Nigerian independence: Reflections through grammar

Beyond any form of reservation, it is essential to wish our country a Happy Independence Day. Equally, it is paramount for everyone who will observe this national obligation to note that it is designated as ‘Independence Day’, not ‘Independent Day’. This pervasive grammatical anomaly can be attributed to generalisations from structures such as the Independent National Electoral Commission, Africa Independent Television and similar names where ‘independent’ is used as an adjective—not a noun, as portrayed in ‘Independence Day’. Away from that, the zeal to serve one’s fatherland (not, father’s land), as we all pledge to do every time we recite the Nigerian National Anthem, is dwindling alarmingly. Who will serve zealously when the country cannot even provide basic infrastructure (not, infrastructures)? The common English idiom that he who pays the piper calls the tune does not apply in Nigeria; maybe that explains why ‘call’, as used in the idiomatic expression, is often replaced with ‘dictate’ by Nigerians:

He who pays the piper dictates the tune (non-standard).

He who pays the piper calls the tune (standard).

Sadly, in Nigeria, those who pay the piper (by electing their representatives) do not participate in calling the tune (since we cannot even enjoy the far-reaching benefits of basic facilities such as power and healthcare). Many a politician thinks of the masses only when it is time for the latter to exercise their franchise as the electorate (not, electorates; all the people who are allowed to vote in a country constitute the electorate). On the part of the people, it is quite unfortunate that many citizens sell their voting rights just for foodstuff(s) and other minor stuff (not, stuffs; note that while the items used as food or used to make food are foodstuff(s), things that are generally referred to without mentioning their specific names are stuff).

Read Also: Despair on Nigerians’ faces, 60 years after Independence

In Nigeria, people spend a lot on foodstuff (standard).

In Nigeria, people spend a lot on foodstuffs (standard).

The general reader should make mental note that, in the English language, foodstuff can be regarded as either a mass noun (as instanced in the first statement), a count noun or a plural noun (as typified in the second sentence structure).

We need some stuffs at home (non-standard).

We need some stuff at home (standard).

Education is another segment where the country is seriously challenged. While many parents can neither afford stationery (not, stationeries) nor tuition fees (not, tuition fee; in American English, it is simply called tuition), at the primary school level, academics threaten to embark on strike every now and then. Being an undergraduate is no longer child’s play (not, a child’s play); many students even go a whole day without a single meal. And when they struggle to graduate with flying colours (not, in flying colours), they harbour a faint hope of landing lucrative jobs. For this reason, many of them try their level best (not, possible best) to travel out of the country and even get frustrated by the gruelling process of getting passports (not, international passports) and visas. Some of them end up becoming mercenaries (not, machineries) in the hands of politicians who, of course, are spurred by self-aggrandisement and a vested interest. As such, these atrocious politicians deploy the hapless youths as riff-raff (not, riff-raffs; people with a bad reputation or people who are of a low social class are collectively called riff-raff).

Politicians with a vested interest turn innocent youths to riff-raffs (non-standard).

Politicians with a vested interest turn innocent youths to riff-raff (standard).

For reasons best known to themselves (not, best known to them), Nigerian politicians refuse to explore and optimise our abundant resources, in order to significantly upscale the citizenry’s standard of living. We must not stop raising the alarm (not, raising an alarm) so that citizens can prudently leverage their suffrage for the betterment of this country. If the winds of change (forces that have the power to change things are described as ‘the winds of change’, not ‘the wind of change’) must blow, all hands must be on deck (not, desk).

If the wind of change must blow in Nigeria, all hands must be on deck (non-standard).

If the winds of change must blow in Nigeria, all hands must be on deck (standard).

By the way, in which other country except Nigeria would lawmakers go ahead to purchase new SUVs (not, jeeps) in a coronavirus-ravaged world, while their wives would flaunt jewellery that can build schools for three communities? Note that powerful vehicles with four-wheel drive that can be driven over rough ground are sport utility vehicles (SUVs), whereas Jeep is a registered trademark for a kind of SUV. Meanwhile, personal ornaments, such as necklaces, rings or bracelets, which are typically made from or contain jewels or any precious metal, are jewellery (spelt as jewelry in American English).

To round off this piece (not, round up), Nigerians should know that despite these myriad challenges plaguing the country, the country will rise again and take its significant place in the comity of nations (not, the committee of nations). God bless Nigeria!

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