Propaganda In Politics: The Use Of Language For Effect In Electioneering Campaign

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Propaganda In Politics: The Use Of Language For Effect In Electioneering Campaign


The words perform actions. Language and, in fact, words have different functions and, according to J.L Austin’s speech act theory, written and spoken expressions have a particular effect that they should have on the listener. Many scholars have written on political campaigning and on a universal trend: propaganda in Nigeria. The researcher believes that the related work previously carried out in the field of research was not able to analyze the speaker’s underlying intentions, nor to succinctly address the effect the statements have on the audience: the electorate. This makes the realization of this research important. The researcher also observed that the perlocutionary impetus of language use among aspirants and the electorate regarding the defamation (propaganda) campaign had not yet been studied in its entirety. With this in mind, the present study uses JL Austin’s Speech Law Theory to demonstrate that language has a significant effect on voters and participants, as observed in the 2015 general election in New Brunswick. Nigeria. This study takes into account most of the eight writings selected by supporters of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2015 presidential election. The data collected for this survey range from the accumulation of the process from the campaign of August 2014 until the eve of the elections in March 2015, feared in many sectors, as it was the last Nigeria.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Propaganda is one unique device of politics. This is mostly observed in any electioneering campaign. Longe and Ofuanu (1996:17) argue that propaganda is solely introduced to damage character.

“Propaganda means information, doctrines opinion etc that are often derogatory, as in political propaganda Films and plays.

These are said to be derogatory because they tend to damage or take away credit from something or someone. The sole purpose of propaganda is to misinform and mislead and to consciously indoctrinate.“

The use of propaganda many times, present the propagandist (that is the person speaking) as a saint and the person the propaganda is aimed at as the devil that is not fit to lead.

The focus of this research however is to show how language plays a significant role in political propaganda as it relates to electioneering campaign.

This work shall focus more on the 2007 general electioneering campaign in Nigeria. Linguistics device propagandist use to achieve their aim in the fare mentioned electioneering campaign shall be brought to the fore.

1.2. Statement of Problem

It has been observed that previous researches addressed the role language plays in persuading and educating the electorate during electioneering campaign .This is also known as rhetoric’s. The researcher observed that much has not been done on the effects of language on the contestants and the electorate with regard to campaign of calumny (propaganda) is yet to be fully studied, with this in mind, this study shall show that language has a great effect on both the electorate and contestants as observed during the last 2007 general election in Nigeria.

1.3. Aim of the Study

Where ever politics evolves, propaganda is a major tool in deciding the vote. Propaganda itself is not possible without language. This work is therefore aimed at showing through vivid analysis that propaganda in politics makes use of linguistics device in deciding where the podium of influence should swing towards. This work will also show the forms and features of propaganda as it relates to language use.

1.4 Collection of Data

This work sourced for data from both primary and secondary sources. Also information relating to the topic under study was also sourced for from the internet.

As regards primary source, we got some texts on language and politics and we believe they shall be of great help in making this work a success. Secondary source involved information concerning political speeches of 2007 general election in Nigeria.

1.5 Scope of Study

This work will dwell in language use and speech act. The study will focus on the language use from the communication point of view and the effect it intend to have on the hearer, employing these features: word coinage, vagueness, repetition, abusive expression, attack on party name and slogan etc. being a persuasive styles adopted by the politicians in political campaign as available in data collected.

1.6 Limitation of Study

The greatest limitation in this study is finance. Finance needed in carrying out a standard research is not always easy for any student including researcher .One actually need a lot of fund to source for credible information and data as regarding the use of propaganda. Time was also a big constrain as the researcher was made to work under a given period of time which also affected the work.

1.7 Theoretical Framework

The speech act theory introduced by British language philosopher known as J. L Austin (1962) provide the analytical frame work (i.e. theoretical) upon which the work is based .The theory analyses the role that utterance play in relation to the behaviour or attitude of the speaker and the hearer in interpersonal communication. It is communication ability defined with the respect to the intention of the speaker while talking and the effect of his speech on the listener. Every utterance has its own communicative purpose depending on the specific speech context. Language use, according to Traugott and Pratt (480:226) …is governed by a wide range of contextual factors, including social and physical circumstances, identities attitudes, abilities and beliefs of participants and relations holding between participants.

Austin’s approach begins with an analysis of the different things people do with words through the ages, language philosophers have been impressed with language which has been used to represent how the world is, to say what is or is not the case the notion of truth has been central to the philosophy of language.

He points out the many other things people do with words they do not just represent how things are; they ask questions, give commands, make suggestion give advice, tell jokes, make promises, even insult, persuade and intimidate. This led Austin to draw a threefold distinct kind of speech act:

Locutionary Act – first, words have a distinct conventional meaning. The expression “The cat sat on the mat” refers to a cat, a mat and relation between them, one sitting upon the other. This ordinary sense of meaning constitutes the “what is said” of any particular speech act.

Illucutionary Act.- Secondly has it that by saying certain words one actually commits an act. For example, in saying “I do” at a wedding, one makes a promise in saying ‘will you?’ one asks a question and in saying “you will” one gives order.

Perlocutionary Act. Finally, points out that by saying something, one performs an action by saying I do”. One weds, by saying something like I will give you a better deal than the competitor”, may cause a buyer to be persuaded and so on.

