"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: October 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Re: Who Will Save Kwara COE Lecturers from Saraki’s Deadly Grip?

I received dozens of reactions to last week’s column several of which were heart-wrenching, but I have space for just two this week. The first is from the Kwara State government and the second is from a private citizen in Ilorin.

The Kwara State Government has dismissed as false and unfounded [an op-ed] linking the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki with the salary crises in state-owned Colleges of Education.
In the statement issued in Ilorin, the Kwara State Government dissociated the Senate President from the salary arrears at the affected institutions, and restated that Saraki neither controls nor interferes with the management of state government funds or institutions. The government therefore challenged anyone with contrary proof to publish it.

The State Government blamed its inability to pay subventions to the affected tertiary institutions on the drop in monthly federal allocations to the state from N3.2b to N1.8b.

Explaining further, the statement added that N1.7b of the amount goes towards the payment of secondary school teachers, civil servants, pensions and gratuity per month, stressing that the remainder is inadequate to cover the N500m monthly subventions to parastatals, including revenue-generating tertiary institutions.

According to the statement, the government was therefore forced to suspend the payment of subventions to parastatals while expecting tertiary institutions and other revenue-generating agencies to pay workers from their internally-generated revenue in view of the huge drop in monthly federal allocation to the state.

On the N4.3b Federal Government bail out to the state, the statement emphasised that the money was used to clear the two months’ arrears owed to state civil servants in August 2015. It added that the Federal Government was yet to release the bail out component for the payment of subvention to the tertiary institutions and other parastatals in the state.

The state government also denied cutting salaries at the Colleges of Education by 30 per cent. It clarified that the state government was financially-constrained to implement only 70 per cent of the Consolidated Tertiary Education and Institution Salary Structure, a nationally-agreed salary structure for tertiary institutions which is however subject to states’ capacity to pay.

The statement added that despite its lean finances, the government had increased subventions to tertiary institutions in the state thrice in the last four years but was currently unable to ensure regular payment due to the huge drop in monthly federal allocation to the state.
Mr. Muyideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.

The crisis of unpaid salaries in Nigeria has reached an epic proportion. My brother and fellow Kwaran, Dr. Farooq Kperogi, was sufficiently concerned that he wrote on this issue as it relates to our state. In reaction to Farooq’s op-ed, the Kwara state government recently issued a statement to the media and gave two reasons for its inability to pay its workers:

1. A drop in federal allocation
2. Revenue generating state agencies are mandated to pay their own staff members

On both counts, the Kwara state government is being clever by half. On the first count, if the reason for the inability of the state government to pay its workers is hinged on a drop in the amount of money it receives from the federation account, then the raison d'ĂȘtre  for the existence of Kwara as a state is null and void. If the Kwara state government has to wait on the federal government, then we may conclude that the Kwara state government is an appendage of the federal government, not an independent self-governing state within a republic. If that is the case, then the office of the state governor is unnecessary in Kwara state and perhaps we should push for a constitutional amendment that will make Kwara a department of the federal government with a minister sent to oversee its affairs. This, my friends, is what the Kwara state government is saying indirectly if we are to take its claims about its inability to pay its workers due to a drop in federal allocation.

On its second claim of granting autonomy to revenue generating state agencies to pay its staff members from funds so generated – this is another clever-by-half escapist reason for its inability to pay. Let us be sincere: how can any responsible government ask the Kwara state water corporation to pay its own workers in a state where the majority makes plans for their own water supply and in areas where the state supplies the water – many residents consider water supply as a social good that they wouldn’t like to pay for. I am not suggesting that Kwarans shouldn’t pay for water but the reality is that the few that do get water from the state may not necessarily be paying for it. In any case, even if they were paying, the payments would not be near enough to pay the staff members of the Kwara state water corporation.

The same situation exists for the Kwara state colleges of education, the state Polytechnic, and University. All of these institutions are not your traditional business concerns that must - as matter of rule - turn a profit. Perhaps, we should ask if the Kwara state government is embarking on a policy of commercializing education and other public services in Kwara state. It is a globally accepted practice for state governments to have some sort of annual grant or subvention to institutions like the Water Corporation, schools and colleges in the interest of public good. Why is the Kwara state government shirking one of the most basic responsibilities of state governments?

Kwara state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, was quoted several times as saying that the business of government is too serious to be left in the hands of the opposition PDP during the last election; it is a self-indictment that Ahmed is in his fifth year as governor and things, rather than improving in the state of harmony, have taken a turn for the worse.

If Ahmed and crowd will seat down and face the serious business of governing, cut waste, reduce their own personal comfort, incentivize agriculture, support small business owners meaningfully through soft loans and a reduction in taxes, not a tax increase, (small business owners will create jobs and add to income tax) and ensure transparency in financial transactions, Kwara state will be able to pay all categories of workers under its government.
Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Who Will Save Kwara COE Lecturers from Saraki’s Deadly Grip?

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter:  @farooqkperogi

Senate President Bukola Saraki is called Kwara State’s “Governor- General” for a reason: He is, for all practical purposes, the state’s de facto governor, and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is merely his impotent, obsequious caretaker. Ahmed must dutifully take orders from Saraki or risk losing his cushy surrogate governorship. This isn’t a flippant, ill-natured putdown of Governor Ahmed, who seems like a nice person; it’s an uncomfortable truth that many Kwarans know only too well.

