Dr Mustapha Muhammed Jamiu is an Assistant Professor of Communication, Media, and journalism courses at the Department of Mass Communication, RUDN University of Russia where he also coordinates the Center for Information Pollution. Mustapha is also the Executive Director of The Center for Research on Development of African Media, Governance and Society, CEREDEMS-Africa where he is leading a research project on monitoring the ongoing 2023 Nigerian Presidential election campaign. Dr Mustapha is a member of the International Association for Media and Communication Research-IAMCR, and UNESCO Media and Information Literary Alliance. His research interests are in Information Pollution and African Elections, Media Literacy and Development Communication.
Marketing in politics has come to stay and it has been a tool for political campaigns and governments for a while now. To win the election, project the government’s works, and appeal to voters for reelection. This has proved to be successful in many parts of the world, at least in most Western worlds. While the usage for political campaigns may be working in Nigeria’s political system, it is hard to prove the usage for government’s work and reelection like some Western worlds, though it seems to more effective with the opposition for appealing to the voters for evaluation than the governments in power.
This week I look at 5 predictive models of voters’ behaviour by Newman in political marketing through the evaluation of the candidates of the leading political parties (PDP, APC, and LP) in the 2023 Nigerian presidential elections in shaping the voter’s behaviour.
The ongoing political campaign has revealed different types of political marketing strategies the presidential candidates are using. At least, the first two months of the ongoing campaign monitoring project of CEREDEMS-Africa/PAN proved that some of these tactics exist and play key roles. The project identified that the political actors deployed the usage of acclaims (represent the promotion of candidate leadership and competence as well as projects that were executed while the party of the candidate governed the country) with 64.55% usage, attacks (denigration of candidates’ personalities, leadership qualities and/or competencies to lead the country) 23.86%, and defences (refuting denigration of candidates and political parties as well as responding to poor leadership or projects of the candidates’ political parties) 11.59% of 4321 data as the key strategies.
In the words of Newman on political marketing, when candidates are employing strategies such as these, they are playing predictive game with the intention of shaping voters positively and negatively. The use of attacks would largely deliver negative outcomes for the targets and positive results for the users if the voters evaluated the messages and believed that truly the targets had committed offences stated in the messages. Defences and acclaims are strategies that could rectify negative outcomes of attacks if the targets employ them well. Let us examine how Newman’s 5 predictive elements of voter behaviour have been used by the candidates and their political parties since September 28, 2022, that campaign activities have started.
1. Political Issue: This represents the policy and/or programme a candidate advocates and promises to enact if elected to office. Among the three leading political parties in the race, the APC candidate turned in the manifesto from the beginning of the campaign kick-off while the PDP and LP candidates turned theirs in after two months. The danger of delaying such documents for the public is that the voters won’t have enough to ponder on regarding key issues to be addressed by a particular candidate to make a necessary or good choice. More so, the recent report of CEREDEMS-Africa/PAN in the first two months of the campaign, revealed that the issues-based is missing hugely.
2. Social Imagery: This represents the use of stereotypes to appeal to voters by making association between the candidate and selected segments of society. This component captures the influence of the role of party affiliation and other important social networks that shape voter behaviour. While professional bodies like the Nigerian Bars Association NBA and Association of Accountants, among others are trying their best to stay neutral or at least not to be associated with any candidate in public, the candidates are trying their best to be identified with them. The controversial issue at the beginning of the campaign was a typical example where political candidates attended and questioned the absence of the APC candidate who was represented by his running mate. This shows the importance of affiliation with social groups. Another key social group of influence are currently clear as to which particular candidate they are in support of even with their regional connection with each of the three leading candidates. The likes of Afenifere group (from the region of APC candidate), Arewa (PDP candidate) and Ohanaeze Ndigbo (LP candidate) are surrounded with controversy as to who they are in support of which make the campaign atmosphere fill up with more surprises.
3. Candidate personality: This captures the importance of a candidate’s personality in helping to reinforce and manufacture an image in the voter’s mind. A clear case study of this is currently in place with the ongoing campaign. While the ruling party (APC) candidate, Senator Bola Ahamed Tinubu is singing the song of it is my turn (Emilokan) and using the success of his past delivery as a yardstick, he, however, has to defend against attacks from the opposition on metric of delivery on the campaign promises of his party. Likewise, the major opposition political party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who is in the race for the fourth time is positioning (acclaim) himself as the right candidate base on his philanthropic works and his former position as the Vice President of Nigeria for eight years. He is, however, defending the 18 years in power of his party. On the other hand, Mr Peter Obi, the Labour Party candidate, claims to be a representative of the youth, the legacy of his past as a former governor for 8 years, while he will have to defend the issues raised by his successors.
4. Situational contingency: This represents that dimension of voters’ thinking that could be affected by “hypothetical events” that are profiled in the course of a campaign. On this part, we’ve seen the case of the role played by the APC candidate through the speaker of the House of Representatives in the resumption of the federal universities after 9 months of strikes by ASSU to display his capacity to correct the inefficiencies of the ruling party. The candidates of PDP (the business, school, philanthropy, experience in ruling the country as a VP) and LP (business, professionalism as an economist) have equally demonstrated they have capacity to govern the country based on their socioeconomic and political antecedents.
5. Epistemic Value: This represents that dimension that appeals to a voter’s sense of curiosity or novelty in choosing a candidate. Unfortunately, it is hard to find this in the ongoing campaign among any of the candidates. While some provided their manifesto at the initial stage of campaign, others failed to, which should have help voters to get acquainted with programmes and actions for solving numerous socioeconomic and political problems. It is, however, important to know that there are no clear tactics of how their agendas are going to be implemented, achieved, and different from what we have experienced. This is not the time to be hiding tactics for solving problems.