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The research is titled “effect of language on persuading voters in Nigeria: A focus on Kaduna state. Language of politics embodied in propaganda and rhetoric is persuasive. Politician adopts these linguistic device to cajole the electorate to vote for them and their parties by presenting themselves as the only capable person for the job. The methods of political propaganda are calculated in a precise manner and their main criterion is to disseminate an ideology for the very purpose of making various political acts acceptable to the people. Tactical political language propaganda seeks to obtain immediate results within a given frame work. Data for this study were obtained through primary and secondary sources such as questionnaire and journals, newspapers, and other published and unpublished materials. The study sampled the opinions of 340 respondents as the basis for drawing conclusion and recommendations from the results of the study. All the materials used to sourced information’s for this study have been acknowledged in the references.




1.1     Background to the study

The study of language is an intriguing enterprise; this cannot be untraced to the roles it performs in the human everyday life. Language encapsulates all the aspects of our daily thoughts and undertakings. It is one unique attribute of man that differentiates it from other creatures on earth. Several attempts have been made to define and describe language by numerous scholars and authors, Crystal and Davy (1987), describe language as the systematic and conventional use of sounds, signs or written symbols in a society, for communication and human expression. From his own standpoint, Barret (1973) sees good language as that which is suitable and adaptive in a given communicative situation (communicative competence). It is that which assists in achieving a meeting of minds with listener’s and does not detract from the thought. Good language is language that serves to unify the speaker, the message and audience. It is language which gets the derived effect with the least friction and difficulty for the user. Chilton (1997), cited in (Rozina and Karapetjana 2009), is of the opinion that language is ‘the universal capacity of humans in all societies to communicate, while by politics he means ‘the art of governance’. It is no gain saying that not one of these brilliant scholarly definitions has been able to successfully capture the true essence of what language is. Notwithstanding this, a succinct description which is intriguing and at the same time very much relevant to this quest is given by Adedimeji (2005): Language mainly serves to form (or deform), inform, reform and transform man and his society all of which are harmonious with the goal of politics, making the two concepts symbiotic. He views language as being the most distinctive attribute of man; language has often exerted a lot of influence on the whole gamut of human affairs: political, educational, socio- economic, cultural, etc. he goes on to point out significantly that language and politics meet at the threshold of power.

Mazrui (1975) sees politics as a constant search for methods of resolving conflicting interests. When politics was described as a struggle to determine who gets what, when and how, conflict was placed at the very heart of political activity in terms of inputs of demands, which are processed within a political system.

There is the chance of politicians taking advantage of the social context to manipulate, and even, deceive people through their use of language. Therefore, linguistic manipulation is the conscious use of language in a devious way to control the others’. Linguistic manipulation can also be considered as an influential instrument of political rhetoric because a political address is primarily focused on persuading people to take specified political actions or to make important political decisions. To convince the potential electorate in present time societies, politics basically dominates in the mass media, which leads to creating new forms of linguistic manipulation; examples are the modified forms of press conferences and press statements, updated texts in slogans, application of catchy phrases, phrasal allusions, the connotative meanings of words, a combination of language and sight appealing images. In other words, language plays a significant conceptual function because it is an instrument by means of which the manipulative intents of politicians become apparent. Language is a powerful weapon and politics is itself concerned with the use of power (Bolinger, 1980; Fairclough, 1989). Indeed, men are engaged in politics as they try to define their positions in society, as they struggle for scarce resources, and as they try to convince others to accept their points of view (Anifowose, 1999, Adedimeji, 2005). The language of politics largely oscillates between deception and persuasion (rhetoric) (Jones and Wareing, 1999). In other words, the goal of political language is either to deceive or persuade in any given context. Within the Nigerian context, as noted by Abati (2001) cited in Adedimeji (2005), there is a “gradual movement from the sublime to the ridiculous in the use of English language in Nigerian politics”. Politically, Nigeria has her own fair share of upheavals and challenges which threatened her democracy and nationhood. Since independence in 1960, Nigeria’s aspiration towards democracy has materialized in various democratic transitions and dispensations, amidst sundry crises and contradictions. By the time Nigeria became a Republic in 1963, the parliamentary system of government was adopted and Sir Tafawa Balewa became the first Prime Minister. After the 1966 military putsch, the Military came into power and ruled for the next thirteen years characterised by high handedness, human right abuse and oppressive trends. The Military administration of Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, handed over to a democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the second republic. His administration was also toppled by a military coup de tat in 1983 which ushered in another wave of the much abhorred Military rule led by General Muhammadu Buhari. This, was cunningly brought to an end by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1985 through a bloodless coup de tat. A botched attempt was made to hand over power back to the civilian administration at the wake of the third republic. This brought about the interim government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan after the annulled June 12 1993 general elections. Shonekan was almost too quick and willing to hand over power to another military administration noted to be the most controversial regime led by General Sani Abacha. General Sani Abacha died while in office under suspicious circumstances in 1998. The then Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulsalami Abubakar was sworn in as the Head of State. His administration paved the way for the fourth republic which is still the dispensation we are still under. The controversial election of 1965 produced the coup d’état of January 1966. Again, the flawed elections of 1983 produced the military coup ofDecember 31, 1983. Finally, Babangida’s flawed elections of 1993 produced the Abacha palace coup of that year and paved way for his memorable dictatorship. (Iyayi, 2004).