So when I ask who will save lecturers in Kwara State’s colleges of education from death and starvation because they haven’t been paid salaries for six or seven months now, I am not barking up the wrong tree. Saraki is the main character in the movie of Kwara politics. Nothing happens there without his imprimatur.

Lecturers in the state’s three colleges of education located in Ilorin, Oro, and Lafiagi—including the College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies in llorin—are being owed salaries, which has caused at least 13 of them to die as of the time of writing this column. This, dear reader, is unconscionable, officially sanctioned mass murder, and Saraki can stop it if he so desires.

This issue is personal to me on many levels. As regular readers of this column know, I am from Kwara State—from the Baatonu-speaking part of the state called Baruten. So this isn’t an abstract subject-matter for me. Several of my former secondary school teachers, friends, and former high school classmates, with whom I am in regular contact, are lecturers at Kwara State’s colleges of education. I am intimately familiar with the heartrendingly excruciating existential torments they are undergoing as a result of the non-payment of their salaries. A lot of them are literally on the edge of existence; they can’t feed their families, pay their children’s school fees, or even pay their rents. After more than half a year in this state, their agony has reached dizzyingly crushing heights.

When entreaties to traditional rulers and leaders of thought in the state to prevail on Senator Saraki and his caretaker governor to pay salaries owed to them haven’t yielded any results, the lecturers resolved to embark on a strike from October 16. But instead of addressing the lecturers’ grievances, the state government’s information managers have been busy unleashing deliberate, sustained but pathetically unimaginative propaganda in the mass media against the lecturers. The government first claimed that no state government employee was being owed any backlog of unpaid salaries. When this nakedly insensitive lie was laid bare to the world, the government changed its story several times, and now insists that colleges of education must pay their lecturers from internally generated revenues.

It is worth noting that since 2011 until about seven months ago when the government stopped paying salaries outright, lecturers in Kwara State’s tertiary institutions were paid only 70 percent of their salaries. No one knows what has happened to the other 30 percent.

As I write this, there is intense turmoil in Kwara State’s colleges of education. A younger brother of mine who was supposed to start the last year of his studies this week at one of the state’s colleges of education lamented to me that his lecturers had started a strike and that his graduation was in danger of being derailed indefinitely. But why should the lecturers not strike? Why should they teach others when they can’t send their own kids to school? Why should they teach when they can’t eat? Why should they teach when the callousness of a duplicitous state government has caused them to vegetate in agonizing misery for months on end?

When Muslim worshipers stoned Senator Bukola Saraki at the Eid praying ground in Ilorin in September this year amid shrill screams of “Ole!” (Yoruba for “thief!”), they weren’t taking sides in the Code of Conduct Bureau’s politically motivated trial of Saraki; they were spontaneously ventilating pent-up rage against what they rightly perceived as Saraki’s suffocating stranglehold on the state, which ensured that the state’s civil servants were owed backlogs of salaries. It was anger touched off by hunger. (I am told that regular civil servants, who couldn’t buy rams for the Eid-ul kabir festivities, have now been paid their salaries after the stoning of Saraki).  But the state’s college of education lecturers are still left in the lurch.

Unfortunately, except for Daily Trust’s October 10, 2015 report on the issue titled “Kwara gov’t, tertiary institutions’ staff lock horns over salary arrears,” the traditional media in Nigeria seem to have blacked out the plight of Kwara State’s college of education lecturers.

But the dire existential predicaments of these lecturers are too scandalizing to ignore. “Some of us even lost our children. Some of our members’ children couldn’t write WAEC because of this. Many of us also live in darkness because we couldn’t pay our electricity bills and we have become objects of mockery before our landlords because we could not pay our rents. It is devastating,” AbdulKareem Amuda-Kannike, a college of education worker, told Daily Trust.

How can you not be touched by this? The state government received millions of naira from the federal government as bail-out funds, ostensibly to pay the backlog of salaries owed to workers. Where did the money go?

Most importantly, who will save starving, defenseless lecturers from the double-dyed villainy of a rapacious, conscienceless, power-mongering cabal led by Bukola Saraki and his servile crony, Abdulfatah Ahmed?

 People of conscience in Kwara State and beyond should quickly intervene to halt the scarcely visible, barely known, but nonetheless vicious official mass murder of lowly, voiceless lecturers in the state’s colleges of education.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

“My Names Are,” “Comity of States,” and Other “Ministerial Screening” Grammatical Murders

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I didn’t follow the live broadcast of the recent senate confirmation hearing (or what the Nigerian media and social media commentariat call “ministerial screening”) of President Buhari’s ministerial nominees, but scores of readers of this column peppered me with questions on the several grammatical bloopers committed by senators and ministerial nominees during the hearing.

I was initially disinclined to write on the blunders for at least two reasons. One, I had written about many of them in the past, and I thought anyone who was interested in finding out should use the search box on my blog or the Daily Trust website. Second, I thought it was unfair to pillory the grammatical infractions of people who were speaking under pressure since, in any event, in speech, we don’t usually have the deliberateness, forethought, and self-correction that we bring to bear when we write.

