With the 2023 general elections in Nigeria comprising the presidential, governorship and federal and state parliamentary elections now done and dusted, many controversies surrounding the polls continue reverberating, especially with party supporters having constant clashes online.
This war of words was a permanent fixture in the 2023 election cycle, and according to the ‘European Union Election Observation Mission Nigeria 2023 Final Report’ published recently, demeaning words like ‘Thiefnubu’ and ‘Obidiots’ were the most common slurs used by vociferous supporters of the different candidates to describe the opposition.
Online virulence was more potent between then-candidate Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi. Mr Tinubu (the APC flag bearer) was later declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election. Atiku Abubakar of the PDP came second, and Mr Obi came third.
‘Obidiot’ got 14,812 mentions and ‘thiefnubu’ 17,924.
‘Thiefnubu’ is a term constantly used by the opposition to refer to Mr Tinubu as a drug lord and other allegations of corruption.
‘Obidiots’, coined from the name of Mr Obi and ‘idiots’, was a derogatory slur used by opposition supporters to describe followers, otherwise known as Obidients, of the former Anambra governor. The demeaning expression suggests that the followers are lapdogs.
Other common demeaning words and phrases used on social media platforms during the 2023 election cycle were ‘PDPigs’, ‘Athiefku’, ‘Obingo’ and ‘aboki’.
In the same report, the European Union body listed Messrs Abubakar, Obi, Mr Tinubu, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party as the four leading presidential candidates in the February 2023 poll with suspicious followers on social media “used to create a false impression of support.”
The EU said of sampled Twitter accounts that Mr Kwankwaso had 80 per cent dubious followers, Mr Atiku had 60 per cent suspicious followers, and Mr Obi had 23 per cent dubious followers. Mr Tinubu had the least of such followers, with 22 per cent.
“There was a steady increase in the number of followers of key presidential candidates over a period of three months (January – March). During the week of the presidential election, there was a sharp increase in the number of followers for all four candidates,” the final EU observers’ report on Nigeria’s 2023 presidential poll stated.
It added, “It should be noted that a relatively large number of these new followers are suspicious accounts, used to create a false impression of support.”
According to the EU, the accounts could not be identified as suspicious at first glance because they had an original-looking profile name or used a random snippet of a photo used online as a profile picture that could not be directly identified as having already been used (using Google’s reverse image search).
But the report noted that deeper investigation revealed problematic aspects, which were anonymity or high engagement and endorsement of particular people, topics and hashtags.
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