By Farooq Kperogi
I stopped my Sunday grammar column in the Daily Trust after the paper’s “management” (AKA Kabiru Yusuf, its chairman) yielded to Aso Rock’s instruction to stop my Saturday column for being consistently critical of Buhari’s irremediably infernal incompetence. (The stoppage of the column in the Daily Trust paradoxically amplified its patronage and reach on the back page of the Nigerian Tribune on Saturday, which defeats the purpose of stopping it in the Daily Trust!)
Anyway, although I no longer write on English grammar, I can’t fail to notice the multiplication of humorously awkward grammatical boo-boos from Nigerian politicians these past few weeks. I’ll highlight only four, starting from the most recent one.
1. Gbenga Omotosho, Lagos State’s Commissioner for Information & Strategy, in a press statement designed to dispel the notion that the 123 Hausa travelers who were arrested by the Lagos State government were targeted because of their ethnic identity, said, “The arrested suspects have been moved to the State Police Command where they are being profiled.”
When law enforcement officers “profile” people, it means they are judging the people on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, etc. instead of their actual conduct. I’m not sure that was the meaning Omotosho intended to convey because it contradicts the core claim of his press release. Was it a Freudian slip or just plain ignorance? Or both?
2. But there’s more. In the same press release, we encounter risible howlers like, “large quantity [sic] of used bikes” [I thought bikes were countable], “speculated cases of Boko haram [sic] insurgency” (what in the world does that mean?), “banditry attacks,” “the case on hand,” “most preffered [sic] destination” [“preferred” is already a superlative state and doesn’t need “most,” another superlative, to make it a superlative], etc. And can someone please tell the man that spellcheck is meant to be used; that it’s not a mere decorative appurtenance on Microsoft Word?
3. Senator Remi Tinubu repeatedly told woman-beating Adamawa senator Elisha Abbo to “off” his microphone! No one taught the distinguished senator that the proper expression is “turn off.” “Off” is rarely used as a verb. When it is, particularly in American English, it means to murder. Senator Abbo looks like he can murder people in a fit of uncontrolled temper tantrum, but I doubt he can murder a microphone.
4. During the senate confirmation hearings of ministerial nominees, which Nigerians erroneously call “screening,” senators repeatedly addressed the nominees as “Mr. Nominee.” Where the heck did that come from? “Mr.” is traditionally prefixed either to a man’s full name or to his last name alone. There is an undertone of mockery when you call someone “Mr. Nominee,” particularly when you know his real name. I missed if they also called female ministerial nominees “Mrs Nominee” (which would mean they’re married to people whose last names are “Nominee”) or “Miss Nominee” (which would mean their fathers are called “Mr Nominee”). Or did they just call them “Madam Nominee”?
“Mr. President,” “Madam President,” “Mr. Speaker,” and “Madam Speaker” are formal titles of respect in American English for occupants of such offices. It appears that our senators invented “Mr Nominee” on the model of these fossilized titles. But “Nominee” is not a position. We don’t even say “Mr. Senator,” or “Mr. Representative.” So why do we have “Mr Nominee”?