In the run up to the 2015 presidential election, a public relations firm named Cambridge Analytica attempted to influence Nigerian voters by orchestrating a smear campaign against eventual winner, Muhammadu Buhari.
When Cambridge Analytica’s efforts to influence Nigeria’s elections were made public earlier this year, many were shocked as to the length the firm (formerly SCL Elections) went to ensure the re-election victory of then-president, Goodluck Jonathan. On the prompting of an unnamed Nigerian billionaire, the data mining firm hacked Facebook to harvest the profile of millions of users and target what was determined to be their worst fears. In a video the firm produced, people were filmed being dismembered, having their throats cut and bled to death, and also burned to death in a bid to portray Muslims as violent and Buhari as the man that will impose Sharia Law that’ll make that sort of violence commonplace in the country.
“It was voter suppression of the most crude and basic kind. It was targeted at Buhari voters in Buhari regions to basically scare the shit out of them and stop them from voting,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who worked on the campaign said.
Even though that video, and whatever the rest of Cambridge Analytica’s campaign was up to, failed to stop Buhari’s historic victory, it has served as a window into the underbelly of how ugly elections can sometimes get.
Politicians, or their secret billionaire friends, will stop at nothing to gain an advantage over their opponents and the means can range from vote-buying, ballot snatching to good old propaganda.