A Linguistic Stylistic Analysis Of The Campaign Speeches Of Two Presidential Candidates In The 2011 Elections

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

A Linguistic Stylistic Analysis Of The Campaign Speeches Of Two Presidential Candidates In The 2011 Elections


This study emphasizes that the pursuit, gain for, and exercise of power is characterized by the crafty use of language. Persuasion and conviction of the electorate to obtain their support and acceptance, manipulating the audience towards accepting a particular ideology depends to a large extent on the kind of language used by the politician. The aim of the study is to investigate the pattern of language used in the selected campaign speeches with a view to determining the extent to which language works in any political dispensation. In this regard therefore, the study is a linguistic stylistic analysis of the campaign speeches of two presidential candidates in the 2011 elections with reference to Goodluck jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. The study utilizes the eclectic approach to CDA which consists of Fairclough‘s (1992) three dimensional model, van Dijk‘s (1998) ideological model and Chilton‘s (2004) representation model. Data for the study were speeches purposively selected and obtained from National Television Authority (NTA), Abuja and downloaded written speeches from the internet. The speeches are of the two strong presidential aspirants from the leading parties in the country, Muhammadu Buhari, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Goodluck Jonathan, People‘s Democratic Party (PDP). The data obtained were analysed through the following mechanisms: Power Relations, Rhetorical Devices, Identity Construction, and Ideological Interests. The findings revealed that both speakers used different rhetorical devices to persuade and appeal to the audience to attain political power; that the discourse structure of campaign speeches is such that politicians first of all carry out their image construction before they address national issues, and that the use of intertextuality permeated the campaign speeches where the mechanism was used to portray the background of the two aspirants. The study has concluded that campaign speeches by politicians are ideological and often invested with the tendencies to confuse, persuade, dominate and control the minds of the electorate. The study therefore, recommends that for any rigorous analysis to be carried out in campaign speeches, attention should be given to two matters: matter of language and matter of politics which are ultimately ideological.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

This study is located within the ambit of political discourse analysis. It focuses on language as the main system of social interaction and one that makes all other activities possible. In politics, language is used in much a crafty way than in everyday use of language. Hence, this study is motivated by the way politicians use language in a much different way than the ordinary day-to-day use of language. This is much more prevalent in campaign speeches where politicians obfuscate their intensions using certain language choices to disguise their real ideological intentions. Therefore, the study focuses on the campaign speeches of presidential candidates in the 2011 elections in Nigeria, using the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA) to analyse the linguistic strategies and discourse structures employed by the contestants to control and garner support from the electorate.

Basically, the study adapts the methodology framework used by most outstanding practitioners in CDA (Fairclough, 1989, 1992, and 1995, 2001, 2003; van Dijk, 1988,1991, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2000, Chilton 2004). Appreciating the interdisciplinary nature of CDA, Fairclough conceptualises discourse in a three dimensional model which are intricately related. This includes the text, discourse practice, and social practice, and seeks to map these three separate forms of analysis onto one another (Fairclough 1995). According to van Dijk (1988), CDA is concerned with analysing written texts and spoken words to reveal the discursive sources of power, dominance, inequality, and bias and how these sources are initiated, maintained, reproduced, and transformed within specific social, economic, political, and historical contexts. Hence, it illuminates ways in which the dominant forces construct texts that favour their interests.

From a critical discourse perspective this study is located around a rule-of-three: language, politics and ideology, part of which forms the principles of political discourse. In Nigeria, politicians are classifiable into inter – and intra – party factions which breed subjectivity, partisanship and oppositions in politics. This, in turn, affects the choice of words and expressions in politicking. It is in line with this that language analysts submit that language use in political discourse is therefore subjected to individual manipulation (See, for example, van Dijk, 1998, Silverman, 2000, Chilton, 2004, Abaya, 2008, Ayoola, 2010) and that various linguistic properties are deployed deliberately to align with a political party or to distance from it.

