© Media Watch 10 (1)
We Are Not Parasites: Intergroup Differentiation in the
1BABATUNDE RAPHAEL OJEBUYI & 2ABIODUN SALAWU
1University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Studies have shown that despite the freedom of content creation and democratic participation, the digital space has also provided platforms for negative discourse with
Keywords: Intergroup discrimination, negative discourse, Nigerian news media, online community,
The Internet has created a digital space that enables not only the traditional journalists but also the citizens to create contents and interact with other members of the online community (Campbell & Kwak, 2012; Ojebuyi, 2016). There is now more freedom of expression and an expanded public space for citizens‘ participation in the political campaigns (Anorue, Onyike, Ekwenchi, & Chiaha, 2016; Jensen, 2017), protests (Liu 2014; Oladapo & Ojebuyi, 2017) and overall democratic projects of their country (Attia, Aziz, Friedman, & Elhusseiny 2011; Chatora 2012; Van Rensburg 2012;
Of course, scholars have worked on harassment, crimes, defamation, hate speeches, and
In Africa, Nigeria has the highest Internet use profile, and it is ranked eighth (8th) among the top 20 global Internet users (Internet Live Stats, 2014; technext.ng, 2018). Almost every single year since 2001, Nigeria has continued to be one of the fastest growing markets in Africa with
Nigerian Political History and Group Identity
Like many other West African countries, Nigeria is a creation of the European colonial masters. Over 400 ethnic groups including the three dominant ethnic
Cited by Rafiu, Owolabi and Folasayo (2009), Ajetumobi, also posits that ―the emergence of the Nigerian Colonial State is a
The origin of national resentment of the Igbo is as old as Nigeria and quite as complicated….The Igbo culture being receptive to change, individualistic and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba unhampered by traditional hierarchies.Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical
The picture of ethnic resentment and discrimination painted by Achebe several years ago still persists, and is gathering intensity in the contemporary Nigerian society, however, not just against the Igbo as an ethnic group, but also across all other nationalities. Members of each ethnic group, religious sect, social class or political affiliation see themselves as unique beings different from those of other groups; or a group of disadvantaged minority who have been marginalised, despised or dominated by other larger and stronger groups. Right from her independence, the Nigerian project has reflected a social structure that promotes conflicts, intergroup discrimination among different ethnic groups, political parties, religious affiliations and social classes. This phenomenon is captured in the view expressed by Chiluwa (2011: 90) that ―in Nigeria, social crises have been as a result of religious intolerance, boundary disputes, resistance to a perceived injustice/exploitation and other political reasons. Formation of political parties in Nigeria has not been driven by real ideology, but by patronage (Omotola, 2009) and ethnic sentiments, while articulation of public issues, and voting patterns at most elections often reflect religious and ethnic biases.
Defining ―the Other
The origin of the concept of ―the other may be traced to Frantz Fanon‘s works on postcolonial studies
Further explaining the concept of Otherness,
As Ibeleme (2014) explains, Otherness is ―evident in the portrayal of Africa (by most western press) as a place that is removed from modernity (200). In the same way, other nations may perceive Nigeria as a nation of Boko Haram, militancy and corruption, and South Africa as a nation of xenophobia, until such vices are eliminated from the respective countries. In Nigeria, the concept of otherness manifests in the way members of different ethnic groups, political parties, social class or religious sects treat and relate with others who are not from their ethnic, religious, social or political groups. As already explained above, Nigeria is a pluralistic, politically and culturally complex country. The different ethnic groups (e.g., Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba among other ethnic groups); members of different religious sects (e.g., Islam, Christianity, and African Traditional Religions); different social and political groups express otherness and discrimination along these constructs (Blench 2000; Ojie & Ewhrudjakpor, 2009; Chiluwa, 2011). Linguistic and semiotic resources play significant roles in discursive construction of the concept of otherness (Kopytowska &Baider, 2017). Consequently is this study, we focused on how online audience of Nigerian news media employed language to discriminate against those they considered as the ―others on the bases of religion, ethnicity, social class and political affiliation.
This study employed the Social Identity Theory (SIT) as its theoretical framework. The theory, first developed in the early 1970s in Britain by Henri Tajfel (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Tajfel, 2010), is a psychological analysis of how
Applying the SIT to the evaluation of Others as relating to us or them (i.e.