Since 1999, the presidential system of government has been adopted and practised in Nigeria. This gave rise to the activities of political parties who bring forth flag bearers as candidates to contest for elections which holds every four years in the country. The electioneering process gives room for prior campaigns where the candidates have the opportunity to present their manifestoes and get familiar with the people. During campaigns and indeed before elections different styles and techniques are adopted to pull the majority of the electorates on their side. Majorly, rhetoric and persuasion seem to be the most appropriate technique but in recent times, the tide has changed since fierce oppositions now exist in the clamour for the mantle of leadership and holding the reins of power. Also, the feature of democracy that has attracted various interests of groups and individuals across the globe is the opportunity it provides for citizens of a given country to among other things exercise their inalienable right to elect leaders of their choice in a competitive, free, fair and periodic election. Furthermore the electoral process is regulated by acceptable rules and regulations that accord legitimacy to winners of elections and acceptability of results by the losers. Politics therefore becomes a game where winners automatically are accorded the legitimacy to rule and the losers have to try again in the next election. The alternative to this is to bypass the rules and regulations governing the electoral process thus creating discord and lawlessness. Politics then becomes warfare; where winners take all and competitors are regarded as enemies to be eliminated. Leaders who emerge from controversial elections devote much of their time to seeking to secure legitimacy and may even resort to the use of force to suppress opposition to its power base thereby endangering political stability.

As observed by Ake (1976) in (Okoli and lortyer 2014):“We are intoxicated with politics”. The premium on political power is so high that we are prone to take the most extreme measures in order to win and maintain political power; our energy tends to be channelled into the struggle for power to the detriment of economically productive efforts (as cited by Diamond, 1984). Ake puts it succinctly:

“The character of the state rules out a politics of moderation and mandates a politics of lawlessness and extremism for the simple reason that the nature of state makes the capture of state’s power irresistibly attractive. The winners in the competition for power win everything, the losers lose everything, Nothing can be worse than losing, nothing, better than winning. Thus, everyone seeks power by every means, legal or otherwise and those who already control state power try to keep it by every means. What emerges from this is a politics which does not know legitimacy or legality, only expediency”. Ake (1976).

This has prompted politicians to resort to all forms of vices including the blackmail of the opposition and making glaring their misdeeds to the public which in turn will win the heart of the electorate to the blackmailer since no one will want to be readily associate with the blackmailed especially if there are evidences no matter how half-hearted to corroborate the claims. This act is primarily known as propaganda.

Propaganda is a unique device used in politics. This is mostly observed in most electioneering campaign process. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary (International Student Edition), propaganda are ideas and statements that may be false or exaggerated and that are used in order to gain support for a political leader, party, etc.

