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Department of English and Linguistics



1.1            Background to the study

Varied researches on the use of language has made language users understand the fact that there is more to meaning making than grammaticality of a sentence. Semantics is made an anchorage of the branch of linguistics that studies meaning making in communications. Further researches by scholars have however shown that there is more to the ordinary, literal meaning of sentences got from string of utterances. Often times we mean more than we say as much as we say more than we mean. Our words are constantly redefined by the context of usages. Pragmatics has thus been able to explain the mechanics of meaning making over and above the wordings of a text or a spoken conversation.

The mere fact that communication is an essential part of human living makes pragmatics and meaning making a daily and constant phenomenon. Humans continuously and unconsciously engage in the negotiation of meaning in every conversation. Failure in negotiation of meaning is often the cause of linguistic conflict in conversation. For a peaceful and successful coexistence in the human community as far as language use is concerned, pragmatics is most needed.

means manipulating others through the use of language. Such is the business of politics where language is needed to persuade, manipulate, accuse, and sometimes incriminate other political actors. One would not argue the fact that it is usually the function of spokespersons to successfully manipulate language to the benefit of their group.Politicians see language as a very essential tool in political aspect due to the fact that language helps in identifying the ideological perspectives of politicians. That is why it is possible to have a language which favours some particular group of people or party while such type of language does not favour other groups or parties.Opeibi (2009) emphasizes the fact that no matter how good a candidate’s manifesto is; no matter how superior political thoughts and ideologies of a political party may be, these can only be expressed and further translated into social actions for social change and social continuity through the facilities provided by language.

Egbewole and Etudaiye (2010) state that for a party in opposition, it is its function to engage in constant criticisms of governmental policies which are formulated by the majority, to scrutinize carefully the manner in which these policies are administered, and to keep thepossibility of alternative legislative policies and administrative practices constantly in the view of the electorate.

It is this peculiar curiosity as to the ways in which language is specially used by political actors that informs this research. It has been discovered that euphemisms and dysphemisms make up a larger percentage of the features of political language.

Opposition started in Nigeria in the First Republic by the popular Chief ObafemiAwolowo who was the leader of the opposition. The opposition that was practiced in the First Republic was in line with the opposition that was practical in the United Kingdom then(Egbewole and Etudaiye (2010). Opposition is muffled in many parts of Africa because of colonial legacies and cultural factors. Democracy in Nigeria will develop if the opposition appropriately appreciates its role and adequately carries out same with the expected altruistic motives(Alabi 2009 cited in Egbewole and Etudaiye, 2010).

Political opposition is one of the basic features of liberal democracy. In this context, opposition denotes organized partisan movement dedicated to opposing and possibly changing an incumbent government (Okoli, 2001).Okoli further argues that “in parliamentary democracies, opposition is formally institutionalized in the process of public governance. In this context, the opposition party works to position itself as a “shadow government” by over-sighting the incumbent government in-between elections and offering itself as an alternative platform in the next election”. In the same vein, Robertson (1985:357) stated that “an opposition is a political grouping, party or loose association of individual who wish to change the government and its politics”. Okoli (2001) finally concludes that “in advanced democracies of the world, political opposition is operated along inter-party lines”.

Opposition in politics is carried out in form of inter-party competition. Competition is one of the features of modern democracy in which political parties engage in the battle for power. In Nigeria, opposition is actively practiced among political parties but sometimes, it is done in an unlawful manner because it often leads to violence. Opposition is better practiced if it is done with the aim of improving the governing process of the country. Opposition should be seen by the politicians as an act of competition which aims at improving the administration of the country but not as an opportunity to fulfil their personal aims.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria provides a fertile ground for the application of features of pragmatics to the study of meaning making in the war of words of politicians on the Nigerian political scene. Such is the reason this study focuses on analysing, pragmatically, the linguistic features of selected political speeches of one of the most active participants in the build-up to and after the 2015 general election in the person of Barrister Olisa Metuh. Metuh, the national publicity secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), other than doing his primary job of airing the views of the PDP on national issues, could not hide his distaste for the flag bearer of the APC, General Muhammad Buhari (rtd). Buhari eventually won the 2015 general election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, thus marking the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent President was defeated in an election by the leader of the opposition. He was sworn in on 29 May 2015. Of course, this aggravated different criticisms and comments from the electorates in which Olisa Metuh is part of.

Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), born to a fourth generation law officer, Chief J.N Metuh, is from OtoloNnewi in Anambra State. Olisa Metuh attended the Ivy League University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu campus where he graduated with a degree in Law and was called to the bar in 1988. In 1996, he started his own Law Firm, Olisa Metuh and Co, and provided many young lawyers the opportunity to provide services in legal practice, real estate and share acquisitions and other investments in the capital market. He is a member of Nigeria Bar Association, and Association of Business Lawyers of Nigeria.

Olisa was made a National Auditor in 2007 and automatically became a member of the National Working Committee. It is important to note that Olisa Metuh is the longest and the youngest serving elected member of the National Executive Committee of the PDP.

Olisa Metuh has in different manners addressed President MuhammaduBuhari’s administration in somewhat dysphemistic ways, and being the publicity secretary of the PDP his words could and would be taken to be that of the PDP.