Methods and Materials
Qualitative design through textual analysis was adopted for this study. Data for the study were taken from the
We considered UGC from stories about prominent political issues such as postponement of the elections, alleged plot to scuttle the election by sponsoring a new political party, General Muhammadu Buhari‘s certificate controversies, alleged distribution of foreign currencies to groups and Yoruba traditional rulers by former President Goodluck Jonathan, alleged plot to assassinate Rev. Fr Mbaka (a prominent Nigerian Pastor and social critic), and reactions to the election results. We focused on only the feedback comments on online platforms of Nigerian news media because focusing on all social media platforms would be too wide. Our assumption was that media representation of issues of public interest would attract high intensity of interaction and discussions among Nigerians. All users‘ comments (UGC) available on stories about the selected issues as at the time we visited the sites were retrieved for sorting and textual analysis.
We adopted qualitative content analysis to explore the corpus of
Findings and Discussion
Findings from the study show that UGC sections of the select Nigerian news media contain intergroup differentiations (ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, and social class) as identified in the Social Identity Theory [SIT] (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Terry, 2003; Douglas et al., 2005; Hogg, 2006; Tajfel, 2010; Trepte, 2013). Online users of the select news media displayed group identities along the taxonomies of ethnicity, politics, social abuse, and religion as they reacted to the political news stories about Nigeria‘s general elections. In most cases, instead of discussing the issues raised in the stories they are reacting to, the users, in the content they created, made inference about, or directly expressed sentiments that reflect discrimination along ethnic, political, religious or social divides. From the structures of the UGC, we identified the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa and the
While aligning with their different groups, the users, as contained in their comments, showed
One of the most prevalent intergroup prejudices used by online users to express discrimination is ethnic differentiation, a phenomenon where some users exhibited visible bias for their ethnic group or tribe and described other tribes with negative labels. The findings suggest that Nigeria is divided along diverse ethnic groups with the Yoruba, the Hausa, the Igbo, and the
COMT 1: The Igbos again! What is wrong with these hyenas? Must they scrape and suck Nigeria to the bone? Four out of 6 zones are implacably opposed to their candidate, Jona (President Goodluck Jonathan), whose mother is Igbo.
COMT 2: Why does the Igbos‘ congenital greed blind him so? 419, cocaine, human parts, fake drugs, career armed robbery,
COMT 3: Why do the Igbos refuse to see that anything else will lack legitimacy and lead inexorably to war? Have the newly arrogant Igbos forgotten the lesson of
Users employed different labels to express ethnic discrimination. In most of the comments, users, while reacting to stories about alleged plans to scuttle the elections and perpetuate President Goodluck Jonathan in office, insinuated that the Igbos are a violent‘ fetish‘
Civil war of
COMT 4: You must be a bastard.... If anything, Ndigbo have been more responsible for the
existence and success of yeye Nigeria thus far. It took Prof. Humphrey Nwosu to get rid of IBB, Sen. Ken Nnamani to get rid of Baba Iyabo; it took late Prof. Dora Akunyili to rid you of Turai.
COMT 5: Cabal...and all the while, the likes of Dr. Ngz. Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Ndy
COMT 6: Stupid punk, how many Igbo Ministers have been charged for embezzlement in that useless country called Nigeria... compared to other ethnicities? Let‘s split it and see who runs a better ship.
Obviously reacting to users that attacked the Igbos, as shown in COMTs 1, 2 and 3 above, users in COMTs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 16 expressed lack of confidence in the Nigerian project describing it as a yeye (worthless) entity (COMT 4), but attributed the existence of the country to some notable Igbo individuals, who had helped to stabilise the flustering Nigeria‘ (COMT 5) and contributed to dislodgement of some
COMT 7: One Igbo is worth a million
COMT 8: We the hardworking Igbos deserve to have money more than the lazy tribes but the lazy ones love pleasure and comfort more than any other working tribe. Why won‘t they sell themselves for anything?
COMT 9: By This sagacious postulation, this brilliant egghead of Igbo extraction has proven that perhaps the Igbo man represents the true fabric of ―One Nigeria.
