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Use And Abuse of English Language By Nigerian Politicians By Adelusi



Having reflected on the acrimoniousity and animosity that have pervaded our political firmament since return to civil rule, I have made one observation (among others) about the reason for the whirlwind, and sometimes hurricane, in our political climate. And this is the use of English Language.

English Language is our national language, yet, not anyone’s mother-tongue. Hence, a very good number of educated Nigerians (highly, medium, and lowly educated) are not proficient users of English Language - proficient in the sense of using the right word for the right issue in appropriate situation, and in an appropriate manner.

Because of this ab/use of English Language by all sections of the country, in our utterances, we appear to demonstrate verbal violence, verbal dynamite, and verbal terrorism in our politicking, especially, when opposing political personalities engage themselves. The result is highly volatile politicking which, in most cases, panned the mob to unnecessarily dangerous and fatal violence. For example, do we say we are going to “capture” xyz states in the next election, or we are going to win the states? “Capture” is more appropriate in a war situation, while “win” is best for electioneering.

Whereas, the same issue we deploy verbal violence and verbal dynamite to tackle can as well be benevolently handled or resolved as the case may be, with almost everybody smiling and laughing if the right diction and phraseology have been employed.

Gone are the days of the Great Zik of Africa (The Orator), Chief Obafemi Awolowo - deliberately choosing each word and phrase in every sentence (and for this reason, no newspaper editor dared change any word or phrase, not even punctuations in his texts), and then Ahmadu Bello with his spoken Queen English. These three have just been cited among many other fine politicians of the time.

Today what assails our eardrums and sensibilities are abusive, aggressive, thunderous, and fire and brimstone utterances from our politicians across all divides.

Even those who have been wordsmith at one time or the other consider it not inappropriate to join the uninitiated in the ab/use of English Language in the political terrain. Do we call this the product of what some people have described as “stomach infrastructure”?

I remember Bob Marley, the Reggae Exponent of blessed memory: “When the rain falls, it doesn’t fall on one man’s house”. Do we remember that?

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