Dysphemism comes from the Greek word, ‘dys’ ‘mis’ and ‘pheme’, meaning speech, voice, and reputation respectively. It is an expression with connotations that are offensive either about the subject matter or to the audience, or both. It is sometimes motivated by feelings such as, fear, distastes, hatred and contempt(Wikipedia, 2015). In speeches, dysphemism is an evident feature which expresses the natural state of the speaker in relation to sociological factors.

President Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17, 1942, in Kastina state, Nigeria. He served as the military ruler of Nigeria (December 31, 1983 – August 27, 1985).  In 1985, Buhari was overthrown in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 27th, and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) ostensibly, because he insisted on investigating allegations of fraudulent award of contracts in the Military of Defence. Buhari contested the Presidential election as the candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party in 2003. On 18th December 2006, Gen. Buhari was nominated as the consensus candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party. His main opponent in the 2007 April polls was the ruling PDP’s UmaruYar’Adua, who is from the same state –Katsina state, however, he lost. In March 2010, Buhari left the ANPP for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and was the Presidential candidate in the 16 April 2011 general election, running against the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), they were the major contenders amongtwenty contestants.

Buhari won the 2015 general election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, thus marking the first time Nigeria’s history that an incumbent President was defeated in an election by the leader of the opposition. He was sworn in on 29 May 2015.

Of course, this aggravated different criticisms, comments and effects on the readers and listeners (that is, Nigerians open to the mass media). For the purpose of the research, however, the concern shall be to analyseOlisa Metuh’s selected speeches in its different varieties, employing the method of pragmatic theories.

This research is conceptualized as a result of personal urge to determine the motive of Olisa Metuh’s use of dysphemism, the supports given as basis for inference by the reader and the pragmatic significance.

1.2            Statement of Research Problem

After the successful Presidential election of March 2015, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged as the winner of the Presidential election winning over the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in an election widely adjudged free and fair election. This loss caused ill expressions from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which was spoken and written by the National Publicity Secretary (Olisa Metuh) who has been vested with the power to do so. Unfortunately, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not forgotten this defeat and has successfully portrayed President MuhammaduBuhari’s administration in a dysphemistic manner, and many of these speeches has caused uproar in the country.

A number of scholars have worked on the Pragmatic analysis of speeches and other related essays:

Ayeomoni and Akinuolere (2012) worked on the “Pragmatic Analysis of Victory and Inaugural Speeches of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adura”, where they noted in their findings that the “Overall Relative Frequency Percentages (ORFP) results showed that Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua relied more on sentences that performed assertive acts than other speech acts.

Josial and Johnson (2012) also worked on “Pragmatics Analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s and President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Addresses”results in their findings shows that the speeches are relatively alike because each speaker speaks for his entire nation, regardless of his political party.

However, little or no research has been done on the Pragmatic Analysis of Olisa Metuh’sDysphemisms against President MuhammaduBuhari’s Administration and this is the gap this research hopes to fill with a view to unraveling the meanings embedded in the dysphemistic expressions against Buhari’s administration.

1.3  Aim and Objectives

The aim of this study is to do a pragmatic analysis of Olisa Metuh’sdysphemisms against President MuhammaduBuhari’s administration with specific objectives as follows:

        i.            toidentify the dysphemism used in Olisa Metuh’s speeches.

      ii.            to categorise them according to speech acts.

    iii.            to discuss the pragmatic meaning inferred from the categories.

1.4  Significance of the Study

This study seeks to contribute immensely to existing works done in pragmatics because the significance of dysphemism to the overall interpretation and analysis of a text cannot be over emphasized.

The research will provide answers to the underlying motives and aims enabling the production of dysphemistic expressions by Olisa Metuh using pragmatic approaches.

Consequently, Dysphemism will be exposed as a political communicative tool that has in itself, the effect of blunt expressions and negativity

1.6 Scope of Study

The study is concerned with identifying dysphemisms and providing its pragmatic implications from speeches made by Olisa Metuh in three instances of political events, having headlines on different Newspapers as:

  1. Premium Times: PDP demands removal of new INEC acting chair Amina Zakari (July 1, 2015).
  2. Leadership: PDP accuses Buhari of dividing Nigeria over voting pattern statement (July 27, 2015).
  3. Vanguard: APC, a party of shameless, desperate liars (August 1, 2015).

This research work will be analysed using Austin’s classification of illocutionaryact, which are: Verdictive, Behabitive, Exercitive, Commissive and Expositive.

1.5  Expected Contribution to Knowledge

The research work will focus on the diatribes of Olisa Metuh’s speeches against President MuhammaduBuhari’s Administration and it will contribute tremendously to the works done in pragmatics, this is also because this essay will employ theoretical framework in the pragmatic field.

As regards the objectives of this essay, procedures to achieve them will be derived by scholars who examine or study this essay.

The issues that constitute the content of the dysphemistic speeches by Olisa Metuh are socio-culturally based, thus meanings derived and analysed will serve as semantic resources and solutions for someone who is not naturally inclined or contextually inclined to the Nigerian political issues

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