Other users presumed to be of Igbo origin, as exemplified in COMTs 5, 7, 8 and 9, further extolled the virtues of the Igbos as hardworking‘ (COMT 8) and labelled the Yorubas, as racial‘, lazy‘ arrogant‘, fetish‘, coward‘ greedy‘ and untrustworthy‘ (COMTs 5 and 10). In COMT 10, user described the Yoruba Obas (Monarchs) as materialistic‘ and selfish‘ accusing them of collecting dollars from President Goodluck Jonathan as inducements for political support. The users further insinuated that the Hausas, in particular, are illiterates‘, savage race‘, parasites‘, beggars‘, and a tribe where men marry many wives, have many children and abandon them on the street (CMTs 5, 14 and 15) while the Niger Delta people, especially the Ijaws, are described as alcoholic‘ with natural appetite for sapele water (a popular name for a brand of locally brewed alcohol in the Niger Delta parts of Nigeria) parasitic‘ predatory‘, homeless‘,
COMT 10: The Yoruba obas love money too much, they openly collected money from Jonathan without the feeling of their people.
COMT 11: How many Yorubas can you be trusted? None, because they will be busy stabbing you for back.
COMT 12: Igbos are just too cynical; they only care about today and don‘t give a damn about tomorrow.
COMT 13: Mention your ethnicity if you‘re real human and not some
COMT 14: We Igbos cannot start having hundreds of wives and bringing bastards to the world... Many of my Yoruba friends keep telling me how they envy Igbos and wish they were Igbos. I will never wish to be Yoruba or Hausa. That‘s the difference.
COMT 15: These Hausa and Fulanis are animals of the highest order; they are cows…. What are these parasitic tribe talking about? All you
COMT 16: Why are the Igbos too mischievous? Another Nzeribe‘s ABN, Kanu‘s YEAA or what?
COMT 17: Jega and INEC do not need to
As presented in COMTs 1 to 17 above, Nigerians reflect the stances of ethnic hatred as they engage in the virtual space provided by the news media. The findings are examples of
We conceptualise political differentiation as a phenomenon where members of one political group believe that their political party or group has better ideological values while they see other political groups as being politically inferior or ideologically inept. Subsequently, members of one political group discriminate against the other political groups, and their ideologies. In this study, two major political parties (the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) being the two leading political parties that during the elections) featured prominently in the analysed UGC as shown in COMTs 18 to 32 below.
COMT 18: Kerosene is to be N50 not N180 but the PDP led administration are stealing from the masses to overflow their pocket, their time is over.
COMT 19: PDP can remain in South East (SE) and compete with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Both are now tribal parties... PDP
COMT 20: Can any PDP in the house tell me who are the goats and what is the yam in naija.
COMT 21: PDP - People Deceiving People. Their entire plan is to discredit the Man (Buhari). Buhari has the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) certificate for sure and the military was used by PDP to discredit the Man. Doyin Okupe and co - God see you ohhhhhhh.
COMT 22: PDPIG! Are full of heartless people who doesn‘t have mercy on the masses. Gej it‘s surrounded by rouge people. Even women in his cabinet are stealing at will.
On the one hand, as contained in COMTs 18 to 25, users who demonstrated allegiance to the APC labelled the ruling People‘s Democratic Party (PDP) as a party that oppresses the masses and steals‘ public funds (COMTs 18 and 20), a sectional and tribal party (COMT 19), and a corrupt party of the thieving elite‘. This is inferred in the coinage PDPIG‘ to refer to the PDP (COMT 22). This adulterated coinage of PDP is an apparent allusion to the Pigs in George Orwell‘s
COMT 23: Chop and quench‘ that is very rich coming from the PDP, the very ugly monster of Nigeria present day politics.
COMT 24: PDP is a failure. Breadth of Fresh Air in federal governance is needed.
COMT 25: Even if the Obas are billionaire; that does not stop them from collecting more. It‘s over for PDP
COMT 26: A vote for APC is a vote for Tinubu and One Man‘s rulership.
COMT 27: APC is bunch of sycophants, they see logs in other peoples‘ eyes but do not see it in their own eyes, only fools believe lies, rumors. APC cannot go far in this kind of politics. They rigged elections, used thugs bribed people.
On the other hand, the PDP online supporters labelled the APC as
COMT 28: Liars will never bring Change. APC have nothing and have nothing to offer Nigerians than deceit.
COMT 29: The south west Obas should just rain causes on Tinubu, Fashola and the APC.
COMT 30: The Devil and the APC are one...until recently, the Devil has lost the title of King of Lies to APC and has taken APC case to God for Judgement.