Nevertheless, when I realized that the senate confirmation hearing enjoyed a massive social media blitz and inspired frenzied online chatter, especially by young people who look up to older people, including politicians, for direction on language use, I thought this is probably a good time to once again call attention to some of these errors I had written about, which some people missed.

 Plus, many of the errors my readers called my attention to are not simple errors of carelessness; they are errors of ignorance. More importantly, I read many people arguing back and forth over the correctness of some of the expressions I isolate below. Several people tagged me and requested my intervention. I couldn’t respond to all of the inquiries I received, so I think it’s appropriate to highlight and discuss some of them.

1. “My names are.” I was told that several senators (or is it ministerial nominees; forgive me because I didn’t watch the whole live or recorded broadcast) introduced themselves by saying, “my names are….” Well, as I have written in several articles, that’s illiterate English.

The conventional expression is “my name is” irrespective of the number of names of you have. As I wrote as recently as three weeks ago, contemporary native English speakers don’t introduce themselves by saying “my names are.” “Name” is a single unit and refers both to one’s first name alone and to one’s first, (middle), and last names combined. So the socially normative and grammatically acceptable way to introduce yourself is to either say “My name is Aliyu” or “My name is Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko.” The fact of the addition of “Magatakarda” and “Wamakko” to “Aliyu” doesn’t require that you to pluralize “name” to “names” to have “My names are Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko.”

The only occasion under which the phrase “my names are” might be justified is if you have legally changed your names many times in the past, like criminals do, and didn’t take care  to also legally invalidate the  previous name changes. Let me give an example of what I mean.

 Maybe when you were born your name was Adamu Musa Ilyasu. When you became a teenager, however, you committed a crime for which you went to jail. When you came out of jail, you wanted to escape from your past, so you changed your name to Oluwale James Emeka. But, as years passed by, you decided to run for office in Sokoto where a name like Oluwale James Emeka is a cultural and electoral liability, so you again legally changed your name to Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko.

But then things came full circle and you were caught in the web of the elaborate deceit you have woven around your life. During questioning by the police, you might say, “my names are Adamu Musa Ilyasu, Oluwale James Emeka, and Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko,” especially if the name changes were done legally and previous names were not legally invalidated.

That’s a very far-fetched scenario. In other words, there will almost never be any need or occasion for anyone to ever correctly say “my names are.”

2. “Comity of states.” In justifying why he built a new government house in Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who might be Nigeria’s next foreign affairs minister, said, among other things, “We have a duty to be respected and regarded in the comity of states.”

“Comity of states” is, of course, extended from the fixed expression “comity of nations,” which is itself routinely misused in Nigerian English. In my April 13, 2014 article titled “12 Popular Misusages in Nigerian English,” I wrote: “[Comity of nations] is often used in Nigerian English, especially in official Nigerian English, where ‘community of nations’ [or international community] would do.

“‘Comity of nations’ is a fixed phrase that means the ‘courteous respect by one nation for the laws and institutions of another.’ It basically means the respect that nations have for each other’s sovereignty. ‘Comity’ means harmony, so comity of nations means harmony of nations, not a collection of nations. Unfortunately, ‘comity of nations’ has been misused even in Nigerian presidential speeches delivered at international arenas.

“On the website of the Nigerian Embassy in the USA, the following sentence appears: ‘Within that period too, Nigeria gradually regained her voice in the comity of nations.’ You would think that people whose exposure to and knowledge of the practices and registers of international relations are considered worthy enough to be appointed to represent Nigeria in the United States would know enough to know that ‘community of nations’ is the right phrase to use in the sentence above.”

Dr. Fayemi is an international relations expert who should be familiar with the concept of “comity of nations.” I am surprised that even he confused “community” with “comity.” I hope he reads this article and never goes to say something like “Nigeria’s position in the comity of nations” at international events when he becomes minister of foreign affairs. “Comity” and “community” kind of sound alike, but they mean two completely different things.

3. “Knowing fully well.” Some people called my attention to the use of the expression “knowing fully well,” instead of “know full well,” during the confirmation hearings. Well, I won’t gripe too much about that.

As I wrote in an April 7, 2013 article, the standard expression is “full well.” But “full well” is only a surviving linguistic remnant of early Modern English in contemporary English. That means outside of the expression “full well,” “full” can’t be used as an adverb. For instance, it would be wrong to say “he was full loaded.” That should correctly be “he was fully loaded.”

Why is this so? Before and during Shakespeare’s time, people used “full” as an intensifying adverb almost the same way we use “really” today.  For instance, in Henry VIII, Shakespeare wrote: “Anger is like a full hot horse.” A modern writer would write this sentence as, “Anger is like a really hot horse.” But the sense of “full” as an intensifier in the class of “really” has survived only in a few fixed expressions like “(know) full well,” the Shakespearean phrase “full fathom five,” and in the phrase “full many a...” (such as in the sentence “full many a glorious morning I have seen”).

So, in idiomatic English, “full well” is more acceptable than “fully well.” But many people now just say “you know really well” or simply “you know” unless they want to show off their esoteric erudition and mastery of idiomatic English.