1.2 Biosketch of Buhari and Jonathan

This study takes on the campaign speeches of Muhammadu Buhari, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for critical discourse analysis. The choice of these aspirants is because the parties they belong to are considered popular and strong in Nigeria, with widespread supporters from the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the former being the ruling party with its candidate from the south- south and the latter, the opposition, with its candidate from the north-west.

1.2.1 Biosketch of Muhammadu Buhari

General Muhammadu Buhari was born on December, 1942 in Daura, Katsina State in the North West zone, Nigeria. He became Nigeria‘s Head of State on December 31, 1983. He was overthrown on August 27, 1985. As a military Head of State his administration introduced ―War Against Indiscipline‖ (WAI) campaign.

Before he became the Head of State, Buhari had been the Chairman of Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC), Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources and Governor of North-Eastern State of Nigeria. He was also Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), under General Sani Abacha; since 2003, Buhari has sought to become Nigeria‘s civilian president, without success. He contested in the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections under the platform of the All Nigerian People‘s Party (ANPP), losing out on both occasions to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates. He fell out of the leadership of the All Nigerian People‘s Party. In spite of this, he pursued with strong passion, determination and succeeded in pulling out with him some of the supporters of the party which formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He was ratified as the presidential candidate of the party in 2011 elections. He aims at objectivity but his view on the past government makes him confrontational, critical and at the same time confident that change must take place in the country.

1.2.2 Biosketch of Goodlu6ck Jonathan

Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was born on November 20, 1957 in Otuoke, Bayelsa State South-South zone, Nigeria. He has a PhD in Hydrobiology and Fisheries. He was appointed as Science Inspector of Education, Rivers State Ministry of Education between 1983 and 1993. He took up employment as a lecturer in the State College of Education. He was appointed Assistant Director of the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission. His desire to better the lot of Nigerians motivated him to go into politics in 1998. Simplicity, charisma, quiet strength, and determination made him an ideal running mate to chief D.S.P, Alamieyeseigha on the Bayelsa PDP gubernatorial ticket. They won the elections and he served as a deputy Governor from 1999 to 2000. But on 12, December 2005, he became the substantive governor of Bayelsa State. After that, fate once again beckoned. He was busy preparing for re-election to his party when PDP, nominated him as running mate to the presidential candidate, Ahaji Umaru Yar‘Adua on May 29, 2007; he was inaugurated as Nigeria‘s Vice- President.

In February 9, 2010, Dr. Jonathan assumed office as Nigeria‘s Acting President by virtue of a National Assembly‘s resolution empowering him following President Yar‘Adua‘s long absence for Medical attention in Saudi Arabia. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in on May 6, 2010 as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In April, 2011 the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was re-elected as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and with a transformation agenda.

Ideological Standpoints of CPC and PDP

Andaolotu (2011) points that the CPC lies towards the left wing of the political spectrum which can be described as neo-socialism, supporting individual liberty, rights, and social welfare of the less privilege. For example, Buhari outlined his ‗change agenda‘ for Nigeria which include the following; That is, to provide access to justice, respect for fundamental human rights, security, corruption, employment, health, economy and education. In the area of the economy Buhari‘s ideology is that no matter the amount of wealth created it will be meaningless unless it benefits the majority of the people. This he observes was lacking in the government of the Peoples Democratic Party where the wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of a few to the detriment of the welfare of the larger society. In the case of corruption, Buhari‘s view is that no matter how vast the resources if they are not efficiently utilized, they will only benefit a privileged and corrupt few, living the majority in poverty. He believes that if Nigeria does not kill corruption; corruption will kill Nigeria. That is to say, the personality of the presidential aspirant has influenced not just his ideology but that of the party – CPC.

