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The adoption of the Global System of Mobile telecommunication (GSM) by Nigeria in 2001 opened up new vistas of communication on an unprecedented level. This came at a time when the country had just come out of a long period of military dictatorship and once again experimenting with democracy. About twelve years now from the entry of this new channel of mass communication into Nigeria, we are set in this study to discuss its potentials for consolidating democracy and its attendant challenges. This new technology with several social media platforms such as the use of the internet for social networking, blogging, video-sharing (YouTube), tweeting, and photo-sharing (Instagram) has greatly enhanced human communication in the 21th century. Considering the participatory, interactive and cost-effective nature of the new media, they have become veritable instruments for the deepening of democratic ideals and processes in terms of information-sharing, monitoring and evaluation of electioneering processes, reduction of tension and anxieties associated with elections, ensuring and even enforcing transparency and accountability to a large extent. The study however, recognises that although social media have their own challenges like susceptibility to abuse and desecration; these can be effectively minimized if not obliterated through proper monitoring and regulatory controls without abridging freedom of expression. It therefore submits that the proper use of social media in fostering and sustaining participatory democracy in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general in the 21th century has the potential of deepening and consolidating democracy in spite of these teething challenges.
Keywords: Social media, democracy, social networking, election, military dictatorship