Obsolete words that are still used in contemporary English because they are frozen in idiomatic expressions are called “fossil words.” So “full well” is a fossil expression.

4. “States who…” In making a case for states to have their own police, former Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola said, “States who want to run state police….” It is improper grammar to use the relative pronoun “who” for non-human subjects; “which” and “that” are the preferred pronouns when reference is made to non-human entities. So it should be “states that want to…”

I would not have bothered with this but for the fact that in Nigerian secondary school English language exams, any student who uses the relative pronoun “who” for a non-human subject will lose points, and we will all turn around and bewail the declining numbers of people who get credit passes in “O” level English.

5. “Ministerail.” The official communication from President Muhammadu Buhari to Senate President Bukola Saraki requesting the confirmation of ministerial nominees misspelled “ministerial” as “ministerail.” Any wonder that the “ministerail” confirmation hearing was an exercise in grammatical murders? I also discovered that many Nigerians on social media misspell ministerial as “ministarial.” What’s up with that?

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Politics of Grammar Column

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Re: “Fulani Herdsmen” as Nigeria’s New Devil Term

I received responses to last week’s column that ranged from the sublime to the downright ridiculous, such as commenter who said I was “tribalistic” (even though I’m not Fulani) and another who said I was looking for “cheap popularity” (whatever in Heaven’s name that means). Well, enjoy a sample below:

Well, thanks for this intervention on the Ilorin angle to the story. It is not that Ilorin people have not been refuting the distorted popular narrative of what transpired between Alimi and Afonja; but it seems minds are made up. Apart from informal interactions, where many have pointed out this distortion, at least the book, “Ilorin: The Journey so Far,” by L.A.K Jimoh did substantial work in refuting this often recited narrative. Our Yoruba brothers are adept in propaganda. Either at the sociological or political turf, you are faced with stoic fixation with a slice of a narrative even when the whole is available. Well, the aim is not being achieved with Ilorin. Evidence for this is the lack of internal strife in Ilorin about the issue. Forget about the propaganda of Afonja descendants uprising, the Ilorin people are well aware of their dual heritage. They have worked out a sustainable management of this reality. In harmony they live, happily it shall be forever.
Oba Abdulkadir La'aro

It is not only Fulani that are nomadic cattle rearers, though they are the majority and many cattle are owned by Yoruba being driven by Fulani. The problem is that nomadic cattle rearing is a menace to farmers wherever it is practiced worldwide. The solution is simple: cattle must be ranched. Without this, farming will remain unattractive to many. I don't believe ranching cattle is that difficult. If the Fulani do not start it, they will lose out in the end as other people will eventually do it.

 People are always talking about Ilorin as a member of a Caliphate. There is no caliphate in Nigeria and if there is no Yoruba land is part of that caliphate. Even Sheu Alimi did not muster the courage to declare himself Emir of Ilorin not to talk of affiliating with Sokoto. The Jihad was mainly some renegade Yoruba Muslims attempting to subvert other Yoruba under Islam which failed to the extent that Ilorin became tributary, not to Ibadan but to Offa whose government installed and removed Ilorin chiefs at will. I think four times.

 The Nupe ruled the Oyo in the past and the Borgawa came close to doing so. That some Fulani ruled Ilorin briefly but were not able to rule even the Yoruba in Niger state does not make Ilorin a Fulani town. No part of Yoruba land is a Fulani town. There are Yoruba of Nupe descent as there are Hausa of Yoruba descent, so some people might consider themselves Yoruba of Fulani descent but when the British arrived in West Africa, no part of Yoruba land was under Fulani control. The protection agreement that Ilorin signed with the British is still there and is still valid. It was signed by a descendant of the late Alaafin Abiodun. Not a Fulani. People of Fulani descent are titled in Ilorin as are people of Hausa descent.

It is so even in Lagos where the Oshodis are Nupe descent but all these people are now Yoruba and DNA will confirm. Since the Sardauna elevated the Emir of Ilorin for being of Fulani descent, Governor Lawal too decided to elevate the Magaji Aare to first class for being of Afonja descent. A decision reversed by Saraki, which will be reversed again when an Afonja descendant becomes the Governor again. What do you think will happen if the Ajikobi family produces the Governor? Given that the protection agreement with the British was signed by them and is in their custody which makes Ilorin technically their property.
Akin Lawanson

Thank you Prof, they should take note that. "Not all Pastoralist are Fulani's and not all Fulani's are Pastoralist". Federal Government should re-visit the old grazing route (Burti) allocated to the pastoralist before, which is now develop to cities. Miyetti Allah cattle rearers association, should warn the bad eggs among the pastoralist for causing havoc in the land.
Muhammad Buhari

Thanks for shining some light on the subject. If the Obadiah Mailafiya that you've quoted is the former CBN Deputy Governor, I will be hugely disappointed because he is one of my favourites. Maybe he has been living a double life, contributing different stuff to different platforms.
Raji Bello