COMT 31: Let Failed Emperor Jagaban Thiefnubu continue to align to the Fulas for continued Slavery…
COMT 32: APC‘s hypocrisy is transparent. It is an evil assemblage of the most hardened criminals and regions in Nigeria. That‘s why it is comfortable for the political wing of Boko Haram to field senile, illiterate certificate forger, perjurer and coup plotter, Buhari, as its presidential flag bearer.
Users also labelled the APC as a devilish party‘ (COMT 30); a political wing of Boko Haram‘ (a terrorist group with its base in the
We define religious differentiation as
COMT 33: Are you corroborating the fact there is no forgiveness in Islam? If any Southern Nigerian did all Buhari did, he would not have been forgiven.
COMT 34: Buhari is a radical Islamic zealot. All radical Islamic zealots are clerics.
COMT 35: Useless people with their useless religion; this animals are the problem of this country. Mother fuckers, go and educate your brainwashed maggots in the north. Useless nomads.
COMT 36: All Xtians are believed to be mentally unstable...how can the president drop money and you return it to him? The money should have been paid back to the treasury. I am quite convinced that you‘re a Devil worshipper.
COMT 37: You are a very sick man to call all Christians mentally unstable. May God visit you with mental instability for calling His people mentally unstable. This goes to show that whoever you are, you are a fundamentalist in whatever you believe in.
As shown in COMTs 33 to 35, users, who are presumed to be Christians from the Southern Nigeria, attributed Islam to Buhari and the North describing Buhari as an unforgiving, radical Islamic zealot‘, and Northerners as nomads‘, and brainwashed flowers of a useless religion‘ (obviously referring to Islam). Tagging Buhari as an unforgiving Muslim‘ is a reference to his stance by doing what is similar to his approach during his first term as a Military dictator, when he arrested and persecuted politicians suspected of stealing public funds. He had been of accused of vendetta for this act (Isika, 2016). Reacting to users with
COMT 38: I dare you to openly profess your religion, I am a Christian and a true believer in Christ Jesus, the saviour of the humanity.
COMT 39: I was born into a Catholic home. In fact, my late dad was a knight of the Catholic Church but I chose to worship like my ancestors did when I became a man. I do not believe in the white man‘s God.
COMT 40: Jesus wept! God and religion my foot! Christians and Muslims my foot! My respect to Nigerians who are not Christians and not Muslims, for theirs is the kingdom of Nigeria.
COMT 41: You Christians and Muslim will inherit Israel and Saudi Arabia while those of us who are no Christians and Muslims will inherit Nigeria and everything therein.
COMT 42: You Christians and Muslims are strangers in Nigeria. A time comes when your time is up in Nigeria, so you could pack to Israel and Arabia leaving
COMT 45: Religion should not be a determining factor in Nigeria democracy.
However, some users, who appeared to be neither Christians nor Muslims, were critical of both Islam and Christianity describing the two religions as ―foreign faiths (COMTs 39 to 45), whose adherents are equally money worshippers‘ and looters of public treasury‘ (COMTs 43 and 44). The users were making reference to media reports that some traditional rulers and some Christian and Muslim leaders allegedly collected US Dollars from President Goodluck in exchange for political endorsement by their followers. The pattern of religious discriminations that feature Islam, Christianity and the African Traditional Religions (ATR) is a reflection of the Nigerian Society with heterogeneous religious structure. While the Northerners are predominantly Muslims with majority of them from the Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups, the South is predominantly Christians, with some ATR adherents except in the Southwest with a mix of Christians and Muslims in almost equal proportions and a handful of traditionalists (Ojie & Ewhrudjakpor, 2009; Chiluwa, 2011; Ahmadu & Yusuf, 2010; Odaeyemi, 2014).
Examples of social abuse are evident in COMTs 46 to 52 where users employed some derogatory terms and
COMT 46: Rev. Fr. Mbaka, with fear of God and with respect for truth, please summon courage to ask the following question too.
COMT 47: Bokohari can bribe Igbo man no whahala. But for the Niger Delta guy? Oil must be discovered in Sambisa forest. Bokohari get money?
COMT 48: The Statement of Result bears Mohammed Buhari while the APC Presidential candidate is Muhammadu Buhari GMB and APC are Serial Liars like Liaing Mohammed... Mindless Apostles of Change.
