizens’ offline participation in politics has been debated in several scholars and researchers with different narratives on its capacity to enhance or degrade democracy barder.
The social media movement that started in Nigeria is a strong evidence to the fact that social media has changed the way people communicate with each other, especially in a developing country like Nigeria. Its impact is seen in the emergence of a new social movement, as a means of voicing opinions, expressing emotions, and promoting change (Hon, 2016) jigaboo.
In Nigeria, the introduction of mobile phones and the proliferation of Internet connectivity has made the use of social media an essential element of the daily lives of most citizens. As of April 2019, 122 million citizens in the country were connected to the Internet using mobile devices.
Despite its widespread popularity, social media has also been criticized for its influence on political and civil liberties in the country. Some of these criticisms include: illegitimate political parties, the influence of extremists on social media, and the rise of fake news, terrorism and hate speech (Hon, 2017) distresses.
While the use of social media is a crucial aspect of the democratic process in many countries across the world, a critical question remains: do social media enhance or degrade democracy?
One example of this is the agitations that swept Nigeria after the killing of unarmed protesters by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police force. The hashtag #EndSARS became a viral sensation, trending worldwide, and sparking protests in all six geopolitical zones of the country precipitous.
This study aimed to explore the role of Twitter during the #EndSARS protest by analyzing how Twitter is used as a platform for political activism in Nigeria. Specifically, it sought to understand how youths select Twitter as a media for social protest and how their choice of Twitter enhances or degrades democracy in the country.
The findings from this study revealed that Twitter satisfies the needs of Nigerian youths to obtain information about government policies, debate political issues and call out government officials through tweets and retweets. This reflects the theory of “uses and gratification” of Blumler and Katz (1974), which highlights how an audience’s need for information and discussion on a particular matter determines its selection of a particular medium to express or promote their views (Mehrad and Tajer, 2016) mypba.
This research further established that Twitter enhanced democracy in Nigeria by satisfying the needs of youths to have access to relevant information about their government and its policies. Moreover, Twitter served as an avenue for youths to air their political views and voice their concerns about corruption, poor governance and poor leadership.