A Critical Discourse Analysis Of Speeches

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A Critical Discourse Analysis Of Speeches


This study is a critical discourse analysis of Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri’s speeches. It adopts some conceptual framework such as identity and role, ideology, power and institution, discourse of prejudice, language use etcetera; while socio-cognitive and discourse–historical approaches are adopted as theoretical frameworks. The data used are randomly selected speeches by the two prominent Nigerian women. Findings reveal among other things that: the two Nigerian women leaders studied have feminist tendencies as demonstrated in their various speeches; the sociopolitical statuses of the two women, at every point in time, determine their use of language; their speeches are also conditioned by the institutions they represent at every point in time; apart from their feminist ideologies, they also demonstrated concerns at various levels for the welfare of the country in their speeches such as advocacy for a dignified Nigeria; and the idea of naturalization can be deduced from their speeches as they try to identify with the suffering masses. The study’s contribution to knowledge is simply a marriage of CDA as a linguistic field with feminism. Although, this study is not the first of its kind, as far as this researcher’s knowledge is concerned, it may be the first to consider the data used (that is Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri’s speeches).

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The major thrust of this dissertation is to analyze the speeches of two of Nigeria’s frontline women, Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri from the Critical Discourse Analysis perspective. The study is motivated by the fact that ‘language as simple as the term seems is not only a means of describing reality but plays significant roles in determining and shaping reality and the world around us’ (Reponen 4). This reality has been observed in the speeches of these women through their language use; hence, there is need to study them. And, the best linguistic tool that suits such a study, in this researcher’s own opinion, is critical discourse analysis because of the relationship between language and discourse. Fairclough (18-19) defines ‘language use’ as “socially determined”, and ‘Discourse’ as “language as a form of social practice”. According to him, language does not exist outside of society but is a part of it. When people use language, they follow certain norms and rules that have been socially determined, and language use affects, for example, people’s world views and reality (Fairclough19). He adds that ‘language’ is a social process, in which both the production and interpretation are included. He continues in explaining that language is a social practice that is conditioned by the context, which includes not only the immediate situation of language use but also society. (19-20)

Fairclough (21) further explains that discourse can then be seen to consist of three dimensions: the text itself (written or spoken), the processes of its production and interpretation and the social conditions relating to its production and interpretations. He also says that when we produce and interpret language, we draw upon the knowledge which is already in our heads, for example, about language, values and beliefs. According to him, this knowledge is socially constructed, dependent on our social relations and it is socially transmitted. Because of this social nature, language is closely related to power and ideologies, making it possible to dominate other people and shape societies (Fairclough in Reponen 5). In line with the above assertion by Fairclough, Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri, as a result of their statuses have voiced their knowledge and opinion of the Nigerian society in many issues especially as they affect the women and children.

In addition, Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA), like a coroner’s office where a dead body, unable to speak, is dissected for the purpose of discovering the cause of death, is the right place to perform an autopsy on the discourse, spoken or written, in order to unveil the underlying ideologies in it. CDA, as a method of analysis in Discourse, tries to focus on relations between ways of talking and ways of thinking, and highlights “the traces of cultural and ideological meaning in spoken and written texts” (O’Halloran1,946). The ideologies behind the speeches by Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri are, therefore, relevant for this study.

1.1.1 Obi Ezekwesili

Dr. Obiageli ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili is a Senior Economic Advisor at Open Society Foundations (OSF), a group founded by investor and philanthropist, George Soros. She also jointly serves as Senior Economic Advisor for Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI), a program of the Open Society Foundations. In these roles, she advises nine reform-committed African heads of state including Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. Before joining OSF, she was Vice President of the World Bank (Africa Region) in Washington, D.C., responsible for operations in 48 countries and a lending portfolio of nearly $40 billion. From 2002 to 2007, Ezekwesili worked for the federal government of Nigeria as Minister of Education, Minister of Solid Minerals, head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit as well as Chairperson of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) where she led the first ever national implementation of the global standards and principles of transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors. She was a key member of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Economic Team. Ezekwesili is a founding Director of Transparency International, representing Africa at the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin.

1.1.2 Abike Dabiri

Hon. Abike Kafayat Oluwatoyin Dabiri Erewa (Nee Erogbogbo) was Born On 10th October 1962 at Ikorodu Lagos state, Nigeria. She is also an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, University of Lagos and Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA. She is a three term member of Nigeria’s lower chamber (House of Representatives) from Lagos state. During her period in the house, she chaired the Diaspora committee. She is the current Senior Special Adviser on Foreign affairs and Diaspora to President Muhammadu Buhari.

1.2 Statement of Problem

This study is a critical discourse analysis of speeches by Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri. It is a study that dove tailed into feminism and other social issues as observed from their various speeches at various social functions. Since CDA is interested in the WHO of the speaker and WHAT of the discourse (message), the study has attributed some importance to these speeches because of the personality of the speakers and the significance of their messages for societal development. Thus, the Power and Ideology embedded in these speeches as a result of the psychological disposition of the speakers are to be unveiled.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

This research, aims at unveiling the embedded ideologies in the speeches of two prominent Nigerian women (Ezekwesili and Dabiri).

This will been achieved through the objectives below:

  1. By uncovering the linguistic devices or expressions used to cover their psychological input in these utterances.
  2. By establishing reasons why they have spoken the way they did at every point in time.
  3. By establishing the nexus between their social status at the time of making the utterances and the significance of the events where the speeches were delivered; since, they both served in different capacities as stakeholders in nation building.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are the linguistic devices or expressions used to cover the psychological input in the speakers’ utterances?
  2. What is or are the reason (s) why they have spoken the way they did at every point in time?
  3. What is the relationship between their office at the time of these speeches and the significance of the events that shaped their speeches?

1.5 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The work covers solely the speeches of two out of many Nigerian women who have contributed immensely to the social, political and economic development of the country. The women so selected are Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri. Ezekwesili’s speeches that were selected for the study cover education, economy and feminism. For Dabiri, the study has selected her speeches in relation to Nigerians in the diaspora, political liberation for women and education.

No effort crowned with success is without challenge (s). The unavailability of the target women (Obi Ezekwesili and Abike Dabiri) as a result of their daily official commitment hindered the designed interview structured for this research; therefore, the study relies solely on their written speeches as delivered in different fora for want of time.

1.6 Methodology

1.6.1. Research Design

The study is content analysis relying on secondary data. The data for analysis were Obi Ezekwesili’s and Abike Dabiri’s written speeches delivered at different events. The data for review of literature were scholar’s opinions, positions, assertions, arguments, explanations etcetera as reflected and contained in text books, handbooks, unpublished projects and articles in journals.

1.6.2. Sample and Sampling Procedure

The data samples were randomly selected out of many speeches made by the two women. The choice of selecting Obi Ezekwesili’s and Abike Dabiri’s speeches was not because they are the most out spoken women in Nigeria or Africa but for their experience in private and public services respectively and their political involvement over time. Also, their incessant comments about trending issues, in order to make their own contributions in nation building as stakeholders necessitated this choice. Out of the many speeches delivered at various fora by both women, sampled speeches that relate to education, feminism, economy, diaspora and politics became relevant for this study. The speeches were partly collected from the internet and Women Development Centre, central area, Abuja. For the literature review, some materials were from the library and others from the internet.

1.7 Significance of the Study

Future researchers (especially women) will find this study informative, resourceful and encouraging. The work will also be resourceful for students and language teachers especially in gender discourse and critical discourse analysis.

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