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Re: Patience Jonathan’s Peculiar Grammar

In line with my tradition, which I haven’t observed in a long while, I am sharing a sample of the several comments I received on the above a...

In line with my tradition, which I haven’t observed in a long while, I am sharing a sample of the several comments I received on the above article ( Read: Patience Jonathan's Peculiar Grammar). I will share the responses to previous articles, which are always as witty as they insightful, in due course. Enjoy:

Thank you for your very interesting article. We have to give it to her, though: she is extremely confident and totally without shame. Anyway, I am writing because I was struck by the degree you said she has. I have never known Nigerian universities to offer combined degrees across faculties, so Patience's degree in psychology and biology needs to be further investigated. It seems quite unlikely.
Chichi Okoye 
Let's call a spade a spade. Nigeria's First Lady does not sound like someone who sat in any English Language class— primary, secondary, or university. She also does not look like someone with a keen interest in being "assisted" to overcome her appalling deficiency. If not, she would have seized the opportunity of being second and first lady, respectively, of Bayelsa State to "assist" herself by getting someone to teach her these elementary things. What she should do in this circumstance is to keep quiet in public while she studies Brighter Grammar in private.
'Tunji Azeez, Ph.D.
Patience Jonathan and Michelle Obama...what language did Patience  speak to Michelle?
Well written. I thought she should read prepared speeches to avoid stage-fright-induced flip-flops. Do you know we have Nigerian professors who use English language wrongly? And shamelessly? Language failure is a good research topic.
Ikechukwu Onyebuchi Igbokwe

Excellent piece. I think Nigerians do not care much to criticize these types of blunders by high-profile Nigerians and hence they don't feel challenged to improve their grammatical imperfections.
Dr. Abdullahi Dahiru
I had a really good laugh when I read your column. It made my day. The 2011 elections and the Jonathan family involvement have brought a lot of issues to the fore. Nigerians have to decide on the place they want to occupy in the comity of nations. We have to ask our selves some hard questions, knowing that the world looks to Nigeria for direction in terms of West African issues (I am careful not to say African). On a more serious note, we all know how busy these first ladies get with national, regional and international conferences. Can you imagine watching your first lady on CNN talking about her "pet" project? I advise the first lady's handlers to take your 3 option advice seriously. I see nothing wrong in her speaking in her mother tongue (after all leaders and representatives of some countries insist on speaking in their dialects, even at the UN). I believe it will be an opportunity to bring her native language to prominence. I bet you, some one from the South -South will turn your factual piece into a North-South issue. You wait and see!!!
Tina Hanis
Patience and Michelle
Great piece. The First Lady deserves all the whipping she's getting. But I couldn't help but notice a hypocritical tendency of most Nigerian Muslims in the question you posed asking if she didn't have an Ijaw equivalent for her name Patience. Why do Nigerian Muslims always have issues with Nigerian non-Muslims whose names are in English when their own names such as Farooq is neither Igbira or whatever other ethnic language they may hail from? Or are they saying a Muslim Yoruba, for instance, must bear an Arabian name to be legitimately Muslim? I demand an answer.
Anonymous writer

My response

I wonder why the writer chose to hide his/her identity even when he/she “demands an answer.” Well, I thought it was obvious that there is a difference between an English name, a Christian name, and an English word as a name. For instance, William is an English name; it’s not in the Bible. But Joseph is a Christian name because it is derived from the Christian Bible. “Patience” and “Goodluck,” on the other hand, are neither English names nor Christian names; they are English words that even the English don’t bear as names!

But I have no problems with what names people choose to bear. My only point was that people who love the English so much that they bear English words as names (which is OK with me, frankly) should have no qualms about being expected to obey the most elementary rules of English grammar. If being expected to speak acceptable levels of English constitutes “colonial mentality,” as the Dame’s defenders are wont to argue, bearing English words as names when local variations exist for such names is no less “colonial.” Of course, Patience and Jonathan didn’t choose their names; the names were given to them by their parents— in much the same way that English was handed down to us by our former colonial overlords, which we found useful to retain as the official language in our fractious, linguistically diverse federation.

A masterpiece. I was shocked to learn of Madam Jonathan's educational qualifications. It is very obvious that she didn't earn those certificates-she must have bought them. The irony of it all is that instead of showcasing her husband to the voting public, her grammatical blunders will have a counter-productive effect.
Tanimu Umar

Nice piece, but my advice to you is to stay away from Nigeria for now because our leaders do not value criticism. God save us.
Abdulhameed Abubakar

Pidgin English has got one rule and it is "no rules." Just mess up. And I think if she decides to speak only that she will still find a way to mess up, so the best is just for her to SHUT UP!!!!!
Muktar Saeed

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1 comment

  1. For Chichi Okoye who says she has “never known Nigerian universities to offer combined degrees across faculties, so Patience's degree in psychology and biology needs to be further investigated”, some Faculties of Education in Nigerian universities offer such combination.

    I want to play the devil’s advocate here. Patience is from the Niger Delta, and it’s not unusual to find one local government area in the Niger Delta with up to eight indigenous languages. So English may not be her first or second or even third language. Moreover, writing English is one thing and speaking is another. She might have passed her biology examinations with little understanding of English language, as English is not a measure of intelligence, otherwise most Germans and Chinese would be olodos.

    Secondly, her background as a Niger Delta chick should tell any listener that she is a fluent speaker of Pidgin English, she didn’t learnt Pidgin English as most Nigerians do; she was born into it. She played as a child using Pidgin, spoke Pidgin in school, and dreamt in Pidgin. When you have Nigerian Pidgin English as your first language, it is almost impossible not to mix it up with British English which somehow similar.

    Concerning her name and Christianity, Christians not only give their children names from the bible, they also give names from saints and doctors of the church who are not in the bible. Christian virtues are also acceptable, such names as Joy, Peace, Patience, Love, or Victor, Lucky, Goodluck and more. Again these names are more popular in the Niger Delta, one reason could be that the parents may speak two different native languages. So these names are in essence Nigerian Pidgin English names and not British English names. If you have lived in Rivers or Bayelsa you’ll realise that there are even more Pidgin English names such as Jack, Fineboy, Young boy, Whitehorse, Long John, Open Field, Fine country, Good country, etc. Therefore, Patience and Goodluck are effectively Pidgin English names and not British English names.

    Lastly, my concern is that what they say should have substance; I’m not really bothered by the syntax, I’m more interested in the semantics. Some Nigerians might be concerned with their poor command of English, but trust me, Mrs Obama and David Cameron do notice it, because they have heard worse from Ivorians, Senegalese, Bolivians, Congolese, Argentines, etc. When footballers are interviewed after World Cup matches, we listen to what they have to say, and not how they say it. Even the English football players know they could sound stupid when interviewed by the Spanish press. Having said that, Patience and her widower do not have business at the presidency; not because they can’t speak English, but because they have nothing to offer


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