Conversely, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan‘s government was an offshoot of the Yar‘adua administration, his commitment was to continue with the seven point ‗transformation agenda‘. This agenda include the total transformation of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria is a true home for all her citizens, a country where there is adequate power supply, a secured environment for business and leisure where the infrastructure is comparable to anywhere in the world, improved educational standard, that is, he wants the schools to deliver the best education to children and the institutions must work in the interest of the people, and he wants to see a country where no one goes to bed hungry. Practically, here, the party, PDP appeared to play lip service to this laudable agenda as some of them were truncated by their strong members and as such the citizenry could not feel the impact of government‘s programme which was meant to ameliorate the suffering of the masses. So, on the whole, PDP aligns to the capitalist ideology as opposed to CPC‘s neo- socialist stance.

It is against this background that this study interrogates the language used in the campaign speeches delivered by two presidential candidates of two ideologically opposed political parties in the Nigeria presidential election of 2011. Several levels will be observed: linguistic features (wording, phrasing and sentence structure), rhetorical devices, forms of indirectness and strategies which aim at positive self-presentation and negative other-presentation so as to explain the extent the speakers‘ partisan ideologies reflect their linguistic choices.

1.3 Statement of the Research Problem

One essential property of political discourse is its interest in the ideological layers of the text which many previous studies within the context of Nigeria from the perspectives of both theoretical linguistics and applied linguistics (critical discourse analysis) have glossed over or completely ignored. There is no doubt that studies abound on the discourse structure of political communication as evident in the works of Abaya (2008), Akodu (2009), Abdullahi-Idiagbon (2010), Kamalu and Agangan (2010), Aremu (2010), Ahmed (2012), Balogun (2015). However, these studies were more preoccupied with the discourse structures of political language rather than with the ideological contents of such speeches. Political language is ideologically charged and value laden such that what is said cannot be considered to be neutral and taken at its face value. The basic difference between the politician and others resides in the ideology which the politician‘s language contains that may be inaccessible to any cursory observation but can only be laid bare upon critical and rigorous interrogation. One approach, through which the ideological contents of political speeches can be accessed, analysed, laid bare and understood is Critical Discourse Analysis which previous studies have substantially ignored or which they have hardly applied in the analysis of political speeches in Nigeria. The major orientation of CDA is an understanding of the hidden ideological contents which are shrouded in the deliberate and sometime not so deliberate choices of language which politicians make in their speeches. The current study on CDA proceeds on the assumption that no language use is face value free; all language structures exploit one ideological position or the other. These ideological positions as far as campaign speeches are concerned include the representation of perception, manipulation as well as the construction of image and intentions. The focus of this study therefore is to identify, compare, and contrast the discourse structures and ideological strategies used in the campaign speeches delivered by two presidential candidates of two ideologically opposed political parties in the Nigerian presidential election of 2011 using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). The choice of CDA as the analytical tool for this study is borne out of its major concern on revealing the ideological layers inherent in campaign speeches.

1.4 Research Questions

This study is therefore an attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. To what extent do the selected campaign speeches manifest political power?
  2. What rhetorical devices permeate the campaign speeches and what are their functions?
  3. How does the structure of language used in campaign speeches construct the identity of the aspirants as well as the electorates?
  4. What are the pattern of campaign speeches by Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan?
  5. How do the selected presidential candidates manipulate language to serve their ideological interests?

1.5 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of the study is to investigate the linguistic stylistic analysis of the campaign speeches of two presidential candidates in the 2011 elections. With the view to determining the extent to which language works for politicians in controlling and wooing the electorate. In particular, the study investigates the speeches produced by Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan. Special attention will be paid on the use of rhetorical devices, framing, naming, hedging, modality and lexicalization which are often conveyed through deliberate choice of words. In doing this, the objectives of the study are to:

  1. Highlight the extent to which campaign speeches manifest political power;
  2. Identify the rhetorical devices that permeate the campaign speeches of Buhari and Jonathan and what are their functions;
  3. Assess how the structure of language used in the campaign speeches construct the identity of the aspirants as well as the electorate;
  4. Demonstrate the pattern of campaign speeches of Buhari and Jonathan;
  5. Reveal how these presidential candidates manipulate language to serve their ideological interests;

1.6 Significance of the Study

The fact that our unconscious knowledge of language is much greater than our conscious knowledge of it cannot be overemphasised. Hence, it is no doubt that the facts about language that are easily accessible to the average person covers part of what language is and how it is used. For instance, it is not out of place for the general public to pay close attention to the way language is used in different contexts even in campaign speeches. There is, therefore, the need to examine the peculiar use of language in campaign speeches. The audience listens to the campaign speeches without critically reacting to the messages which are full of persuasion and manipulation in order to win their votes.

