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

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  • Emmanuel Sunday Nwofe The University of Bradford, UK
  • Mark Goodall The University of Bradford



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


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.


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Author Biographies

Emmanuel Sunday Nwofe, The University of Bradford, UK

A PhD student in Media studies at the University of Bradford, UK. His main research interest is in areas of political communication, Film studies and journalism. He is a member of Communication, Culture and Media research group. He joined the academics in 2012 at the Ebonyi State University Nigeria, where he tutors undergraduate modules in mass communication before embarking on a study leave to the UK. He obtained Masters in Film Studies, University of Bradford; Masters in Mass Communication, University of Nigeria Nsukka, and a Bachelor Degree in Mass Communication at the Ebonyi State University. 

Mark Goodall, The University of Bradford

He is a Senior Lecturer and a programme leader of Film Studies and Digital Filmmaking in the school of Media, Design and Technology, University of Bradford, UK. His area of research is film history, specifically cult and experimental films of the 1960s and 1970s. He is an expert in the genre of the Italian 'mondo' film, a form of sensationalist documentary, and have delivered many conference papers and published many essays on the subject. He has co-directed and co-produced a feature film based on the short stories of supernatural horror writer Arthur Machen.


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How to Cite

Nwofe, E. S., & Goodall, M. (2017). 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. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 4(1), 65–81.



Original Manuscript
Received 2017-05-08
Accepted 2017-06-17
Published 2017-07-12