Brothers and Sisters in Crisis, today is the D-day: the day of the Presidential debate. And, from the way I see it, hmn, yawa go gas o. Did you belong to the Literary and Debating Society while you were in secondary school?

I tell you those guys can debate to the hilt. To belong is to learn the techniques and technicalities of effective debate. It is to learn how to marshal out your points in order to defeat your opponents in a debate. But woe betide you if you did not belong. You wouldn’t know how to arrange your points. You wouldn’t know how to make them fight for you and earn you a resounding victory.

I bring you reports from the field of debates. The first is the school where I served as an English teacher for some years before I left to answer to the higher calling of journalism. One of the debaters, a full grown-up lady had been assigned to speak on the topic: “Indiscipline in School: A Curse Or Blessing?”

She was supposed to propose the topic, that is, to support that it is a curse. But when it came to her turn, she started well quite all right but halfway through she began to grope for the right word. That was when she said: “Indiscipline,” repeating the word twice. “Indiscipline is the baddest thing in this school.”

The school assembly hall where the debate was taking place simply came down with an uproar, over her wrong choice of words. That is, the use of “baddest” in place of “worst.” Of course, that mistake could have come as a result of slip of tongue. But at that moment it became a permanent poster. It was not surprising therefore when, after the debate, students began to talk about “bad” “badder” “baddest” or WABE, an acronym which stood for West African Bad English. Later, mischievous ones among them would go as far as transferring the “baddest” tag to other things or subjects like “noise,” “air fouling or farting,” “late-coming,” “grammar.” So, it was not unusual to hear about “baddest” noise, farting, late-coming, grammar, after the debate. There were some who even started calling her the “baddest” girl.   

The second incident, interestingly, has something to do with politics and debate – students’ union politics. That year, at my alma mater, Alvan Ikoku College of Education (AICE), now Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AIFCE), Owerri, a students union electioneering (campaign) was on and a day before the day of voting and announcement of result was usually set aside for candidates’ presentation or selling of their manifestoes to the student electorate.

There was this young man who was running for the post of Commissioner for Socials or something like that. The moment he mounted the rostrum, he announced that “if you vote for me, look at what I am going to do to you.” As you rightly guessed, it caused a tumultuous uproar among the student population who had gathered to listen to him. What caused the problem? Wrong use of preposition! Instead of saying: “look at what I am going to do for you”, he said: “Look at what I am going to do to you.” He obviously didn’t know or appreciate the difference between to do something “to” and “for” someone. While the use of “to” connotes something bad, harmful, undesirable, unpalatable, the use of “for,” connotes good benefits, something worthwhile and valuable.

Brothers and Sisters in Crisis, that failure to distinguish the difference between the two prepositions caused our comrade contestant the post the following day as students went to the polls. So? As the Presidential debate takes place today, contestants should watch out for those words called homophones or homonyms that one can mistakenly use in place of the other, leading in the end, to what we know as “malapropism.”

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Politicians, especially the illiterate and semi-literate ones are known for making embarrassing mistakes during campaigns or debates. One still remembers how, one of them had, during a rally, some years ago, promised to give the people “fire and rain,” if voted into power, instead of “water and electricity.” You wonder: which fire was he going to give them, and which rain, from where? But because he didn’t seem quite to know the difference between the aforementioned social services, he mistook one for the other.

There was also the case of another politician who told his audience that he “trained boy, trained girl” (although they are many) and, if given another opportunity, he was willing to do more. An aide who felt he had committed a faux paus, drew him closer, as if he was about to sit down after his address and whispered into his ears to put “s”, meaning to pluralise the “boy” and “girl.” Not fully understanding what the he meant by putting or adding “s,” he momentarily stood up, waved his two hands in the air and said: “ndi be anyi, “s” ni ooo” (meaning, our people, “s” ooo). You wonder: was he asking them to help him add “s” to the boy and girl he made mention of earlier on, or was he pleading with them to allow him add the “s” as an afterthought?

“S” ni, “s” ko! For the Presidential debate wey wan shelle for today, we don’t want any candidate to mistake one preposition or lexical word for the other. So? Mind your language. Or, better still mind the language of your use.

Re: Behold, the Great Tinubulation
is here!

In your last column, you wrote that someone asked you who born monkey and you answered that na im Mama. I think you are correct. Na him Mama born am, and if you look very well, he resembles im Mama. So? No matter what lies Lai Mohammed may come up with, tomorrow, all lie (Lai?) na lie. Period. –08069291827

Senator Bola Tinubu is a political icon who knows what he wants and usually go for it, as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. Rather than begrudging him of this honour, why don’t we think of what political strategy we can develop in order to benefit from the same system?

Chika Nnorom, 08062887535