One message, many tongues
An exploration of media multilingualism in Nigerian political discourse
The essay sets off by arguing that since the 1950s, there has been a growing enthusiasm in political advertising discourse. This was because political advertising became prominent as an effective communicative and publicity tool in the 1952 U.S. presidential election campaign when Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed its instruments to win the most prestigious and highest political post in the U.S. (Reece 2003). Since that time, several rhetorical strategies have been adopted by politicians all over the world to cast and communicate political messages to their various audiences. Most previous research efforts appear to be in the monolingual or L1 settings (e.g. Chilton and Schäffner 1997; Obeng 1997).In this study, we examine how Nigerian politicians demonstrate their bilingual creativity in an innovative manner, employing linguistic facilities to publicise and sell their political programmes, especially in the use of media multilingualism, a novel persuasive strategy that has come to characterise political campaign texts. Specifically, we consider this recent phenomenon in Nigerian political discourse in which political candidates ‘marry’ and exploit the resources of both the exogenous (English) and indigenous languages (and sometimes along with pidgin) in the same campaign texts in order to woo voters. So the term ‘media multilingualism’ here is taken to be the variety of code-mixing and codeswitching in written political texts. The paper thus examines inter/intrasententially code-mixed facts found in the written campaign texts and discusses their functional implications especially as part of the discourse strategies deployed by the politicians to elicit support and woo voters to support their candidatures.Relevant literature on codeswitching and theories (e.g. Speech Accommodation Theory) that provide theoretical underpinning for the study are reviewed. An attempt is also made to demonstrate that codeswitching in political discourse is an interpersonal strategy that can be used to create, strengthen or destroy interpersonal boundaries, and thus it functions as a discourse strategy for pragmatic and strategic purposes (Wei 2003). The framework for analysis follows the insights provided in Rational Choice Models (RC) as seen in the works of Myers-Scotton (1993), Myers-Scotton and Agnes Bolonyai (2001) and Wei (2003). The essay concludes by presenting a summary of some important analytical observations that arose from the study. It also suggests that a similar pattern is bound to occur in political discourse found in other L2 contexts.The data set for this work came from selected political texts produced during the 2003 governorship and presidential elections campaigns in Nigeria and sourced from selected Nigerian national newspapers.