• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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The 2023 Nigerian presidential election: A grammar review

Grammaticality versus acceptability: The nexus

An election is an essential part of a country’s democracy. It is a prerequisite for sustaining a democratic government. The presidential election that was held (not, “that held”) in Nigeria, on 25 February 2023, has been appraised from different analytical perspectives. This piece will add to the discourse by serving as torchlight on the errors of English usage which characterised the language of many political commentators during the election.

For starters, I should add that “torchlight” is the light from a burning or an electric torch. By comparison, the portable battery-powered electric lamp is called a torch in British English and a flashlight in American English. Although this portable device is commonly called “torchlight” in Nigeria, this usage has yet to be accepted or included in any reputable dictionary.

While I do not frown on the use of “torchlight” to represent the electric lamp in Nigerian English, I wish to re-emphasise the need for Nigerian linguists and lexicographers to codify Nigerian English in its syntax, lexis, sound system and idioms, and propose it for pedagogical purposes in Nigerian schools.

Moving on, many Nigerians were out to cast their votes or ballots on Saturday after which they were heard saying, “I’ve casted my vote.” It must be mentioned that the past and the past participle forms of the verb “cast” is “cast”, and the correct deployment of the verb is exemplified below:

All citizens should cast their votes for their preferred candidates (correct).

All citizens casted their votes for their preferred candidates (incorrect).

All citizens cast their votes for their preferred candidates (correct).

I have just casted my vote (incorrect).

I have just cast my vote (correct).

There were also different wrong spellings of “polling booths” on social media. Misspellings such as “pulling boot” and “polling butt” flooded the media space. Similarly, while reporting the activities that surrounded vote counting, different spellings were found for “collation” in referring to “collation centre”. Funniest among these misspellings was the portrayal of the word as “collision centre”.

We must thank God that the wrong spelling did not result in collision (a strong disagreement or violence) at the different collation centres (a location established in a constituency, by INEC, where all the results from the polling stations are brought for the purpose of adding up and declaring election results in that constituency).

Also, the electronic device designed to read permanent voter cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters via their fingerprints is called BVAS; an acronym for Bimodal Voter Accreditation System.

The readership should also be reminded that a voter cannot be called an electorate, just like one football player cannot be called a team. Moreover, all the people in a country or area, who are entitled to vote in an election, are collectively called “the electorate”, not “the electorates”.

I am an accredited electorate (incorrect).

I am an accredited voter (correct).

The Nigerian electorates chose their preferred candidates (correct).

The Nigerian electorate chose their preferred candidates (correct).

It is a known fact that some persons must lose (not, “loose”) in an election for a winner to emerge. Such a loss is a test of the candidates’ patriotism, as they must accept it in good faith (not, “fate”) in the interest of the country. All the candidates who contested (not, “contested for”) the presidency should also be embraced by the president-elect towards the advancement of the country.

At the end of the election, the political activities generated all kinds of news. Whether good news or fake news, it is absolutely crucial for readers to know that the mass noun “news” cannot be preceded by the article “a”. This grammatical condition is exemplified by the sentences below:

Bola Tinubu’s emergence was a good news for many Yoruba (incorrect).

Bola Tinubu’s emergence was good news for many Yoruba (correct).

The message on political riots is a fake news (incorrect).

The message on political riots is fake news (correct).

In conclusion, the president-elect must understand that he is the president of all, and not just the president of the Yoruba (not, “the Yorubas”). While the plural of “Yoruba” is “Yoruba” or “Yorubas”, it is pertinent to note that all the Yoruba(s) are collectively called “the Yoruba”.

Also, his kindness must be extended to all Nigerians across the six geo-political zones, and not just the APC faithful (not, “the APC faithfuls”). God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!