How Nigerians Embraced Unity Discourse and Dissociated from Name Change

How Nigerians Embraced Unity Discourse and Dissociated from Name Change

Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed and still experiencing a mix of positive and negative growth in socioeconomic and political indicators. On several occasions, people and organisations have reiterated the need to address some of the challenges in the country through collective and sustainable approaches. However, the inability of the political leaders to address the challenges such as insecurity, growing unemployment rate, corruption among others have been used and still being considered by citizens to say that “this is not the best time to be Nigerians.”

The returned to democratic governance is over 20 years. Throughout the years, restructuring, resource control, state police, adjustment to revenue sharing and secession dominated socioeconomic and political discourse space. National conferences have been held with a view of finding lasting solutions to the problems.  Various plans, programmes and initiatives have been drawn and executed towards accelerated economic growth and sustainable political institutions.

Still, to citizens, social critics and political analysts, the outcomes are not enough to ensure peace and unity across the country. To them, social, economic and political injustice remain high.

Like the previous national political dialogue meetings, the current National Assembly called for the review of the 1999 Constitution, which has been described as the enabler of various socioeconomic and political crises since 1999. This has largely been linked to the hurried production of the instrument by the then Military Government to return the country to democratic governance as promised in 1998.

At one of the constitutional review sittings across the six geo-political zones, Adeleye Jokotoye, a tax consultant, submitted a proposal with the argument that the current name [Nigeria] was an imposition of its past colonial masters and should be changed. He believes that changing Nigeria to the United African Republic would physically and psychologically reflect a new beginning. His proposal was blown by the news media and vehemently discussed on social networking sites as at the time of writing this piece. One of the foreign news media reported that If Nigeria becomes the United African Republic, it means the country will join some African countries that changed their names after independence.

As people and organisations debate the name change, Jude Abaga, a popular entertainer tweeted that “The narrative that ‘Nigeria hates Igbo people’ is an outdated context that will leave with the old and bitter generation. Today let us stand with our Igbo family and say #IAmIgboToo,” declaring his solidarity for people from the South-Eastern region of Nigeria known as ‘Igbos’. The news media also reported this and passionately being debated on social media platforms.

Reporting and discussing issues of national importance, as noted earlier, are not new in Nigeria. Meanwhile, it has always been a herculean task for the concerned stakeholders to make smart and sustainable decisions from the insights that emanated from the media coverage and discussions held on various platforms. In this regard, our analyst examines the national issues with a view of adding to existing insights from digital community, which has been described by a number of academic scholars and professionals in industries as a place where political leaders need to watch for information and knowledge that would help them advance socioeconomic and political institutions.

Public Curiosity About the Two Issues

Analysis of 24 hours of seeking information about the name change and #IamIgboToo indicates that Nigerians and other nationals developed interest in the name change more than the unity campaign. United African Republic Nigeria, Nigeria, UAR, UAR Nigeria and United African Republic were the phrases deployed for understanding meaning of the new name, the person who proposed it and why is it necessary to change from Nigeria to the United African Republic. Interest was huge in Oyo, Ogun, Rivers and Lagos states, and the Federal Capital Territory during the search period.

While people used these phrases, they equally sought information about Africa, Republic as a form of government, United States of America, United Arab Republic and Central African Republic. Our analyst notes that seeking information about other countries which have ‘United’ as part of their name is an indication that Nigerians and other nationals in the country want to understand how US, UAE and CAR evolved and benefits being accrued to all stakeholders.

Actions and Shots on Twitter

The issues of renaming various policies, programmes and facilities without sustainable performance dominated UAR space, while social, economic and political injustice are vehemently tweeted on IAIT space. To further understand the curiosity, our analyst examines actions and shots of 4,160 Twitter Users regarding the two issues.

The earliest year of creating the handles is 2009 and the latest is 2021. The 2,080 users analysed for the name change have over 5.4 million followers with an average of 2,642 followers per user. Analysis also establishes that 5 million tweets have been tweeted throughout the Twitter Use Life Cycle [from the account creation date till 2021].

The average tweets per user during the TULC is 28, 264 while the maximum is over 806,000. A total of 931 hashtags was used by the users. The highest was 7 in a tweet, while 2 hashtags were more used in the tweets. Over 77% tweets do not have hashtags. Our analyst also discovered that 49% of the tweets could not be classified by the Twitter. Over 42%, 3.7% and 5% were categorised as retweet, reply and tweet respectively. Text [56.7%], photo [37%] and video [6%] were predominantly used for disseminating messages. Surprisingly, all the users are not verified by the Twitter.

The same number of users was analysed for #IamIgboToo. Analysis reveals that the users have over 4 million followers. On average, 2,025 followers are following a user. Over 57 million tweets have been tweeted since the day of creating their handles. The average tweets within the TULC of the accounts is 27, 453, while the maximum is over 15 million. A total of 3,555 hashtags was used. The highest was 15 in a tweet. Over 58% of the tweets contained one hashtag followed by 443 tweets which have 2 hashtags.

Retweeting messages regarding the campaign was more prominent [88.2%] than creating personal messages [9.5%]. Contrary to our expectation, only 2.3% of the tweets received replies. Like the United African Republic, our analysis indicates that the users employed text format [58.9%] more than photo [29.3%] and video [11.7%] for expressing their feelings. Only two accounts [0.1%] were verified.

Further analysis of the two issues reveals that the followers of the UAR and IAIT are connected by 6.9%. Despite this, our analysis establishes that the more users who tweeted about IAIT used hashtags the less those who discussed UAR employed it. According to our analyst, this suggests that users who developed interest in expressing their feelings about the need to unite have the capacity to influence others, articulating and disseminating their thoughts to appropriate publics than those who tweeted about UAR.

The insights from the current analysis aligns with the outcomes of a study conducted by our analyst in collaboration with a University Don. The study was carried out with the intention of understanding how Nigerians used the comment sections of selected Nigerian online newspapers to interact and discuss issues of agitation for secession and farmers-herders crises with a view to determining how the issues got the citizens to speak up or to stay silent. While the readers were more hostile in their engagement of the issues of agitation for secession, which had ethnic-inclination, the current insights largely indicated that Nigerians are ready to speak against statements that could lead to disunity despite sociocultural and political differences.

Exhibit 1: Average Tweets in the Life Cycle versus Number of Hashtags Used

Source: Nigerian Twitter Community, 2021; Infoprations Analysis, 2021

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