Connecting the three speech – Act

However, these different functions of word are not necessarily exclusive. Austin is aware that many utterances can involve all the three kinds of acts. For instance, saying ‘it’s hot’ is an illocutionary act describing how one feels. It might also be taken in the context of a room with a close window as an illocutionary act – a request to open the window finally as the hearer responds by opening window, the single utterance has also perform a perlocutionary act.

The essence of speech act theory is that utterances are acts in themselves capable of producing enormous and far-reaching result or consequences. Utterances can affect our whole lives, they can deny us to carry out an instruction, change an already existing state of affairs etc.

The work propaganda in politics: the use of language for effect in electioneering campaign will be based on how language of calumny is used by politician to influence the state of the mind of the hearer and to tarnish the image of their opponent. This is achieved employing speeches in their campaigns; these campaign speeches will serve as the data for this work.

This is the analytical framework upon which this work is built.

1.8 Definition of Term

Since the work involves other discipline other than linguistics, terminologies that will be mentioned often in this work will be defined, such as:

1.6.1 Language

Language is any system structure of sign and meaning for the communication of experience MKC Uwajeh (2002)

1.6.2 Politics

Politics has no universal definition but has been defined by different scholars from their respective points of view.

According to F.A.C Aramere (2003:3), “politics is the struggle for political power and the use of that power to the acquisition of other values. Power is therefore the central focus of politics.

1.6.3 Election

This is act of choosing a representative or the holder of a particular office usually by ballot. Electorate refers to the whole body of persons, who have the right to vote in a country or area. Electioneering is the corresponding adjective of the noun election. It refers to the activities of making speeches and visiting people to try to persuade them to vote for a particular politician or a political party

The People in a country or in a country or an area, who have the right to vote,

1.6.4 Propaganda

According to Oyeneye (1997:41) professor Calvin Coolidge (1964) as saying that propaganda seeks to present part of the facts, to distort their relations , and to force conclusion which could not be drawn from a complete and candid survey of all the facts”.

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

This study has used the speech acts theory of J.L Austin to investigate the effects which eight different propagandistic writings of two opposing parties-the APC and the PDP evident in the Nigeria’s general election of 2015. The perlocutionary thrust of these writings on the audience has been the main focus of this research.
The first chapter is an introduction to the whole body of the study under which the introductory background to the study, statement of research problems, the objectives of the research, the scope of the study and the expected contribution to knowledge. A review of the related literatures to the study and theoretical framework upon which the analysis is based is done in chapter two. The third chapter got pre-occupied with the research method adopted for the study. Chapter four did a thorough analysis of the effects of the language of propaganda as evident in the datum. In conclusion, this study reveals that language will always have an effect on thoughts, feelings and even actions of the audience.

5.2 Conclusion

From the enquiry, it has been clearly established that a high level of propaganda pervaded most of the political writings released in the build up to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Also, those statements by party loyalists to an extent made impacts on the audience especially the opposition. The opposition on their part did not leave any stone unturned at replying all propagandistic speeches directed at them and this summarily led to the flooding of propaganda in most of the campaign speeches.

AlhajiMohammadu Buhari has emerged as the winner, but one question still lingers- was he able to win the election based on the amount of propaganda he and his party were able to surmount or the ones raised by his party against the opposition? Conversely, did the PDP lose out because their level of propaganda release did not measure up to that of the APC? These questions remains a quizzical puzzle to the researcher who feels Buhari won because people really wanted him to rule since his records as a past leader seem untainted.

5.3 Recommendations

Sequel to the findings from the analysis done in this work, the researcher will like to proffer some recommendations as part of the projects contribution to the society at large. The following are some of the recommendations:
It is glaring that the use of propaganda pervaded the campaigns of the rival parties, damaging of other people’s character, hate speeches, exaggerations, and half-truths among others. This recent trend summarily reduced campaigns from being issue based to trying to outdo the opposition by all means possible. Therefore, the researcher recommends that more emphasis should be laid on issue based campaigns and not making oneself the better by destroying the other.

The researcher also feels that not so much is done at curbing the excesses of what one can say against the opponent, since it is believed that all is still under the umbrella of campaigns and publicity. The researcher believes that this caused the high rate of propaganda usage. Therefore, measures should be in place to reduce this trend to the bearable minimum. This is believed to forestall the occurrence of especially unfound claims, extreme speeches and halftruths in consequent elections.

In recent times, there has been a clamour for a single term of six years at the National Assembly. From this enquiry, one could notice that most of the attacks on the PDP man would not have been made if he was not seeking a second term. Based on this premise, the researcher feels anyone who has being in office for a term should step aside for another administration so that the issue of division along party lines, religious sentiments and ethnic bigotry (which became rampant as different propagandistic statements rented the air), will reduce drastically.

Also, without doubt, the role which the mass media played in the propagation of the propagandas seen in the writings of the 2015 general elections cannot be over-emphasized. In fact, it got to a time that some online platforms and news channels were apparently divided along party line and used significantly by an opposition to disseminate propagandas. Therefore, the researcher feels that the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) should ensure that news coming from these channels is unbiased, verifiable and honest.

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