Well said Prof. It's obvious that the Fulanis have become endangered species in Nigeria. Deliberate efforts are been made every day to demonize the Fulanis wherever they may be in this country. Each time there are communal clashes involving herdsmen the attention of the media is drawn and no one is interested in finding out the root causes of the crises. Accusing fingers are always pointed at the Fulanis. The wave of cattle rustling going on in the country which is ravaging the Fulani socio-economic life is never attended to because the Fulanis are at the receiving end. Obadiah Mailafiya should tell us the motive behind the crusade his kinsmen have been carrying out continuously in Taraba State before talking about the Fulani jihad. It's unfortunate that people like him have failed to live above primordial sentiments.
Abubakar Algwallary

We are all tribalistic in Nigeria. Farooq Kperogi's post did not address the issues. Is he saying that Chief Olu Falae doesn't know Fulanis Herdsmen when he sees them? Are we going to keep glossing over the issue until the atrocities of the herdsmen turn to a full blown war between OPC, Agbekoya and the Fulani Herdsmen?
Dare Taiwo

But will must not be distracted from the fact that the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen must be tamed. Kperogi shouldn't justify or rationalise criminality of any group to gain cheap popularity.

Abdulrahman Abdulyekeen

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

10 Mind-blowing Facts about English that May Shock You

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Everyone knows English is an eccentric language with unpredictable rules and curious, illogical exceptions to its rules. But below are 10 trivial facts about the language you probably didn’t know before.

1. Although “English” is derived from “England” and is, in fact, the demonym for someone from England, it is not the official language of England or of the UK. There are at least three reasons why English isn’t England’s official language.

One, historically, that is, since about 1066, the English monarchy didn’t speak English; they spoke French, specifically Norman French, that is, a dialect of French spoken by the people of Normandy in northwestern France who conquered England in the 11th century. After the conquest, the conquerors made their language the language of the courts, of government, and of social mobility.

So for several years, the social and cultural elite in England spoke French. Only the uneducated and underprivileged spoke English. English was called the “vernacular” or the “vulgar tongue.” It was the language of the unwashed masses, and was thought to be unfit for literary and other high-minded expressions. That was why the first English translation of the Bible was called “the Vulgate.” Vulgate is derived from “vulgar,” which is Latin for “the common people,” and is now commonly used as an adjectival synonym for coarse, uncouth, crude, unwashed, etc.

The second reason English isn’t England’s official language is that English is spoken as a first language by more than 95 percent of the population, which makes its officialization superfluous.
Third, England has no autonomous government; it is a division of the United Kingdom. Although it has traditionally ruled over other divisions of the Union such as Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, it would be counter-productive if England insists that other non-English divisions of the Union adopt English as their official language, especially in light of the resurgence of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish linguistic nationalisms in the past few decades.

2. Although the United States of America is home to the world’s largest population of native English speakers (up to two-thirds of the world’s native English speakers live in the US), English isn’t an official language of the country.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that there have been no attempts in the past to codify English as the official language; it’s just that several advocates have argued that imposing English as the official language will violate the First Amendment of the American constitution, which states, among other things, that government cannot make any law that will hinder the expression of any citizen’s freedom of speech.

But the most important reason why English isn’t America’s official language is that, like in the UK, it is pointless since almost everyone speaks the language. Plus, it is the passport to upward social mobility and integration in the society, so you ignore it at your own risk.

It’s important to note that even though English isn’t America’s official language at the national level, at least 29 of the country’s 50 states have declared it as their official language.

3. Other native-English-speaking countries where English isn’t an official language are Australia and New Zealand.

4. The only countries in which English is an official language are the countries that were once colonized by Britain. Although Rwanda and Eritrea weren’t colonized by Britain, they have also adopted English as an official language. If you add these two countries to the list of former British colonies, including Nigeria, that have adopted English as an official language, you will have 56 countries in which English is an official language.

5. The motto of the English and British royalty isn’t written in English. It’s written in French, and it’s "Dieu et mon Droit," which means "God and my Right." It’s credited with being the origin of the divine right of kings.

Similarly, the motto of the Order of the Garter, the UK’s third most prestigious honor, is written in Old or Middle French, and it is Honi soit qui mal y pense, which translates in English as "shame on him who thinks evil of it." Although the motto is unrecognizable to most modern French speakers because the language has evolved tremendously since the motto was invented, it has remained unchanged.

 Read fact number 1 to know why these French-language mottos emerged in England.

6. English did not originate in England; it originated in Germany from a people called Angles who were so called because they lived in a part of West German seaside that formed an angle. The inhabitants of this angular West German seaside decided to invade an island known as Britain where people spoke a cluster of languages called Gaelic or Celt. Other names by which the languages are known are Erse or Goidelic. 

The West German invaders from the angular coastline who mixed with, and sometimes drove away, the autochthonous Celts decided to call their language “Aenglisch” and to rename the island of Britain “Aengland” (later England) in honor of “Angles,” their place of origin in West Germany. Although some words in the original Celtic languages made their way to “Aenglisch,” which later became “English,” their influence has been marginal at best. That is why Scottish, Welsh, and other Celtic languages in the UK are not intelligible to English speakers.

