If you have been following the Nigerian elections be it on your own or via your Nigerian friends, you should by now be very familiar with our honourable first lady, Dame Patience – and her wonderful command of the English language. In particular, her statement about the PDP Humblerra should be called to mind.
While it was not her first and neither will it be her last linguistic error made on public television, I want you to think of that particular statement (the one that took her mainstream) as you read this article. Sure we all had a good laugh at it and her subsequent lapsus linguae, but believe it or not there is more to the Humblerra than meets the eye.
You see, when the first lady of an anglophone country cannot speak proper English, it really should not be a laughing matter. As I say this, I still laugh every time the Dame releases another hit single and really, if it was just about her I wouldn’t be writing this article.
In the 3 months I have now spent here, I have heard countless grammatical and verbal errors made by public figures and TV personalities ranging from newscasters, to show hosts and people in positions of power. Just the other day, the president of FIDA (the federation of women lawyers) released her own hit track called “Concientize” and she didn’t do it just once. She released the remix, the instrumentals, the drum solo… In fact she must have repeated it about 10 times! Thus proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she believed it was correct English.
Now a slip of tongue once in a while by anyone is forgivable. I’m not saying that you have to be a master of English. But by the time every Tope, Dilichukwu, and Hamsat is dropping bombshells every 10 minutes on National Television! Things have gone too far. And it didn’t just start today. My grandmother used to record all the mistakes she heard on TV in a notebook out of frustration. She’s a retired school teacher. But after she had filled two exercise books full of mistakes she had to give up.
Forget about how the Americans have ruined the English language, let’s take a look at ourselves. At least their incorrect English is there for all to read and accept in the dictionary and is officially recognised as a “dialect” of English. These errors that I’ve heard so often are not the results of a difference in dialect or pidgin or any such thing. They’re just mistakes. Plain and simple.
Given this, it should be obvious what the true meaning of Humblerra is. It is a cry for help. A cry that tells of the decrepit state of the Nigerian educational system. That begs us to please put it out of its misery so it can stop producing poorly spoken graduates. That shows how all classes of Nigerians are affected from the most affluent (like the president’s wife), to the (I assume) well educated (like the president of FIDA), all the way down to the poor and poorly educated from whom one might expect to hear such things.
So next time the Dame or some other Nigerian drops another hit single, please think on this and realise that for all our posing and posturing, Nigeria really does have serious problems that need to be addressed by serious leaders.
Having completed what is said to be the most free and fair elections in Nigeria’s brief history, let us then hope that our elected officials will be up to the task – and no one needs to be more so up to it than the husband of our ever present reminder; Our president, Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.