The emergence of a worthwhile opposition in person of former military leader General Muhamadu Buhari a Muslim in the 2015 presidential election in Nigeria, the fifth election since 1999 when the military handed power to elected civilians coincided with a period of great tension between the north and south region. This tension resulted from the decision of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan a Christian to re-contest after earlier promises that he wouldn’t, thus causing many regions to feel cheated of their turn in producing the next president.
Nigerians at the time more than ever were divided along not just ethnic but religious lines. Worldwide, policy experts and media reports forecast showed that the 2015 elections could precipitate violence that would destabilize Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country, looking back at the historic election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria following the April 2011 presidential voting that left more than 800 people dead.
As the survival of the country’s democracy was threatened amidst pervasive fear of uncertainty, the alienation of this fear and tension became paramount.
Our strategy and process
Using innovative analytcial and research tools, we mined social media to reveal insights, wants, and needs buried in conversations. We crafted visual information products to engage targeted groups around key issues, either validating or fact-checking electoral information to build public confidence and civic inclusion. Working with a couple of partners ensured that the information products were published not just online, but nationwide on offline media platforms.
Outcomes and learnings
We helped in reducing feelings of contempt and distrust, as citizens were more informed on areas prone to election violence so they can be safe. Citizens became more aware of how to vote which reduced issues of confusing ballots and void votes; our visual listening tool made it easier for citizens, organizations, and the media to understand and share election data across multiple platforms towards better electoral decision making. We reached about 2 million people online and offline.