7. With approximately 1,025,109.8 distinct words—and growing more rapidly than anyone can capture— English has the most vocabulary of any language in the recorded history of humankind.
This claim has been dismissed as nonsensical by some linguists because of the difficulty, some say impossibility, of comparing the vocabularies of different languages. Do suffixes and prefixes count as words, for instance? What about inflections of words for tense and number? Do the inflections count as distinct words? Dialects? Which dialects are privileged? Only standard ones? All? Do loanwords count? Or should the counting be limited to basic, native vocabulary?

As you can see, it’s a really messy claim to say English has the most vocabulary of any language in the world, but people who make this claim often rely on the fact that English has several layers of vocabularies.

First, as a Germanic language, it has several vocabularies in common with German and Dutch. Then it has a few from Celtic languages. After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of French words entered the English language. A few years later, Latin became the language of scholarship in Europe, and contributed even more words to the English language. Greek and Arabic contributed still more words in science, medicine, astronomy, and even everyday speech. With the founding of the United States of America and large-scale British colonization across the world, thousands more words made their way to the language. With this astonishing medley of lexical influences, it is hard not to have a large pool of words.

8.  I got this from a website called Quora, an online discussion community. It saysSTARTLING” “is the only 9-letter word in the English language where you can remove one letter at a time and still create a word.

Startling: Very surprising
Starting: Beginning
Staring: to look fixedly
String: material consisting of threads of cotton, or other material twisted to form a thin length.
Sting: a small sharp-pointed organ at the end of the abdomen of bees, wasps, ants, and scorpions
Sing: make musical sound
Sin: an immoral act
In: Enclosed
I: Singular pronoun” 

9. English is the only language in the world that every international airline pilot must speak irrespective of their national and linguistic origins. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in 2008, made it compulsory for every pilot on an international flight to speak English.This is because several aircraft can be on the same radio frequency and it is vital that pilots know what is going on around them,” according to the UK Telegraph of March 5, 2008. The ICAO also says pilots who are native English speakers should curb “the use of idioms, colloquialisms and other jargon” during communication so that non-native speakers can understand them without difficulty.

10. There are more English speakers in Nigeria than there are in the UK, the birthplace of the language. 

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Politics of Grammar Column

Saturday, October 10, 2015

“Fulani herdsmen” as Nigeria’s new Devil Term

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The signifier “Fulani herdsmen” or, better still, “suspected Fulani herdsmen,” has emerged as the new bogeyman in Nigerian media narratives about communal conflicts. These days, no day goes by without reference in the media to “Fulani herdsmen” being responsible for all manner of atrocities.

Former presidential candidate Olu Falae, for example, accused unnamed English-speaking “Fulani herdsmen” of abducting him, although we all know most pastoral Fulani don’t speak English. A few days later, we read that unidentified “suspected Fulani herdsmen” abducted another “Yoruba” king in Kogi State.

Quickly, narratives have begun to coalesce around the notion that the Fulani are dangerous marauders, with some people suggesting that they be banned outright from Yoruba land because they are “taunting” or “declaring war” against the “titanic” “Yoruba race.” They are called “terrorist groups masquerading as nomadic herdsmen” and as, in fact, indistinguishable from Boko Haram.

These narratives have joined older narratives in Nigeria’s north-central region, or Middle Belt, about how the perennial conflicts between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in the region is a continuation of the Sokoto Jihad. Recently, a Middle Belt intellectual by the name of Obadiah Mailafia wrote on a Nigerian listserv called USAAfrica Dialogue Series that the conflict between farmers and Fulani cattle herders is nothing more than the intensified recrudescence of the Fulani Jihad, which started in Sokoto and ended in Ilorin with the “the story of the betrayal of the Ore Ana Kakanfo by Alimi.”

“I come from the Middle Belt and no doubt harbor my own biases,” he wrote. “What I can tell you, however, [is] that what is happening in Jos Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue, Kogi and other places has no precedent in history. The Fulani have become the armed mobile wing of the New Jihad, a Jihad of conquest, subjugation and humiliation." 

There are several historical and sociological inaccuracies in the narrativization of the conflict between Fulani herders and farmers that I simply can't ignore. First, conflict between farmers and pastoralists is age-old, and extends beyond the bounds of Nigeria. In East Africa, for instance, conflict between Maasai herdsmen (who are not Muslims and who have more cattle than the Fulani) and farmers has endured for generations, and has been responsible for hundreds of deaths every year.

Second, the notion that the communal aggressions of “Fulani herdsmen” is a continuation of the nineteenth-century Jihad by urbanized, sedentary Fulani is an unhelpful conflation of ethnicity and religion that is not grounded in the wispiest shred of sociological evidence. Such a conflation assumes that every Fulani is invariably a Muslim and that his actions and inactions are, ipso facto, animated by Muslim expansionist impulses. That’s an intensely problematic assumption.

Many, perhaps most, Fulani herders who have sanguinary confrontations with farmers in the Middle Belt, in Yoruba land, and elsewhere are neither Muslims nor Christians, and those that are Muslims aren’t affiliated with, nor are they inserted into the currents of, global Islamic expansionist consciousness. They are simply cattle herders who clash with farmers irrespective of the ethnicity and religious identity of the farmers. They have perennial clashes with Hausa Muslim farmers in the northwest, with sedentary Muslim Fulani farmers in the northeast, with (Muslim) Yoruba farmers in the southwest, and so on.