COMTs 47 and 48 contain some elements of coinage and name calling to express social abuse. In COMT 47, for instance, the name Bokohari (a blending derived from Boko Haram and Buhari) is coined to suggest that General Muhammadu Buhari had sympathy for the terrorist group Boko Haram. Also in COMT 48, APC supporters are described as serial liars‘ while Lai Mohammed the Publicity Secretary of the APC, is described as Liaing Mohammed‘ insinuating that Mr Lai Muhammed is a liar‘ and suggesting lack of confidence in the Change Mantra‘ of the opposition
COMT 49: Mama Peace has School Certificate, NCE and B.Sc., yet speaks the worst of English language and behaves worse than an illiterate.
COMT 50: The quality of education matters and military training both home and abroad provides great knowledge and leadership skills. Meanwhile, u need to proof that Buhari has no School Certificate.
User in COMT 46 also added an iconography (a satiric image) to ridicule General Muhammadu Buhari regarding the allegation that he did not possess the minimum educational qualification of School Certificate to become the Nigeria President (Isika, 2016). The image (which we removed from the comment because of its potential defamatory property) shows a cartoon of Buhari that looks guilty, confused and depressed. It also contains an indicting message: ―#Buhari Show Your Certificate. COMT 50 is on the same issue, but the user here is a supporter of Buhari who argued that the General possessed enough military training and exposure that even put him in a better social and educational position than Mrs. Patience Jonathan (former First Lady of Nigeria) that speaks the worst of the English language and behaves worse than an illiterate‘ despite that she has School Certificate, NCE (National Certificate in Education), and B.Sc. (COMT 49). Users‘ reference to Mrs. Patience Jonathan was not accidental. Her husband was the main political opponent of Gen Muhamadu Buhari during the 2015 presidential election. Therefore, any abuse directed at her was an inference to her husband.
COMT 51: Why do you reason like a fool? The only thing going for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is access to government money. He knows that he cannot win a free and fair election...and you are duller than the donkey in Aso Rock who has been there since 2009 unless you can prove that another donkey was in Aso Rock when Ya‘ardua was sick.
COMT 52: And where are the Tompolos and Asaris threatening us we must return the Jonathan rogue to Aso Rock? Why has Ayo Kanye West Oritshejafor disappeared? Where is senile Edwin Clark? I hope Okupe has included bastard in his names on his official document.
COMTs 51 and 52 were used to socially abuse former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (also called GEJ during the political campaigns). The user in COMT 51 adopted a pseudo name (GEJisaDISASTER) that suggests that Goodluck Jonathan was a disaster‘ as Nigerian President. The user described Jonathan as a donkey in the Aso Rock‘ that could not win the election.‘ COMT 52 contains further social abuse of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The user indicted most of President Jonathan‘s aides and political supporters (with reference to Oritshejafor [former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria], Edwin Clark [an Ijaw man from Jonathan‘s ethnic group and his political godfather], and Doyin Okupe [his Spokesperson]). Like the user in CMT 46, the user here in CMTS 51 and 52 also used satiric images (which we also removed from the comments because of their potential negativity) to suggest President Goodluck Jonathan‘s anticipated inglorious return to his village (Otueke) after he must have lost the election on March
The foregoing findings in this study have their basis in the concepts of otherness (Meddaugh & Kay, 2009;
Although, the digital space represents Habermas‘s concept of the public sphere as a forum for citizens to share collective aspirations and concerns, and nurture deliberative democracy in such manners that reduce the hegemonic control of the media by the political elite (Molly, 2014; Habermas, 2006), it has been argued that an ideal and
Our study shows that Nigerians, who use the comment sections of Nigerian online news media, do not only interact to discuss issues reported in the media; they also, even more aggressively, transfer the
This situation appears more worrisome given the fact that the Internet has provided a new gatekeeping order where news media gate has become
This study contributes to the existing body of knowledge regarding the multiple consequences of the social media. It also adds to studies on internet participatory (citizen) journalism and
Limitations and Direction for Future Studies: The current study relies on qualitative textual analysis of some samples from readers‘ comments to establish presence of intergroup discriminations in the users‘ comments sections of Nigerian news media. Although textual analysis of the selected UGC provides an
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Babatunde Raphael Ojebuyi (Ph.D., University of Ibadan, Nigeria, 2012) teaches communication and language arts courses in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Indigenous Language Media in Africa Research Entity, Faculty of Humanities,
Abiodun Salawu (Ph.D., University of Ibadan, Nigeria, 2001) is a Professor of Journalism, Communication and Media Studies and Director of the Research Entity, Indigenous Language Media in Africa (ILMA) at the