Of Plagiarism And Linguistic Incompetence: The Examples Of Buhari And Obama (READ)


Let me state clearly from the outset here that this essay is in no way a defence of President Buhari’s continuing series of malfeasances, the latest of which is his widely publicised act of blatant plagiarism of portions of Obama’s 2008 inaugural address, as well as the subsequent dishonest attempt by his aides to pass the buck on a fictitious ‘deputy director in the presidency‘, but which claim has now been revealed to be absolutely false.

No, this is not at all a defence of President Buhari’s singular illiteracy, obdurate deceptions and Godless ineptitude. As I have observed again and again and again in my posts here, in electing Buhari as President in 2015, Nigeria completely repudiated the qualities of education, intelligence, honesty, integrity, selflessness, broadmindedness?, urbanity and Godliness, NONE of which Buhari possesses. And so nothing the man does should surprise anyone.

Indeed, for a man who referred to Germany in 2015 as *’Western Germany’; German Chancellor, Angela Merkel as *’Mitchell’; his own running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo as *’Osunbade’; his own political party, All Progressives Congress(APC) as *’All Frogressive Confidence’; Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC?) as *’Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission’; and a Nigerian state, Imo State as *’Ibo State’, plagiarism would certainly be all in the territory.

What is intriguing, however, in this story about Buhari’s plagiarism, and which has been lost on the media and all the commentators on the story so far, is that despite being lifted in parts from Obama’s speech, Buhari’s version of the speech was written in better English than Obama’s, which contains at least two instances of serious sloppy/non standard grammar.

Secondly, and on the other hand, it is Buhari’s absolutely poor articulation of this well written speech by Mamman Daura as seen in the video, more than even the act of plagiarism itself, which once again underscores, not just the widely held contention that Buhari does not possess the minimum educational qualification to be Nigeria’s President, in this case, the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), but also my suspicion that Muhammadu Buhari has never attended a secondary school at all.

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Let us examine the grammar of the two speeches:

i) ‘Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on
the same partisanship, pettiness and
immaturity that *has poisoned our politics
for so long….’

ii) ‘So let us summon a new spirit of
patriotism, of responsibility,? where each of
us resolves to pitch in and work harder and
look after not only ourselves but *each

i) ‘We must resist the temptation to fall back
on the same partisanship, pettiness and
immaturity that have poisoned our country
for so long’.

ii) ‘Let us summon a new spirit of
responsibility,? spirit of service, of
patriotism and sacrifice. Let us all resolve
to pitch in and work hard and look after,
not only ourselves but one another’.

Reading the above excerpts from the original Obama speech, my first instinct was that Obama had been misquoted. But then I quickly recalled as I have stated here several times that President Barack Obama, contrary to the widely held sentimental crap by most Africans generally and Nigerians in particular, is by no means an exceptionally intelligent communicator in the English language.

Then I watched the video and all doubts were dispelled completely. It was clear that Barack Obama did indeed commit the above egregious grammatical errors. The error in the first part of extract is in his use of the singular verb ‘has’, rather than ‘have’, to govern a clearly plural antecedent subject.

The statement:

‘Let’s resist…so long…’

is obviously a complex sentence which ends with the relative clause:

‘that has poisoned our politics….’

whose antecedent subject consists of a nominal list of three concepts linked together by the conjunction ‘and’ as follows:

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‘…partisanshi?p, pettiness and immaturity…’

making the structure clearly plural and so requiring the plural verb ‘have’. But Obama absentmindedly,? incoherently and incorrectly employs a singular verb ‘has’.

Happily, Mamman Daura, who is reportedly the ‘writer’ of Buhari’s version, correctly replaces it with ‘have’.

The second error is, however, less egregious than the first. In it, Obama again carelessly employs the wrong reciprocal pronoun, ‘each other’ — which in careful, formal English, characterises reciprocity between ONLY TWO entities — to characterise a reciprocal relationship among more than two entities:

*’…and look after not only ourselves but
each other'(one another).

Although, both expressions — ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ — are often employed interchangeably? in informal contexts, careful and competent speakers of the English language restrict the former to contexts involving only two entities while reserving the latter for three or more. Again, Daura corrects Obama here.

And all this, to be entirely honest, is, to me, surprising for anyone associated with Muhammadu Buhari. It is often said that iron sharpeneth iron. There is clear evidence that President Buhari’s all-round ineptitude, not the least of which are his linguistic infelicities, is infectious, turning even his hitherto ‘intelligent’ appointees, associates, supporters and apologists into unthinking, illogical and low IQ morons.

Interestingly again, whereas the Mamman Daura-rendered Buhari’s speech is far better written than the Obama original, it is perhaps in his phonological incompetence that Buhari most notoriously betrays his lack of ownership, as well as comprehension, of the speech he himself delivered.

It is absolutely mind-boggling that the President of Nigeria in 2016 cannot pronounce a word as common and as elementary as ‘spirit’. In the entire speech, President Buhari persistently stumbles over most of the words, but the most humiliating and pathetic is the President’s inability to pronounce the word ‘spirit’ correctly, which he continuously reads as:

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rather than:


Buhari’s prostration at the mercy of this word reinforces my belief that Buhari has absolutely no education at all. And of course it represents some of the manifestations of the very personal inadequacy which he has struggled all his public life to conceal in a vortex of religious bigotry, tribalism, nepotism, falsehood, buck-passing and vindictiveness.? To a lesser degree, it also reinforces my position that Barack Obama, unlike other modern US Presidents, is nowhere near what many Africans say he is.

In Buhari’s amazing ignorance, ingrained hypocrisy, preference for falsehood and unspeakable bigotry, as well as his ill-informed band of supporters and apologists, I believe that Buhari will find good company in Donald Trump, US Republican Party Presidential candidate, if Trump is mistakenly elected President in November.

It is the reason why, for the life of me, I cannot fathom how any intelligent or God-fearing person would oppose Buhari’s tribalism, religious bigotry, nepotism and hypocritical demagoguery on corruption but support Trump’s racism, xenophobic bigotry, misogyny and hypocritical demagoguery on immigration. It must rank as the greatest paradox of this millennium. More of this in due course.

For now, plagiarism or not, Muhammadu Buhari Barack Obama and Donald Trump are, for me,:


Garvey Ufot, Ph.D., teaches at the Department of English, University of Uyo. He is currently on sabbatical leave at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti. He is a conscientious academic and conscious Rastafarian who seeks only the truth at all times. His mission is to educate Nigerians and expose fraud and deception in all levels of government. Connect with him on Facebook.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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