Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Language of Political Campaigns and Politics in Nigeria

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Language of Political Campaigns and Politics in Nigeria

Article excerpt


Communication as a complex phenomenon remains vital to a sustenance of relationships and human existence. It is in fact, the oil that lubricates human interactions. Despite this significance, communication is a double-edged sword which can be used either positively or negatively. Boulton (1978, p.41) attested to the negative social intend of language from the perspective of its potential for complexity. She also observed that "language is often used, not to communicate but to deceive. This is often true of political and religious propaganda... ." The intention to manipulate people's mind and thought is symbolically expressed through print and broadcast media particularly, during political campaigns and in the eventual practice of politics in a given society. Using a purposive sampling method , the paper identified 51 samples but analysed 16 political messages and slogans reflected in the print media (billboard and newspaper-paid advertisements) during the 2011 electioneering campaigns in Nigeria. It was observed that man as a political animal engages in the practice of politics as a social and noble activity to express his political agenda either positively or negatively Therefore, it was recommended that political candidates should endeavour to inform and persuade electorates rather than deceive or merely entertain them.

Key words: Politics; Political campaign; Language politics; Communication


Man by nature is a political animal. This suggests that man is both gregarious and solitary. A higher standard of living depends partly on philosophical contemplation which can be demonstrated or expressed through employment of social virtues exercised in the company or association of others (Peck, 1955).

Politics 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 1960, 1977; Danziger, 1998). The concept of politics revolves around three fundamental questions: Who governs? For what ends? And by what means? These are played out through discussion, disagreement, lobbying, rioting, campaigning and voting.

To be involved in politics therefore is demanding as certain things must be put into consideration. One of them is 'power.' Though power is an elusive concept, it is an ability to pursue and achieve goals effectively. It is the capacity in any human relationship to control behaviour and influence thought for the attainment of political goal (Moregenthau, 1985; Padelford, 1976). The other factor or variable is the 'Language of politics' which is the centrepiece of this paper. This can also be termed 'political Language.'

Communication as a versatile process comprises verbal and non-verbal components. While the verbal form attracts both oral and written medium of expressions, the non-verbal aspect encompasses signs (iconic-diagrams, images/pictures); gestures (body languages/paralanguages) and other symbolic representations (coded languages). An important aspect of communication in this context is the participants-individual(s) and group(s) engaged in an interaction. Atolagbe (2004, p. 180) elucidates on the process of such interaction by defining communication as:

A two way process, involving an encoder (i.e. a speaker/source) and a decoder (i.e. a listener/receiver) through whom language is used to pass across some message (e.g. information, idea, expression of a need etc.) and some response elicited, whether positive or negative, such that roles are exchanged between communicants along the line, and interaction takes place.

The definition quoted above illustrates further the components vital to the process of communication, stressing significantly certain factors touching relationship or exchange of interaction between an encoder and decoder; the medium of communication (language); the message content, which comprises information, idea or a need and response(s) provided as feedback, which may be positive or negative. …

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