In my part of Borgu, which is over 90 percent Muslim, clashes between farmers and pastoral Fulani habitually escalate into the kind of sanguinary fury that drenches the land with blood. Yet the Fulani are such an integral part of our society that the Mare Suno (or the King of the Fulani) is often one of the 7 kingmakers that elect our emirs.

Interestingly, Christian missionary evangelization has been more successful with Christianizing Fulani cattle herders in Borgu than it has been with sedentary ethnic groups in the area (See, for instance, Paul A. Burkwall’s 1987 MA thesis titled “Application of the Homogeneous Unit Principle as an Initial Strategy for Christian Ministry to the Fulbe with Particular Reference to Church Growth among the Korakube Fulbe of Nigeria and Benin.”)

Lastly, the notion that the rise of the Alimi ruling dynasty in Ilorin is a direct outgrowth of the Usman Danfodio Jihad is one unregenerate historical fallacy that has undeservedly outlasted its shelf life, thanks to repeated mentions and lack of sustained rebuttals.

As I pointed out in previous articles here, insights from the late Professor Abdullahi Smith’s writings (which are distilled from translations of the travel notes of Arab travelers who witnessed events in nineteenth-century “Nigeria”) tell us that the Ilorin jihad wasn’t a direct offshoot of the Usman Dan Fodio jihad.

Alimi, the progenitor of the current ruling family in Ilorin, was an itinerant Fulani preacher in Yoruba land whom Afonja volitionally invited to Ilorin. Afonja wanted Alimi to be his spiritual guardian (or “Alfa”) to ward off what he thought were the machinations of the Alaafin of Oyo with whom he was locked in long-drawn-out supremacy battles. After settling in Ilorin, many of Alimi’s Yoruba students from different parts of Yoruba land decided to follow him to his new home.

In time, Alimi grew so popular that Afonja feared that he would eclipse him, so he asked Alimi to leave. It was Alimi’s students, most of whom were Yoruba, that fought and defeated Afonja.
This upheaval was coeval with, perhaps even inspired by, but was by no means the direct consequence of, the Usman Dan Fodio jihad. There is no greater evidence for this than the fact that Alimi and his disciples were not given the “flag” of the Sokoto Jihad until after at least three visits to Sokoto. They weren’t given the flag because they weren’t directly connected to the Sokoto jihad.

They had to convince the people in Sokoto that although they were not affiliated with the original Jihad, they had established a Muslim state in Ilorin, which deserved the recognition and blessing of the emergent epicenter of what would become the Caliphate.

It bears repeating that contemporary pastoral Fulani have no direct cultural or sociological connection with urbanized, sedentary Fulani. The pastoral Fulani’s primary loyalty isn’t to any religion or ethnicity; it is to the wellbeing and fertility of his cattle.

I know the average northern Nigerian is experientially programmed to appropriate social realities from religious lenses. That’s why age-old pastoralist-farmer clashes are seen a twenty-first-century reincarnations of the nineteenth-century Fulani Jihad. The average southerner, on the other hand, is socialized to gaze at his social realities with ethnic lenses. That’s why age-old existential conflicts between herders and farmer are now seen as the “taunting” of the “titanic” “Yoruba race” by “barbarous Fulani herdsmen.”

 But attributing Jihadi or ethnic motivations to what is essentially an existential conflict is not only profoundly unsociological, it is also vulgar empiricism of the worst kind.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Q and A on the Grammar of Titles and Forms of Address

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

What does the term “professor emeritus” or "emeritus professor" really mean? Is it acceptable to address a married woman as “Princess (Mrs.)” or “Mrs. (Dr.)? Is it OK to say “my names are” when introducing oneself? Find answers to these and other questions below:

I want explanation on the term "Emeritus Professor." Does it mean a "Retired Professor" or "an Outstanding Professor"?

It means both. It means a retired professor who retains some of the privileges of a full-time professor because of the outstanding work he did while in active service. “Emeritus” is Latin for “out of merit,” and can be used either before or after the title it modifies, such as “professor,” as in, “emeritus professor” or “professor emeritus.” Its feminine form, which some US universities insist upon but which is rarely used elsewhere, is “emerita.” So don’t call (an American) woman an “emeritus professor”; she should properly be addressed as “Emerita Professor” or “Professor Emerita.”

 To be appointed to emeritus/emerita status, a professor must demonstrate a track record of outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching, and service during full-time employment. Typically, upon retirement, such a professor will be formally recommended for the honor by the department in which he or she served. The recommendation will be reviewed and approved by the dean of the professor’s college, the provost (or “registrar” in Nigerian and British English) of the university, by the university president (or “vice chancellor” in Nigerian and British English), and by the board of regents (or university “governing council” in Nigerian and British English).

Emeritus/emerita status entitles the honorees to supervise master’s theses and doctoral dissertations or be members of theses and dissertation committees while in retirement; attend departmental meetings, although they can’t vote; use university facilities, such as office space, libraries, mail service, etc.; be listed on the directory of university’s faculty; be called upon by the university to offer assistance in their areas of expertise; and so on.