In his own view, Szanto (1978) sees propaganda as “a specific form of activated ideology.” He argues that propaganda is one of the manifestations of the ideology that involves the sales of specific concepts.

“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.”Longe and Ofuani(1996)

According to Longe and Ofuani, (1996) “… the sole purpose of propaganda is to misinform and mislead and to consciously indoctrinate.” Propaganda aims at deliberate slanting of facts and arguments as well as displays of symbols in ways the propagandist thinks will have the most effects. For maximum effects, the propagandist may deliberately withhold pertinent facts, and try to divert the attention of the people he is trying to sway from every other thing but his own propaganda. This is why Szanto (1978) argues that propaganda could be “total falsehood, on the one hand, and on the other a totally valid depiction of reality or truth.” Politicians attempt to persuade their audience by means of expressions that may damage the character of the opponent and discredit him through a conscious manipulation of language. Longe and Ofuani (1996) therefore, argue that propaganda is derogatory because it tends to “damage or take away credit” from something or someone. Propaganda could be in form of exaggeration, rhetorical questions, vague and abusive utterances, etc. The electioneering campaign of the March 2015 general elections in Nigeria was unarguably characterized by a massive use of propaganda propagated by the media and most especially the social networks.

Politics is one aspect of human activities that use by far the greatest amount of propaganda. The word is often associated with deceit because propagandists have seldom scruples to lie or to distort the truth in order to persuade and gather people behind them. In fact, propaganda can be honest or dishonest, while its purpose might be to elicit help or tarnish image. Propaganda is a fundamental instrument of the language of politics. It is used in moulding and changing opinion. 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 rule.

The 2015 general elections that birthed the end of PDP’s dynastic reign and emergence of Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also had a fair share of the use of propagandistic statements as the campaign strategy of the parties involved. Therefore, the focus of this research is to show how language plays a significant role in political propaganda as it relates to electioneering campaign in the 2015 general electioneering campaign process in Nigeria.    

Man by nature is a political animal. This suggests that man is both gregarious and solitary. Politicas focuses on “who gets what”, “when and how”. It determines the process through which power and influence are used in the promotion of certain values and interests (Lasswell, 1977). To be involved in politics therefore is demanding as certain things must be put into consideration. This is the use of language of propaganda in politics as a persuading tool which do have significant effect on voter’s behavior and is however the centre piece of this study. This can also be termed “political language.

Political campaigns are an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group or environment. It can also be viewed as the mobilization of forces either by an organization or individuals to influence others in order to effect an identified and desired political change. It shows people and particularly, political candidates’ ability to sensitize the political community in relation to making the community see them as potentials and better representatives of the people. at any rate, every campaign is unique, and the ultimate goal of almost every political campaign is to win election (Lynn, 2009).  

The priceless rights of our democracy are perhaps the dearest to all is the guarantee of the freedom to speak and publish what we want (with-in the limits of decency and the libel laws). However, this freedom of speech provides a scope for propaganda for those unscrupulous enough to exploit it for their own ends. 

The word propaganda itself used to be a respectable term, originally meaning the spreading of good news. When Goebbels, Hitler and other Fascists began to use the word to describe their promotional activities, propaganda started its slide into disrepute. Today propaganda is associated with the insidious and subversive means of moving a person to predetermined ends (Danziger, 1998).

Common media for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, movies, radio, television, and poster. In the case of radio and television, propaganda can exist on news, current affairs or talk-show segments, as advertising or public service announce “sports” or as long-running advertorials. The uses of language of propaganda in campaigns often follow a strategic transmission such as a leaflet dropped from a plane or an advertisement. Generally these messages will contain directions on how to obtain more information, via a website, hotline, radio program etc. the strategy intends to initiate the individual from information recipient to information seeker through reinforcement, and then from information seeker to opinion leader through indoctrination. What seems to be very important in any political campaign is the message that is sent to the electorates. A campaign message is an important and potent tool that politicians use to express views and feelings to the public with the intention of reshaping and redirecting the electorates opinions to align with theirs with the use of language of propaganda. The message should be a simple statement that can be repeated severally throughout the campaign period to persuade the target audience or influence voters’ act in the candidates favour and describes the opposition in bad light. The campaign message ought to contain the salient ingredients that the candidate wishes to share with the voters and these must be repeated often in order to create a lasting impression on the voters. Propaganda is the expression of opinions or actions carried out deliberately by individuals or groups with a view to influence the opinions or actions of other individuals or groups for predetermined ends through psychological manipulations (Jacque, 1965). It is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide range of media in order to stimulate and sensitize the electorates and by extension, assist in harming an opponent.

