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June 12 commemoration: Grammatical blunders in Buhari’s official statement

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IN the less-than-300-word statement released by President Muhamadu Buhari to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria, and award the late MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, GCFR and GCON respectively, there are not fewer than 10 grammatical errors.
From the beginning paragraph to the last, the president’s statement is fraught with syntax errors.

In the first sentence, there is no need for the second comma. The sentence could have simply read: “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th as Democracy Day”. Instead the sentence reads: “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day”.

The second sentence, however, deserves a second comma which was missing in the text.

Here is the accurate construction:  “That was the date when, for the second time, an elected civilian administration took over from the a military government.”

The following paragraphs are replete with misuse of ordinal adjectives for cardinal numbers. For example, dates should have been expressed as June 12, not June 12th , May 29, not May 29th , and October 1, not October 1st.

Another other way to present the dates are 12th June, 29th May and 1st October.

In paragraph three, an example of a mistake known as malapropism is found. The president’s speech writer used ‘distract’ instead of ‘detract’. The two words sound similar but their meanings are different.

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“Distract”, according to Cambridge English Dictionary, means “to prevent someone from concentrating on something”, whereas, “detract” means “to diminish the worth or value of a quality or achievement”.

So, when the speech writer wrote that “…The fact that the outcome of that elections was not upheld by the then military Government (sic) does not distract from the democratic credential of that process,” he/she meant to write “detract”, and not “distract”.

In the fourth paragraph, definite article “the” is missing in the phrase “late Chief MKO”.

And in the last paragraph, the use of years in “future years” is tautological.

Meanwhile, several cases of arbitrary use of capital letters are found across the five paragraphs of President Buhari’s message.

For examples, there are phrases such as “military Government”, “Federal Government”, “Government”, “Democracy”, and “Commemoration”.

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Grammatically, capital letters are used only for proper nouns, except for a letter in the word that starts a sentence. Therefore, letters in the words identified above could have been in small case, and not in capital case.

Meanwhile, President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech on May 29 was also fraught with multiple errors.

Farooq Kperogi, a professor of journalism at Kennesaw State University, the United States,  identified seven of such errors in his June 3 article titled: “Buhari’s Democracy Day Speech is a Grammatical Embarrassment.”

Kperogi wrote that there were several “avoidable errors” in the president’s speech.

According to the journalism teacher, “presidents, by virtue of the enormous symbolic power they wield, have an outsize influence on grammar and usage. Their errors can become new norms and can confuse people who look up to them for guidance. Most importantly, important presidential speeches, such as the Democracy Day speech, often outlast their time.”

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