From hashtags to the reality: 5 impactful social movements in Nigeria that started on Twitter

November 8, 2019
7 min read
Twitter social movements

Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has grown into one of the largest social media platforms in the world and in more ways than one, it has undeniably influenced several social movements.

In Nigeria, Twitter has been at the heart of major political events, scandals, social activism, and humanitarian movements that later spread to the real world and resulted in physical actions.

In commemoration of Twitter co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey's presence in Nigeria now, here are some of the biggest social movements that have shaken Nigeria since Twitter became a thing.


How it started

It was January 1, 2012, and celebrating Nigerians received a shocking welcome to the year when Nigeria’s former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, announced the removal of the fuel subsidy.

Following this announcement, the pump price of fuel immediately increased from ₦65 to ₦141 per litre and from ₦100 to ₦200 on the black market.

What happened on Twitter

The following day, the whole nation was fired up and Twitter’s #OccupyNigeria became a major igniting point where the torches of grievances were lit.

Be the smartest in the room

Join 30,000 subscribers who receive Techpoint Digest, a fun week-daily 5-minute roundup of happenings in African and global tech, directly in your inbox, hours before everyone else.
Digest Subscription

Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime. Privacy Policy.

A little analysis reveals that the Occupy Nigeria idea was probably gotten from the Occupy Wall Street movement of September 2011.


The protests left the relative ‘keyboard’ safety of Twitter and became massive protests around the country, with major cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Kano featuring heavily amid reports of violence in other cities.

Like wildfire, it spread even to the Nigerians in the diaspora.

But there were some pretty sad outcomes.


The government responded with a 30% reduction in petrol pump price, bringing it to ₦97. But like the famous Oliver Twist, Nigerians asked for more.

Some felt the Occupy Nigeria protest had the potential to be more than just a fight for fuel subsidy.

Today, memories of the protest still linger in the minds of many, with some wondering why nothing of the sort is being done today.


This is arguably the biggest and most popular Nigerian trend that began on Twitter.

How it started

On the night of April 14 2014, barely 24 hours after the Abuja bombings, about 276 female students were forcefully taken from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. The Boko Haram terrorist group claimed responsibility for their abduction.

With the initial frenzied and frantic pace of the ordeal, about 57 of them escaped from the trucks while the terrorists made away with 219 students.

What happened on Twitter

However, like the people of biblical times who ate and drank, oblivious of the incoming flood, the then President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was at a campaign rally in Kano and later, photos of him at a birthday party in Ibadan were posted on Twitter.

The responses from Nigerians were understandably filled with disbelief and outrage at the government’s perceived insensitivity.

Then came a tweet by Ibrahim M. Abdullahi -- two-time Nigerian minister in the Olusegun Obasanjo regime -- attributed to Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education also during the Obasanjo regime.

Then she picked it up herself, launching a global movement in the process.

World leaders, celebrities, and international organisations joined the campaign in solidarity.

An analysis shows that #BringBackOurGirls was tweeted in six different languages including English and Spanish.


Source: Hashtagify


Physical protests began on the streets of several Nigerian cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Kaduna.

And the international community promptly joined in.

Don’t forget the memorable emotional breakdown of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.


To date, 107 girls have been reportedly found with 112 still missing as at October 2019.

Five years on, the search continues with so many questions still unanswered.


How it started

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was created in 1992 as a crime-fighting unit of the Nigeria Police Force. However, by 2017, there were incessant cases of brutality, extortion, high-handedness, and unlawful arrests.

What happened on Twitter

Spearheaded by the illustrious Segun Awosanya (@segalink), the End Special Anti-Robbery Squad (#ENDSARS) campaign began on Twitter in mid-2017, with calls on the government to scrap SARS.

An online petition seeking a reform of the Nigeria Police was started as Segun ‘segalink’ Awosanya provided a platform for citizens to tell their stories.


Once more, the activism left Twitter for the streets with peaceful protests staged all over the country.


There were appreciable impacts as the government signed a number of bills into law to help curb the menace.

A brief respite came from the #ENDSARS campaign, but new stories came to light last month with fresh instances of police brutality.

Suggested Read: How the SARS menace is affecting workers in the Nigerian tech community

The story of Toni Astro reopened old wounds and a new #ENDSARS campaign reemerged with the tech community specifically bringing #StopRobbingUs to life.

#SayNoToRape, #COZA, #MeToo

How it Started

In June 2019, Busola Dakolo, a Nigerian photographer and wife of popular Nigerian musician Timi Dakolo, made shocking rape allegations against Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, senior pastor and founder of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly popular known as COZA.

What happened on Twitter

The discussion on this issue came with several hashtags including #SayNoToRape, #COZA, #Biodun, #BusolaDakolo, and some others.

Allegedly, this was not the first report of a rape case involving the pastor.

While some appreciated her courage to come forward, others accused her of having less than good intentions.


But many people were in support of Busola and they reacted by leaving the comfort of their homes for a massive protest at the COZA church headquarters in Abuja.

Then there were those allegedly paid to stop the protests.


In a victory for the #SayNoToRape, the #MeToo movement, and the protests outside the church, Pastor Fatoyinbo finally stepped down.

Legal actions were threatened and the pastor tried to clear his name, but issues remained with another report of alleged rape.

But like a football comeback king, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo returned to his congregation with much fanfare and jubilation, To the chagrin of several Nigerians.


How it started

The issue of rape and other forms of sexual harassment continued in the month of October, moving from the hallowed grounds of the church to the citadels of learning in West African universities.

On October 7, 2019, BBC’s investigative arm in Africa, BBC Africa Eye, released an hour-long documentary highlighting cases of sexual harassment by lecturers of two West African universities — University of Lagos and University of Ghana.

What happened on Twitter

The impact of the documentary, which implicated four lecturers in these universities, was felt immediately.

The video brought to light the pervasive menace of sexual harassment in most Nigerian universities, and Nigerian Twitter sprang to life with some suggesting that the documentary was just a tip of the iceberg.

A very old iceberg.

Of course we can't forget a certain satire by Idris Abdulkareem from 2003.

But others were like, “Wait, think about it.”

Offline and aftermath

The minister of education gave his two cents.

And the repercussions for the lecturers were almost instant.

The Nigerian Senate, two days ago, started working on a bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit, and redress sexual harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions.

Worthy Mentions


The presidency planned to introduce its Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) pilot project, but Nigerians were having none of it and it was promptly suspended.

#RevolutionNow #FreeSowore

On the 3rd of August, Omoyele Sowore, human rights activist and former presidential candidate, was arrested by officers of the Department of State Security in response to his plans to organise a nationwide protest against perceived failures of the government.

The protesters were however undeterred and protests still held but were met by armed opposition. Sowore is still being held in custody to this day.

Did we miss any trend of great impact in Nigeria? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Also Read: 12 amazing Nigerians who work with Jack Dorsey at Twitter HQ, San Francisco

I help Nigerian fintech companies understand consumers, acquire and retain paying users | Telling stories at Moniepoint, Techpoint Africa.
I help Nigerian fintech companies understand consumers, acquire and retain paying users | Telling stories at Moniepoint, Techpoint Africa.
I help Nigerian fintech companies understand consumers, acquire and retain paying users | Telling stories at Moniepoint, Techpoint Africa.

Other Stories

43b, Emina Cres, Allen, Ikeja.

 Techpremier Media Limited. All rights reserved