Persuasion is a process by which someone, usually by reasoned arguments or logic, appeal to sound judgment in order to attain his set goals. A persuasive language soothes the voters particularly, when topics or issues that revolve around problems that affect voters are repeatedly mentioned in the course of the campaign. It also follows that the language of political campaign embodied in propaganda and rhetoric, it persuasive because most politicians adopt these linguistic devices to cajole the electorates to vote for them and their political parties by presenting themselves as the only capable individuals for the position (Omozuwa and Ezejideaku, 2007).

1.2     Statement of the Problem

The language of propaganda in politics has been described as a language of ridicule, and reproach, pleading and persuasion, colour and bite permeated. It is a language designed to exult some men, destroy some and change the mind of others (Omozuwa and Ezejideaku, 2007). The point is that the phenomenon of persuasion is an integral part of politics and a necessary component of the pursuit and exercise of power. Politicians use a variety of techniques to ensure they captivate voter’s attention and establish credibility and trust amongst the electorates. However, the researcher seeks to examine the effect of language of propaganda on persuading voters in Nigeria.    

Election has become the most acceptable means of changing leadership in any given political system. There are elements that make electorates vote or not to vote in an election.

These elements are different and independent on the socio-cultural, economic and political background of the nation and voters of one point or the other.

In Nigeria, this is rampant, not necessarily because the electorates are a political, but the circumstances and the ways in which the context are fixed forced them to accommodate other considerations. Due to the voter’s poverty level, ethnically and religious inclinations, voting pattern runs in line in order to satisfy those religious/ethnic interest and personal immediate economic needs. They accept gratification from politicians to vote for them even when they knew that such persons are not credible there is support to be a total overhaul of the electoral system; education/creation of awareness to the Nigerian citizens and to make the elective positions less lucrative and alterative than what is currently obtainable. In this way, those negative factors that influence the voting pattern in Nigeria can be controlled.  

Words perform actions! Language and in fact words have different functions and according to the speech act theory of J.L Austin, utterances both written and spoken have a particular effect it should have on the hearer. Many researchers have written on political campaign speeches and a universal trend in them-propaganda in Nigeria. For instance, Opeibi (2006) worked on “Political Marketing or Political ‘Machetting’?” in which he brilliantly concludes that political hopefuls in Nigeria focus more on promoting themselves and orchestrating “attacks on their opponents” rather than enamouring positive issues of national interest. He attributes this phenomenon to factors such as level of education of voters, political literacy, content and structure of the adverts, personality of the sponsor (and/or the political candidate), among others. He also examines the structure and functions of language use in campaign adverts. He classifies political campaign adverts into three. The first is positive advert, which focuses only on the merits of the candidate; the second is contrast advert, which, apart from highlighting the positive side of the candidate, also discredits the other opponent(s).The negative advert, which is the third category, sets out to attack the opponent(s) in full force.

Omozuwa and Ezejideaku (2008) in their paper “A Stylistic Analysis of the Language of Political Campaigns in Nigeria” is another effort to expose the significance of the aesthetic use of language in campaign speeches. They suggest that Nigerians consider “politics” as an exercise often associated with lies, deceits and propaganda. It is observed that political campaign language is characterized by propaganda through attack on party, overemphasis, ambiguity and denunciations. Furthermore, rhetoric in forms of promises, religious allusions, repetitions, figurative expressions, coinages, pidgin, are also observed as essential components characteristic of the language of campaign., etc. the seminal paper pointed out significantly the common propaganda techniques used in Nigeria, evident from the 2007 general election.

