Nseobong Okon-Ekong presents a new media, baseline research by communication outfit, Grand Plan, which rates the engagement of 2023 presidential hopefuls on social media_
Abuja-based new media communications outfit, Grand Plan may have set itself up for severe criticism with its recent report that projects President Muhammadu Buhari as the most engaging Nigerian leader on Facebook. This immediately sparked arguments. How can Buhari who is hardly visible be adjudged the most engaging Nigerian political personality on Facebook? The confirmation of the Buhari persona on Facebook is not necessarily about what the President can accomplish in person, rather it is about his office. The Office of the President of Nigeria is driven by multitalented resource persons paid to serve and make him look good in the eyes of right thinking members of the public. They go to any length to discharge their responsibility.

Of course, one of the best known presidential staff with this brief is Ms. Lauretta Onochie, whose duty it is to mind Mr. President’s image on Social Media. Incidentally, she thrives on controversies, the latest of which was her nomination as National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This set off a protest that shook federal legislators to their bones. Eventually, her nomination was rejected. Onochie and her team, have been adjudged excellent. To their credit, they have been able to rake in 966k followers on Facebook for Mr. President. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has 856k followers. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has 906k followers, while Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, former presidential candidate of Peoples Trust in the 2019 presidential election has 187k followers.

Since the race for who becomes Nigeria’s president in 2023 has begun in earnest, different stakeholders and individuals jostling for political advantage. Politicians across all divides and regions are engaging the populace on social media to sell their candidature. This is where Grand Plan has come in with a new monthly social media engagement report.

It must be emphasized the Grand Plan assessment is purely based on social media engagement. The communications outfit did not deploy mixed methods of social media studies conducted with established methods such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, or content analysis.

The research and new media communication outfit, which spoke through its Executive Director, Abdulrazaq Hamzat said that, the monthly social media engagement ratings will help keep tab on activities of political leaders in the country. It looks at what information must be considered and analyzed to establish a baseline or starting point, the benchmark against which future progress can be assessed or comparisons made; particularly on how the public engage the political leaders on issues raised by them on their Facebook Page.

Grand Plan seeks to provide information base against which to monitor and assess these political leaders’ activities on Facebook; particularly their progress and effectiveness when a new topic of discourse (or post) is made and after a new activity (topic of discourse/post) is generated.

Following ban on popular micro blogging platform, Twitter few months ago, Nigerian politicians have become more active on Facebook and most of them have made the platform their preferred medium of communication with the people.

Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world, with over 2.8 billion users. It is also by far, the most popular social media platform in Nigeria with over 65 percent control.

“While there are over 104 million internet users in Nigeria, only 33million of them are on social media with Facebook, having over 30 percent of the total internet users and more than 95 percent of social media users, with its over 31 million Facebook users in Nigeria, some of whom also use other social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapechat and Tiktok.

As 2023 general election in Nigeria approaches and the search for President Muhammed Buhari’s succesor tickens, a former presidential candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo Hashim has emerged most vocal and engaging political leader on cyberspace, discussing critical issues of statehood, economic development and national unity and proferring solutions on how to advance the country and keep it safe.

In the recent report released by Grand Plan, Olawepo-Hashim is only behind incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari who is finishing his second term in office in 2023.

The monthly social media rating of political engagements on Facebook platform showed that President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim are leading as the most engaging political leaders in the country.

The latest data by Grand Plan showed that, Mr. Olawepo-Hashim was behind President Buhari and ahead of all other political figures, including former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Chairman of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum, Kayode Fayemi and Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and others.

According to statistics by Grand Plan, President Muhammed Buhari maintained the top position with over 296,000+ engagement, followed by Olawepo Hashim with 98,000+ engagement.

Data released in the last week of July in Abuja by Grand Plan, shows that other political figures and presidential hopefuls such as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar recorded 53,000+ engagement, Dr. Bukola Saraki recorded 48,000+engagement.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, who has also indicated interest in the presidency recorded 37,000+ engagement and Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had only 6000+ engagement on the tech giant platform, Facebook.

Grand Plan maintained that, the data on each of the candidates’ were realistic because “Facebook represents the broad spectrum of voters who will vote in 2023.”

According to Hamzat, “increasing engagements imply voters’ growing interest in the candidates while a decreasing result reflects voters’ disenchantment.

Additionally, contrary to popular belief which claimed that suspended microblogging platform, Twitter is the platform for youths in the country, available records show that, Facebook still remains the dominant social media platform for young adults, Hamzat said.

According to him, “65 percent of Facebook users are under the age of 35, which means that they fall under the age demographic of millennials and Generation Z.

“It is also important to note that, between 25 to 34 year olds accounted for 32.5 percent of Facebook users, whereas just 2.9 percent of users were aged between 55 and 64 years old.”

Grand Plan noted that, Olawepo-Hashim’s growing engagement is a measure of voters’ interest in him ahead of 2023, as he discusses policy issues that many consider important.

“At a time when the country is in need of real leaders, Olawepo-Hashim has stepped forward early enough, with clarity of thought and serious governance proposals, putting his ideas forward to the Nigerian people for scrutiny,” Hamzat said.

The monthly social media rating of political figures by Grand Plan will be released last week of every month.

QUOTE

The latest data by Grand Plan showed that, Mr. Olawepo-Hashim was behind President Buhari and ahead of all other political figures, including former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Chairman of Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum, Kayode Fayemi and Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and others. According to statistics by Grand Plan, President Muhammed Buhari maintained the top position with over 296,000+ engagement, followed by Olawepo Hashim with 98,000+ engagement.

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