Pro-Biafran Activists and the call for a Referendum: A Sentiment Analysis of ‘Biafraexit’ on Twitter after UK’s vote to leave the European Union

Emmanuel Sunday Nwofe, Mark Goodall

Abstract


In a society bonded by a concatenation of diverse ethno-nationalism, the struggle for inclusion and exclusion becomes particularly unavoidable. Common among the findings of researchers of ethnic identities is the potential for conflicts when inequalities and injustices, rooted in ethnicity and religious identities are the basis for allocation of powers and resources. This is more threatening when a particular ethnic group is signposted as a threat to other group and targeted for ill-treatment. In Nigeria, the Igbo ethnic group is characterized as an endangered group and has risen at one point to challenge inequalities, injustices and state-orchestrated violence against the ethnic society that led to Nigeria-Biafra war between 1967 and 1970. Fifty years after the war, the Igbo ethnic society is still grappling to be included in the Nigeria nation-building project. The implication is a deep-rooted grievance among the Igbo ethnic group that the wave of campaigns and social movement for the restoration of Biafra continued to reverberate in recent times. After the UK’s ‘Brexit’ vote, the pro-Biafra activists launched ‘Biafraexit’ on Twitter in the style of ‘Brexit’ for a referendum to exit Nigeria. The purpose of this paper is to examine the major sentiment of the people about the Biafra restoration 50 years after the Biafran war. Through a sentiment analysis of ‘Biafraexit’, ‘free Biafra’ hashtags and the ‘Biafra’ search term on Twitter, the paper examines to what extent the perception of insecurity of lives of the Igbos constitute major concern of proponents of Biafran independent on Twitter? How have the human right abuses of pro-Biafra activists under President Buhari’s rule facilitated feelings of insecurity, religious cleansing and Islamization among pro-Biafra activists? The implications of this for cohesive nation-building are discussed.


Keywords


Biafra; Biafraexit; Self-determination; Geo-ethnic politics; ethnic minority; Nigeria; state violence; insecurity

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