Also, Emmanuel Osewe Akubor (2015) in his paper Campaigns and Electioneering: Reflecting on the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria, points out that unlike what is obtainable in other parts of the world where democracy is practised, with policy issues forming the backbone of campaign message, the Nigerian situation was basically on persons, character assassination, violence and abuses (hate) speeches. The paper argues that this campaign strategy often leads to electoral violence before, during and after elections.

The Language of Politics in Nigeria: Conflicts and Resolution by Mahfouz A. Adedimeji (2005) is another paper that undertakes a descriptive appraisal of the language of politics in Nigeria and finds that it is marked by such features as rhetoric, bombasts, exaggeration, illiteracy, meaninglessness, lies, verbal violence, etc. all of which justify the Orwellian thesis that political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind (Orwell, 1946). The conflict engendered by the linguistic behaviour of the Nigerian political class is analysed as the paper recommends sincerity, politeness and seeking the necessary trouble of communicative competence to the politicians in particular and all language users in general.

Similarly, writing on the Language of Politics in England, George Orwell (1946) observes that the language is characterised by lack of precision, perhaps, because either the speaker has a meaning and cannot express it or he unintentionally says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. He describes this phenomenon as vagueness and sheer incompetence. He laments that political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible things saying that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.

So, while the first work is based on print advert, the second deals majorly with the deviation from the campaign norms by Nigeria’s politicians, the third is a stylistic review and the fourth points significantly to the composition of political speeches as rendered by Nigerian politicians. The researcher feels that the related works previously done on the field of enquiry do not probe into the underlying intentions beneath the speaker’s mind nor do they succinctly address the effect the utterances make on the audience the electorate this makes the undertaking of this research important. The researcher also observed that the perlocutionary thrust of language use on the aspirants 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 voters and contestants as observed during the 2015 general election in Nigeria.

1.3     Research Questions and Hypotheses

  1. What is the effect of language of propaganda on persuading voters in Nigeria?
  2. What are the different types of political propaganda strategies in Nigeria?
  3. How does politicians benefit from the use of language of propaganda as a persuasive tool?
  4. Does language propaganda influence voters in Kaduna State?
  5. Does language propaganda change voters behaviours in Kaduna State?

Ho: There is no significance relationship between language propaganda and voters persuasion in Kaduna State.

Hi: There is a significance relationship between language propaganda and voters persuasion in Kaduna State.

1.4     Purpose of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine the effect of language of propaganda on persuading voters in Nigeria and the following are the specific objectives:

  1. To analyze the effect of language of propaganda on persuading voters in Nigeria.
  2. To identify different types of political propaganda strategies in Nigeria.
  3. To identify how politicians benefit from the use of language of propaganda as a persuasive tool.
  4. To examine how language propaganda influence voters in Kaduna State.
  5. To know how language propaganda change voters behaviours in Kaduna State.

1.5     Significance of the Study

The significance of this study cannot be over emphasis. However the study is important in the following ways:

This study is of benefit to the general electorates on the influence of the language of propaganda used by political leaders on their behavior. It will also educate the stakeholders in the politics on the different types of propaganda and its effect in persuading voters.

This research also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied, it will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.

1.6     Scope and Delimitation of the Study

The scope of this study is on the effect of language of propaganda on persuading voters which cover all the strategy of propaganda in the politician speeches during the course of electioneering campaign. It also cover the benefits of the use of language of propaganda in politics. However, the limitations of this study are;

Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work. 

1.7     Definition of Terms

Politics: The activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

Propaganda: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

Language: The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

Voters: A person who votes or has the right to vote at an election.

Election: The act of choosing a representative or the holder of a particular office usually by ballot.

Electorate: Refers to the whole body of person who have the right to vote in a country or area.

Electioneering: Is the activities of making speeches and visiting people to try to persuade them to vote for a particular politician or a political party.

Persuade: Is the act of convincing one to enhance his/her believe or action/intention.

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