This chapter contains the background to the study, a brief profile of the presidential candidates in this study, a brief over view of political campaigns in Nigeria, statement of the problem, research questions, aim, and objectives of the study, justification of the study, scope, and delimitation of the study. Therefore, this chapter provides an insight into the study.


The ability to communicate effectively is the hallmark of all known politicians wherefore the use of English as an international language has made more people aware of the immense power of words in politics and communication.

Thus, Kamalu and Agangan (2007:35) state that language plays an important role in manifesting political wills and accompanying political actions; this is the case with political campaign, especially in Nigeria where campaign affects the electorate who are on the receiving end. Language is therefore used in a unique way; to achieve set goals and objectives. Consequently, campaign speeches are largely dependent on language which is the focus of this study.

Language provides the individual with a tool for the exploration and analysis of his conceptual ideas and this is what has distinguished and given man his unique position in the world. This is why Isa (2004:1) maintains that one of the most important functions of human language is its role as a means of communication or interaction between members of the society. She further notes that language helps man to establish social relations and other forms of networks which only language can facilitate and which obviously makes man superior to other animals lacking in the instrumentality of language.

Sapir (1927:7) in Abaya (2009:195), Oladayo (2011:38), and Anifowoshe (2006:11) define language as purely non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. According to Harris (1979:53) language is the means by which political ideas are transmitted to the community and that the strength of language in politicking are enormous.

However, language conveys different kinds of information relating not only to the speaker’s beliefs but also his identity and relationship with his listeners and hearers which re-enforce that language is vital to human experience. In other words, language serves as an important tool through which effective interaction, mobilization for national development and transformation are achieved.

Hence, Ayeni-Akeke (2008: 83), submits that “political life, like other aspects of social existence, is made possible by the ability to communicate.” He argues that “communication underlies the dynamics of political life.” In order to buttress this view, Pie (1978:2) in Joshua (2003: 109), points out that “politics exists not only to push parties and candidates but covers also the pushing of ideas and point of view.” So, politics involves a series of connected activities designed to bring result. These include: campaign, advertising, canvassing, lawn sign, and so on. Behind these bits and pieces of political power games, is language which ‘is an important aspect to political campaign and an interesting vessel of post election communication’ (patriorstatesman).

The language of political campaign speeches usually comprises of the use of foreign phrases known as political jargons, three part statements, use of rhetorical questions and pronouns to influence and impress the target audience. There is a large use of quotations and adequate use of repetitions. The mode is manipulative, persuasive and the language is ideologically embedded. (myspeechlab.com)

The inability of the electorate to grasp the extent to which politicians use language in order to manipulate, persuade and deceive them into winning their vote is the concern of this study. This is because understanding a language could be difficult without examining fully how such a language is being put to use. Hence, Amodu (2010:1) observes that for a long time, particularly from the early 40s to the late 70s, the study of language concentrated more on the language form, at the expense of how language functions as the case is in functional linguistics and pragmatics. He goes on to say that scholars are gradually shifting ground from paying attention on language structure to studying how language can be functionally used in the society especially if the language has been developed. This reveals that interest in language for communication should be viewed as a good step forward from the narrower and still popular focus on language as grammar. This is not to undermine the importance of the study of language structure but it is an acknowledgement of the fact that the study of how language is being used is now receiving a greater attention and in a new dimension.

By studying language in circumstances where all its functions and variations are taken into consideration, it is possible to learn more about how perceptions, convictions, and identities are influenced by language. More so, words   and expressions are used or omitted to affect meaning in different ways. In political speeches during election campaigns, ideas and ideologies need to be conveyed through language so that they are agreed upon by the receivers as well as by others who may read or hear parts of the speech afterwards in the media. Thus, citizens of democratic countries have the option to go to the ballot boxes on election days and vote for one person or one party. Whether their decision goes along with a political conviction or not, it is most likely based on communication through language. Black, (2005) in Kulo,(2009:1) states that within all types of political system, from autocratic, through oligarchic to democratic, leaders have relied on the spoken word to convince others of the benefits that arise from their leadership. The study attempts to unravel the features of language that are peculiar to the speeches of the presidential candidates using the linguistic stylistic approach.

Aristotle in Anifowose and Enemuo (1991:1) mentions that “man is by nature a political animal.” By this, he means that the essence of social existence is politics and that two or more men interacting with one another are invariably involved in a political relationship. Therefore, it is evident that both language and politics intersect at the point of interaction. Similarly, Merk (1967:13) cited in Anifowose and Enumuo (1991:1) argues that politics is the “art of influencing, manipulating, and controlling others; which are all indubitable functions of language in verbal communication.

Moreover, political speeches are composed by a team of professional speech writers, who are educated in the use of persuasive language. Beard, (2001:18) in Kulo (2009:1) throws more light, that adding rhetorical devices to a pre-composed speech may be of crucial importance to election results. He adds that a political speech is not necessarily a success because of correctness or truth rather politicians use language in presenting valued arguments to achieve their aims of winning votes. To examine the most prominent linguistic/stylistic features of language is a cardinal focus of the research