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Social media has been adjudged an innovation which can be utilized to propel socioeconomic and political transformations in the modern society. Given the liberty in access and use of social media, Nigerians have in recent times, put to use the platform to express their views on national issues. Recent occurrences have revealed that the use of vile and hateful comments dominate the discourse among Nigerians on the social media space, particularly Facebook. This development indicates the potentials of social media to pose serious threats to peaceful coexistence through the proliferation of hate comments. This paper examines users’ comments on Biafra agitations and the Arewa youths’ ultimatum to Igbo residents in the North, with a focus on the Facebook accounts of selected media organisations. The critical discourse analysis approach was employed to explore the tone of comments (that attack or express support for a particular ethnic or religious group, and those that attack the personality of the president based on his regional and ethnic affiliations) and their implications on peaceful coexistence in Nigeria. Findings reveal that users were polarised along regional and religious lines in their comments, posting negative and injurious comments capable of turning the nation against itself. This is attributed to the ubiquitous nature of social media, making it possible for users to anonymously read contents and react with derogatory comments that insult or ridicule the ethnic, political,

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The emergence of social media has further widened the reach of media organisations and eased audience access to media contents. In this age of digital revolution, a single gadget is enabled to become a newspaper, a radio or television or a movie watching device. Nigerians, wherever they maybe, can pick up and contribute to media contents with as simple a device as a mobile phone. Through news blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Skype platforms, mainstream media organisations are now able to reach broader audience with news and other contents at little or no costs. Besides, interaction between news sources and recipients has changed, thus facilitating speedy or instantaneous feedbacks from the audience. In effect, the social media phenomenon has decentralised the processes of information dissemination, thereby allowing audience the opportunity to partake in the creation and distribution of media contents.

This technological breakthrough has, in recent times, aided Nigerians to freely express their opinions on issues that affect or impact their lives directly or indirectly. By echoing their voices through the social media, Nigerians have contributed in shaping the direction of policy formulation and the outcomes of many events in the society. One outstanding example is evident in the role played towards mobilising Nigerians at home and abroad against the removal of fuel subsidy in 2012 (the occupy Nigeria saga) which in turn, affected the outcome of the issue. The use of social media by political parties and candidates in educating and mobilizing public support, as well as its use particularly in the collation and announcement of results during the 2015 general elections, contributed in promoting democratic ethos and enhancing the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process. Again, social media played an active role in the “Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG)” campaign which attracted global recognition and support. The platform has also been utilised to champion against causes and cases of human rights abuse. The recent agitations for scrapping of the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) over allegations of extra judicious killings of civilians, the calls to action against the slave trade in Libya and the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, are among other concerns raised by Nigerians through the social media, which have made some impacts.

While the social media has been used or is still being used to chart direction for socioeconomic and political transformations in Nigeria, recent occurrences have revealed that many Nigerians employ the use of hate comments, threats, abusive language and assassination of character on the social media to vent anger, frustration and register their dissatisfaction about political, economic, religious, security and social issues in the society (Ende & Dzukogi, 2012). Ring (2013) observed that because of the de-centralised nature of the social media platform, it has become a perfect place for amateurs and professionals alike to create and share ideas, information, images, videos, art, music. Hence, it has become populated with sites that are dedicated to inciting hatred against particular ethnic, religious, racial or sexually-oriented groups. A quick glance through the comments section of a racially charged YouTube video for example, demonstrates how pervasive the problem is.

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

Nigeria is obviously not immune from this development. With its large individual and corporate users of social media and still growing, there are issues that have obvious implications on the peaceful coexistence of the nation. Users generated content through comments on social media accounts of individuals, groups and media organisations on national issues have exhibited various positions and division, in some instances hate-related on issues of national importance. These comments, as opined by previous studies (Vision Reporter, 2012; Wanapia & Targema, 2015 as cited in Jibril & Simon, 2017), attack personalities in government, individuals, groups, policies, etc. and are sometimes detrimental to national unity, peace and development.

The Biafra agitations and Arewa youths’ ultimatum are issues that caught media attention and generated a lot of audience comments in Nigeria. The tone of the comments and their implications on peaceful coexistence become imperative for imperial documentation.



1.3 Research Objectives

Hence, this paper examines users’ comments on the Facebook accounts of selected media organisations (Premium Times, Nigerianbulletin.com and TodayNG) on the Biafra agitations and the Arewa youths’ ultimatum with the following objectives:

  • To examine the tone of comments (attack or expressing support for a particular ethnic, regional or religious group);
  • To identify comments that are attacks on human dignity based on ethnic, regional and religious affiliations.
  • To examine the implications of these comments on peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.

Research Questions

  • What is the tone of comments (attack or expressing support for a particular ethnic, regional or religious group);
  • What are comments that are attacks on human dignity based on ethnic, regional and religious affiliations.

What is the implications of these comments on peaceful coexistence in Nigeria

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