Mobile Telephony and the Democratic Process in Nigeria: Wider Coverage, Limited Impact

  • Ayobami Ojebode University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Patience Onekutu University of Agriculture, Nigeria


AbstractThe explosive growth and widespread presence of mobile telephony in Nigeria has attracted comments and research focusing on its social, economic, technological and cultural implications. However, scant attention, mostly newspaper comments, has been given to the contributions of mobile telephony to the democratic process in Nigeria. Given the centrality of communication to democracy and the nascence of Nigerian democracy, filling this gap is a worthwhile task. Using a questionnaire administered onliterate phone users, and interviews with non-literate users, selected through a combination of purposive and convenience sampling techniques, we addressed the question: in what ways and to what extent has mobile telephony promoted critical democratic activities in Nigeria? There is widespread presence of mobile phone among respondents but limited use and limited impact. Only 49.7% of literate users used their phones for anything beyond sending and receiving calls and text messages; non-literate users had to depend on literate others for nearly everything pertaining to mobile phone use. Mobile phones were used in campaigns, provided information but not conviction about voting decisions: they did not make 70.8% of the respondents to vote or not to vote in certain ways. Mobile phones were found to be weak for post-election engagements and accountability as elected politicians were said to change their phonelines or bar incoming calls. We conclude that there is widespread application of the mobile phone to the democratic process in Nigeria but the impact of this application is only limited. Keywords  Mobile telephony, Nigerian democracy, impact of mobile telephony, Nigerian politics

Author Biography

Ayobami Ojebode, University of Ibadan, Nigeria



Adelakun, A. (2012) "Democracy in the time of new media" Punch Newspaper online version June, 2012(Accessed June 28,2012).

Adewoye, J.O. & Obasan, K.A. (2010) "Impact of Global System for Mobile
Communications (GSM) on Small Business Development A Correlative
Study of South Western Nigeria" Journal of Management and Society 1(2):
44-50, Available Online at (Accessed June 15, 2012).

Bailard, C.S. (2010) "Mobile Phone Diffusion and Corruption in Africa."
Liberation Technologies Seminar Series, Stanford University. (Accessed 15 June, 2012).

Bakare, A.S. & Gold, K.L. (2011) "Estimating the impacts of global system for mobile telecommunication (gsm) on income, employment and transaction cost in Nigeria." Journal of Economics and International Finance, 3(1): 37-45. Available online at (Accessed June

Barkawi, T. (2011) "Ritual in the revolution?"
indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011105124250607722.html. (Accessed November 1, 2011).

Berger, G. (2002) "Theorizing the Media-Democracy Relationship in Southern Africa." Gazette: The International Journal of Communication Studies. 64(1): 21-45.

Celdran, D.M. (2002) "The Philippines: SMS and Citizenship" Development
Dialogue, 2002(1): 91-103.

Coder Pollwatch (2012)

Election Watch (2017) “Mobile Phones Are Useful Election Monitoring Tools”
Accessed 26 October at

Griffin, D., Trevorrow, P. & Hapin, E. (2006) " Using SMS Texting to
Encourage Democratic Participation by Youth Citizens: a Case Study of a
project in an English Local Authority" Electronic Journal of eGovernment,
4(2): 63-70.

Hellström, J. (2009) “Mobile Phones for Good Governance – challenges and
way forward” Accessed 25 October, 2017 at>hell
James, J. & Versteeg, M. (2007) "Mobile Phones in Africa: How much do we
really know?" Social Indicators Research, 84(1): 117-126.

Kornberg, A. and Clarke, H.D. (1994) “Beliefs about democracy and
satisfaction with democratic government: the Canadian Case.” Political
research quarterly, 47: 537-563.

Ledgard, J.M. (2011) "Digital Africa" More Intelligent Life magazine. 11
March, 2011

Molony, T. (2008) "Running out of Credit: the Limitations of Mobile
Telephony in a Tanzanian Agricultural Marketing System." The Journal of
Modern African Studies, 46(4): 637-658.
Ndukwe, E.C. (2005) ‘Telecommunication Liberalization in Nigeria’. Paper
presented at SATCOM conference, 2005. Consulted July, 2009. http://ww
Nigerian Communications Commission (2012) "Teledensity hits 70.8%"

NMEM (Network of Mobile Election Monitors) (2007) "SMS Election
Monitoring from Nigeria" Available at:
/comment/41423 (Accessed on 20 May, 2007).
Ojebode, A. (2012) "Mobile Phone Deception in Nigeria: Deceivers’ Skills,
Truth Bias or Respondents’ Greed?" American Journal of Human Ecology,
1(1): 1-9.

Ojebode, A., Togunde, D. & Adelakun, A. (2011) “Secrecy, Security and
Social Exchange: New Media and Cross-Generational Dating in Nigeria.”
International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 37(2): 307-327.

Okereocha, C. (2007) ‘A Breath of Freedom’, Tell magazine. November 12:43.

Olorunnisola, A.A. & Martin, B.L. (2012) "Influences of media on social
movements: Problematizing hyperbolic inferences about impacts"
Telematics and Informatics
(Accessed July 7, 2012).

Olorunnisola, A.A. (2009) “GSM Telephones in Nigeria’s Political, SocioEconomic and Geo-Cultural Landscapes.” In Olorunnisola, A.A. (Ed.).
Media and Communications Industries in Nigeria: Impacts of Neoliberal
Reforms between 1999 and 2007. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press. 103156.

Onwumechili, C. (2009) “Neo-Liberal Regulation: NITEL in Murky Water.”
In Olorunnisola, A.A. (Ed.). Media and Communications Industries in
Nigeria: Impacts of Neoliberal Reforms between 1999 and 2007. Lewiston:
The Edwin Mellen Press, 81-102.

Papacharissi, Z. (2002) "The Virtual Sphere: the Internet as Public Sphere."
New Media & Society, 4(1): 9-27.
Post, R. (2005) “Democracy and equality” Law, culture and the humanities. 1:142-153.

ReclaimNaija (2012)

Scott, N., Batchelor, S., Ridley, J. and Jorgensen, B. (2004) "The Impact of
Mobile Phones in Africa." A Report prepared for the Commission for

Stephens, M. (1998) "The Future of the Internet: 'Which Communication
Revolution is it Anyway?" Journalism and Mass Communication
Quarterly, 75(1): 9-13.

Suárez, S.L. (2005) "Mobile Democracy: Text Messages, Voter Turnout, and
the 2004 Spanish General Election." A Paper Prepared for delivery at the
2005 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association,
September 1-4, 2005.