But the title doesn’t entitle honorees to any additional financial benefits. That is, emeritus/emerita professors don’t earn any extra income outside of their retirement benefits. The honor is also often temporarily withdrawn if/when the honorees choose to return to work full-time in a university.

Note that emeritus/emerita status isn’t given only to professors (or “full professors” in American English); outstanding retired associate professors (or “readers” in Nigerian and British English) can also be conferred with the emeritus/emerita title. So can retired departmental chairs (or “heads of department” in Nigerian and British English) and deans of colleges (or “faculties” in Nigerian and British English). If you read about people being referred to as “emeritus/emerita chair” or “emeritus/emerita dean” know that such people retired as chairs and deans and were nominated for emeritus/emerita position because of their outstanding service.

The “emeritus/emerita” title is also used outside academia for retired people who were outstanding. Designations such as “Bishop emeritus,” “Archbishop emeritus,” etc. are common in religious orders.

In business, it is also traditional to honor (pioneer) chairmen, managing directors, directors-general, etc. who made noteworthy accomplishments in growing their companies as “chairman emeritus/emerita,” “managing director emeritus/emerita,” “director-general emeritus/emerita,” etc.

I am the editor of a newspaper in Lagos and need you to intervene in a dispute I have with my editorial board members. There is a well-respected woman who is also a princess in Benin. In our editorial we had cause to mention her name. I identified her with both Mrs and Princess. But I was told that this was wrong; that we should simply use her marital title and leave out the “Princess.” Is there any grammatical rule that makes combining two titles wrong?

I will first give you a practical answer before telling you what the convention says: Please by all means show sensitivity to Nigerian cultural conventions and address her as “Princess (Mrs.)” What is right and proper in Nigeria is infinitely more important than what is conventional in the West. People are sensitive about their titles in Nigeria. The Guardian in Lagos learned this the hard way in the 1980s. The paper had an editorial policy that said everybody should be addressed as simply “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

The high spenders in the Nigerian society didn’t like it and protested by refusing to place ads in the paper. It didn’t take long before the paper reversed its “Simply Mr” policy.

I actually answered your question in an October 15, 2010 article titled “The Grammar of Titles and Naming in International English.” In it, I wrote: “And in modern British and American English, it is grammatically wrong to use ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’ along with other titles, so that a woman doctor can’t be called ‘Dr. (Mrs.) Gloria Fulani.’ Choose only one title. Of course, in a society like Nigeria where women rightly have a need to flaunt both their professional achievement and their marital status, not to talk of our obsession with titles, this rule will never be obeyed.”

We had an argument here about the correctness of the expression “my names are…” Someone said it’s wrong, but I think it’s right because unless you are Chinweizu, we all have more than one name. But you’re the authority on English usage in Nigeria. What do you say?

I have answered this questions several times, but people keep asking it. This is the 10th such question I received last week alone. Maybe I should write a separate article on the issue in future.

“My names are” is decidedly nonstandard. The conventional expression is “my name is” irrespective of the number of names of you have. This is what I wrote in a previous article:

“The phrase ‘my names are…’ is unquestionably nonstandard by the conventions of modern English. Contemporary native English speakers don’t introduce themselves that way. My preliminary investigation shows that, that form of conversational self-reference occurs chiefly in Nigerian and Kenyan English. This may indicate that it’s an old-fashioned British English form that has survived in some of Britain’s former colonies.

 “In modern English, most grammarians agree that ‘name,’ in the sense in which you used it, is a language unit and refers both to one’s first name alone and to one’s first, (middle), and last names combined. So the socially normative and grammatically acceptable way to introduce yourself is to either say ‘my name is Danjuma’ or ‘my name is Danjuma Olu Okoro.’ The fact of the addition of ‘Olu’ and ‘Okoro’ to ‘Danjuma’ doesn’t require that you inflect ‘name’ for number, that is, it doesn't require you to pluralize ‘name’ to ‘names.’ So it is wrong to say ‘my names are ….’”

I was at a workshop facilitated by Americans. During the workshop, we called our facilitators by their titles and last names but other westerners in the workshop called the facilitators by their first names, and they didn’t seem to care. What is the tradition there?

You did the right thing by addressing them by their titles and last names. The tradition here is to err on the side of formality. Form of address is a marker of social and power distance. Generally, when you’re not familiar with people, it is recommended that you address them by their title and last name until they tell you to call them by their first name only. Similarly, when people are your social superiors, it is good form to address them by their title and last name unless they explicitly tell you not to.

In the school where I got my PhD, we called our professors by their titles and last names (as in, “Dr. Smith”), but a few of them insisted on being called by their first names only because they considered us potential colleagues. A few others resented being called by their first names only. A friend of mine was once embarrassed by a professor who, upon being called by his first name, said, “No, don’t call me by my first name. I will remain Dr. [Lastname] to you until you get your own Ph.D.”

It is unlikely that your workshop facilitators will be this brash, but it’s always good to call people by their title and last name until they tell you not to do so. Your western colleagues probably felt the workshop facilitators were their contemporaries.  Perhaps they are not Americans. In America, particularly in the South, people pay a lot of attention to forms of address, and it is always best to choose the side of formality and proper etiquette.

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