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A Speech Act Analysis of the Acceptance of Nomination Speeches of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief M.K.O. Abiola

Studies on presidential speeches as an aspect of political discourse have been from wide range of perspectives. Undoubtedly, political discourse has been a major domain of language use that has attracted the interests of researchers for a long while. This is because political discourse is a complex human activity that deserves critical study particularly because of its central place in the organisation and management of society. Some scholars have examined the communicative strategies employed in political processes and the role of the media in the dissemination of political messages (See Bennett, 1981; King, 1976; Gronbeck, 1978; Ozimede, 1985; Moore, 1987 and McQuail, 1992). Skoniecki and College (2004) examine President Ronald Regan’s of the United States of America’s speech, calling for action against communism, to the people of West Berlin and the world. The speech, ‘Tear Down this Wall’ was delivered against the backdrop of the cultural history of the Americans and it culminates in the opening of the Berlin wall. The study shows the effectiveness of Regan’s persuasive use of language in facilitating the opening of the Berlin wall. Bullock (2003) examines the rhetorical strategies employed by President Bush as means of persuasion for the prosecution of the Iraqi’s war and to justify America’s interest in prosecuting the war. In a related work, Rudyk (2007) examines power relations in Bush’s union speech. The speech which focuses on the semantic, syntactic and pragmatic levels of manipulations, studies the abuse of power in the US-Iraqi war and its effects on the recipients. Pu (2007) investigates the deployment of linguistic and rhetorical strategies in Bush’s speech at Tsinghua University, China.

In Nigeria, there are quite a number of scholarly contributions to the pool of studies on the language of politics. Adegbija (1988) investigates military coup speeches in Nigeria. The paper which focuses the deployment of discourse tact, reveals the effectiveness of discourse tact in ensuring that illocutionary force is achieved in discourse. Oha (1994) is a stylistic study of the war speeches of Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Ojukwu. The study, which probes into the nature and the relationship of style to meaning, examines how the conflict between the two sides is demonstrated in their use of language. Wiredu (1996) looks at style in the language of politics in Nigeria by focusing on the identification of the various persuasive strategies employed by politicians to sway the electorate.

Also, Awonusi (1996) examines the discourse features and strategies in election campaign texts. The study focuses on how Nigerian politicians use advertisement to project their image to voters. Opeibi (2004) is a discourse study of the use of English in the 1993 presidential election campaigns in Nigeria. Opeibi examines how politicians use the English language for effective communication of their goals. Adegoju (2005) examines style in political conflicts in the June 12 crisis in Nigeria. The study accounts for the various ways language is used in defending and promoting personal and group interests and in subverting the goals of opponents. Ayeomoni (2005) is a linguistic stylistic study of some speeches of past Nigerian Military rulers. He observes that such speeches are replete with the use of punctuation marks such as comma and full stops as stylistic devices to show frankness, fearlessness and boldness.

Further still, Adetunji (2009) studies speech acts and rhetoric in the Second Inaugural Address of President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President George Bush of America. The paper, which employs a combination of speech act and rhetoric, proves that two contextually contiguous speeches may not have similar illocutionary forces and rhetorical elements even when they belong to the same discourse genre. Babatunde and Odepidan (2009) examine the roles of pragmatics and rhetoric in effective communication in politics and governance. Using select speeches of President Olusegun Obasanjo as data, the paper explores the effects of context, intention and world knowledge on the choice of acts performed in the data. Okpanachi (2009) examines the structure of power struggle and the underlying ideologies in President Obasanjo‘s national address of 8th October, 2003, on the dispute between the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Federal Government. The paper reveals how Obasanjo uses language as a weapon to categorise and portray the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) as an enemy of the state while portraying his government as patriotic; expressly championing the interest of the people. Significant as these contributions are, none has specifically characterised the acts performed in the acceptance of nomination speeches of presidential candidates in Nigeria. This paper fills this gap.

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(Author: Samuel Alaba Akinwotu

Published by Sciedu Press)