Thus, the need to examine the campaign speeches of two presidential candidates in the 2011 elections as they employ language to make the audience accept their ideology. In addition, account of language use in campaign speeches by the researcher enlarges the coast of political discourse linguistically and socially. It also needs a critical discourse analysis perspective if the audience is to understand political campaign speeches in a critical sense. It will help students of language who want to study political discourse and reawaken the consciousness of politicians on how to use language in a better way not only to carry people along but also to create agreement and not crises.

1.7 The Scope / Delimitation of the Study

The research should have covered more presidential candidates and speeches but for effectiveness and thoroughness, this work is limited to two presidential candidates of the PDP and APC in the 2011 campaign elections. The choice of these parties is based on the fact that these major parties (PDP and APC) have captured the majority of the electorate in the northern and southern parts of the country . The study utilizes an eclectic or abridged method of CDA of Fairclough (1992), van Dijk (1998), and Chilton (2004). This is because they have adopted socio-cultural approach to analyze text and talk. However, it is difficult to study all the campaign speeches of the presidential candidates as a result the study has been restricted to some selected speeches in States like Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara and Abuja (Federal Capital). A total of six (6) speeches for both candidates are examined in this research.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusion

5.0 Preamble

This chapter summarizes and concludes the study. It suggests areas for further research and states the study‘s contribution to knowledge.

5.1 Summary

The study has carried out a critical analysis of political discourse, focusing on the campaign speeches of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 presidential election with a view to revealing the parties‘ identity, ideological orientations, and the implications these have on the electorate. This was accounted for through the following mechanisms: power relations, rhetorical devices, identity construction, and ideological interests.

The study considered the background to the study, statement of the problem, aims and objectives of the study, the justification for the study and scope of the study. The related literature review looked at the conceptual and topical issues such as; meaning of language, language and communication, language and politics, politics and political campaigns in Nigeria, discourse, power and ideology, political discourse and critical discourse analysis. Here, the study reviewed the works of some authors that are relevant to this study and an attempt was made to locate the gap in these works. The survey method was adopted for this study and data that were obtained from the CD‘s and written speeches that were downloaded from the internet were transcribed. The study adopted qualitative textual analysis as its analytical procedure. The findings confirmed the relevance of critical discourse analysis to the politician‘s exploitation of ideological contents in political speeches.

5.2 Conclusion

The study has reechoed the fact that political campaign speech is an aspect of the situational use of language that is, language use in context where certain lexical choices and patterns almost always feature. Thus, the study has examined campaign speeches as a subset of political discourse, using critical discourse methodological approach. It sets out from the hypothetical view that political language is ideologically charged and value laden such that what is said cannot be taken at its face value. Consequently, the data obtained for this study which are the campaign speeches have proved that the hypothesis has basis. Hence, the succeeding analysis and findings had shown that conscious and sometimes unconscious choice of vocabulary and grammar in political utterances represent the ideological position of the speaker as well as his power relations with the audience. This study has also revealed even though there are differences in the pattern of the campaign speeches, there are also marked similarities particularly with regard to their extensive use of rhetorical devices. It has also opined that the pattern of language used in campaign speeches by politicians is to manipulate the electorate and suggest the aspirants‘ standpoint as well as their political manifestos. For instance, the ideology of change separated Buhari from his opponent Jonathan as the incumbent president. It therefore observed that for any rigorous analysis to be carried out in campaign speeches attention should be given to two matters: matter of language and matter of politics which are ultimately ideological. Hence, campaign speeches by politicians are ideological and often invested with the tendencies to confuse, persuade, dominate and control the minds of the electorate.

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