Political engagement and the electoral process are major parameters used in measuring the progress of democracy in a democratic state. Apathy means indifference. Political apathy is the indifference or lack of interest of an individual in participating in political activities. It mostly occurs as a result of the disappointment of the citizenry in the government, and it is common among the masses and minority groups. Issues like corruption, poverty, insecurities, bad governance, and unemployment are the major reasons for political apathy. People are pained about the situation of the country that the most popular slogan in the country at the moment is ‘country hard.’ If no improvement is made, the term ‘country hard’ could be the regular greeting among people. Insecurity has been one of the serious issues confronting the nation at the moment with killings and kidnappings at the highest order. Making promises and not fulfilling it has been the habits of politicians and bad governance has been the complaints of people over time. Consequently, these have made people frustrated up to the point that they feel political affairs are not worth the energy.
Political apathy, thus, is a threat to franchise and democracy. The advent of social media has reinforced political participation to a great extent that you seldom see people at newspaper stands discussing political matters since they can have such discussions in the comfort of their homes or offices. Social media is a virtual space where people often spend much time socialising. It is a platform where people discuss matters like art, fashion, trends, gossip, and politics. It is important to discuss the significance of social media on political apathy among Nigerians.
Social media platforms have helped to sustain people’s interest in a number of ways. For instance, Facebook and Twitter are major social media platforms where people discuss politics and other trending news; These platforms have helped to arouse the interest of the populace, most especially the youth and adults in political matters, and comments are passed on to the government. Social media has helped people to get out of ignorance and debunk sayings like “the politicians know who will emerge.” To some extent, social media has helped people to believe in the power of their votes and the need for permanent voter cards in changing the country’s situation when the opportunity to do so emerges. There are instances whereby some people say their religion does not support voting and get their voter cards but they never for once voted but have been condemning and complaining about the situation of things. There are households that do not vote because they do not feel it is right to vote. I have often come across youths who say it confidently that they solely got their voter cards because they needed a standard identity card for other needs. Social media has helped to liberate the minds of such people and children of such households on the need to exercise their right to vote and be voted for as a result of intelligent discussions raised on these platforms.
Nevertheless, social media is also a platform where fake news and hate speeches are promoted. People disseminate fake news with unreliable sources; trail people with contrary opinions to theirs, which lead to rancour on the social media space. Voter apathy has been on the increase. For instance, in the 2019 general elections, 35 per cent of the registered voters actually voted, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. People often discuss political matters on social media but seldom go to cast their votes during elections. Social media platforms usually are where people only prove theories or points but do other things on the day of election. These are the people who go out to make comments on election results when they never voted. Social media has helped curb other aspects of political apathy but not voter apathy.
Action, they say, speaks louder than words. Voting is the legitimate right of every citizen and without it, political participation isn’t complete. A citizen who votes is an ideal citizen.