Fencism: An Unusual Political Alignment in Twitter Nigeria

Fencism: An Unusual Political Alignment in Twitter Nigeria

Noel Ihebuzor (EvidentisDev, Nigeria) and Nwachukwu Andrew Egbunike (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4197-4.ch021
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Most twitter users supported either All Progressive Party (APC) or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 Nigerian elections. In the midst of this, an unusual political alignment emerged which was called Fencism who neither supported any of the two political parties but claimed to be objective despite having a political opinion. This study investigated the definition and characteristics of Fencism using survey, quantitative and qualitative content analysis. The rational choice theory was the framework used in this study. Findings revealed that Fencism is a distinct political alignment and a manifestation of the rational choice theory. Yet there was no consensus on the definition owing to the irreconcilable ambiguity of remaining objective and but yet professing a bias.
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What Is Fencism?

The Nigerian twitter community is very creative when it comes to word coinages. In the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan words like “Jonathanian” and “GEJites” were used to describe persons whose views were sympathetic to those of the then president. “Buharist” was equally coined to describe someone with sympathies towards the then leading opposition candidate (now President) Mohammed Buhari. Currently, two words have slipped into Twitter usage in Nigeria. These are “wailing wailers” and “hailing hailers”. Whereas the former is a derogatory label to describe those whose tweets are critical of Buhari, the latter was employed in retaliation to describe those considered to be uncritical in their adulation of the new president. “Wailers” subverts a word that had acquired positive and radical significance through its association with Bob Marley in the seventies. So even though it was meant to be derogatory, in the current coinage, those opposed to the president are happy to be so labeled. “Hailers”, on the other hand seems more damaging because of its phonic closeness to Hail Hitler, with that an image of unreflecting followership. Incidentally, the use of suffixations as the preferred linguistic device for these coinages is interesting just as are the type of suffixes employed “-ian”, “-ite” and “-ist”. Variations and varieties of suffixes used certainly merits a separate study and the authors hope to engage with this in the near future. All the foregoing is to underscore that labeling in Nigerians Tweet-sphere though creative is part of the war of words and wits between persons at near extremes of the political continuum, a continuum that is not ideological but one that has emerged from the interaction of need, greed, creed and region of the political class.

Let us continue this section by providing some of the definitions of Fencism that have been advanced on social media. Egbunike defined Fencism thus:

Fencism is not neutralism! I have my political bias but I will not be bullied into displaying it on Twitter. Fencism is objectivity, realizing that both candidates have their flaws and not turning a blind eye – as many do – on them. Fencism is having the courage to tweet for and against any of the candidates. (Egbunike, 2015)

Central to Egbunike’s observations are that Fencism implies an informed, detached yet engaged non-partisan and objectivity driven approach to behavior on Twitter as a social medium. Similarly, @Anabagail in a series of tweets posted on January 11, 2015 provided the following salient attributes of fencist behavior:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Political Twitter Nigeria: The online community of political active Twitter users in Nigeria.

Voltrons: A word used in political Twitter Nigeria to describe uncritical and heed followers of a political Twitter (overlords) influencers.

Fencism: An unusual political alignment of some Twitter users in Nigeria who do not support any political party but maintain an objective political opinion.

Overlord: A Nigerian Twitter user with large followership, agenda setters, news framers, experts on all matters, and final social arbiters whose views, judgments and solutions must always prevail. The overlord exerts great influence on their followers who in turn wish to gain the attention of the overlord by retweeting and/or mentioning him/her in their tweets.

Wailing Wailers: A derogatory word that was used as a label for those opposed to the government of President Buhari of Nigeria.

Hailing Hailers: Whereas wailing wailers is a derogatory label to describe those whose tweets are critical of the president, hailing hailers was employed in retaliation to describe those considered to be uncritical in their adulation and of unreflecting followership of President Buhari of Nigeria.

Political Alignment: Supporting or having a bias in favour of a political party and/or ideology.

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