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Frisky Larr (M. A.)

Radio/Television Journalist/Communication Scientist, Govt. accredited Translator/Interpreter of the English language
Judicially sworn interpreter of English (Regional Court of Bochum)

Germany
Send your email to:
FriskyLarr@aol.com


more articles by Larr


By the way, are we slowly seeing the role of women in Nigeria? I hope the role of competence in technocracy played by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the courage of Dora Akunyili in NAFDAC and in belling the cat at the Federal Executive Council as well as the marginal courage displayed by Farida Waziri in telling Aondoakaa “Enough is enough” is not lost on credible observers. As of today, I see two competent and qualified individuals for the Nigerian Presidency if Nigeria would let them be: Nuhu Ribadu and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Dora Akunyili in her present state will qualify for the Vice Presidency any day, anytime until other names appear. But of course, that is just my dream only for the day that Nigeria will be ruled on Meritocracy.

 



Is Aondoakaa a decorated illiterate?
by Frisky Larr
 
It requires the knowledge of a language to decipher the message encoded in a collection of individual words. Some languages are simple in structure and some are more complex. The Chinese, Greek and Russian languages are in their order, regarded as the most complex in the world. The English language on the other hand, is not the simplest language on earth. It also doesn’t count among the most complex. Linguists with the gift of the multiple knowledge of diverse tongues across geographical divide will surely attest to this simple reality.

With the knowledge of several languages, one no doubt, sometimes gets confused when the expression of one language is packaged in the words of another to transmit a message that a speaker has in mind. If the listener understands the multiple languages commanded by the speaker, it is often easier to follow the pattern of thought of the speaker by identifying the language in which the pattern of thought is more at home. Listen to a non-native speaker of the English language from any Western European country (Germany, Holland, Denmark, etc.) speaking English with expressions that are typical of his cultural background but packaged in English words that are comprehensible but pretty much unusual of English language and you’d understand what I'm talking about. When you tell a German “Thank you!” and you get the reply “Please!” it may sound like a gesture of “Oh please, nothing to be thankful about”. May be! What is however irrefutable is the fact that the word “Please” in German (“Bitte”) in response to “Thank you”, is the equivalent of the traditional “Don’t mention” in English language.

It was against this backdrop that I hesitated a bit when the recent outburst of Chief Michael Aondoakaa against Dora Akunyili hit the headlines in Nigerian mass media. It will be recalled that Mrs. Akunyili in a desperate bid to break the impasse occasioned by the long health-induced absence of President Yar’Adua from Nigeria took a radical departure from the conspiratorial consensus of self-serving compliance within the Federal Executive Council. She called for the constitutional handover of power to the Vice President by the ailing President barely one week after the same Federal Executive Council had unanimously concluded that the President was healthy enough to continue as a bedridden ruler from “Thine Kingdom Come”.

For the few years that Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has been President of Nigeria, it has been no secret that the centerpiece of his so-called Kitchen Cabinet (the inner circle of Yar’Adua’s power base) has been Michael Aondoakaa. He had gained notoriety for unprecedented audacity in the face of vehement adversity. He would voice out a position that is so strongly against the waves of reason that one would think he didn’t give a damn driving at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour against the direction of traffic flow on an expressway irrespective of the hundreds of other vehicles heading his way from the opposite direction at the same speed. It is a boldness for which he has always gained my admiration.

But much like his defiance of logic in many legal pronouncements that he has made till the present day, I have never leaned towards the belief that he may be capable of defying the English grammar or the conventional understanding of the English language against all odds of human wisdom.

I had to hesitate a bit because I know that every Nigerian is at least, naturally and traditionally bilingual in the national set-up. The uneducated Nigerian has a sound and unflinching command of at least, the Pidgin English in addition to his/her native language. The educated ones also add at least, something close to the grammatically refined version of English language as known to the rest of the world, to their native language and the Pidgin English. Chief Michael Aondoakaa has no doubt, a sound command of his native language from the north, a sound command of the Pidgin English and at least, a weak version of Standard English. No doubt, the conflict of thinking in one language and speaking in another, thus packaging thoughts made in his native northern language in English words may quickly become a problem as everyone of us may have experienced at one point or the other.

In condemning Dora Akunyili’s position that clearly betrayed a consensus cabinet position barely a week before, Aondoakaa lashed out at her in the following words: “I think she was trying to make herself a cheap hero out of that. If you see what the Senate said, the Senate made an appeal. She does not need the FEC to make an appeal; she can also appeal. … The Senate said it was appealing. You saw the spokesman of the Senate eventually came out and said they have no power to compel the man. Now, there is even a court decision that says that transmission of letter shall be voluntary. It is within the President. … Bringing the memo to the FEC is just to make herself an angel. She wants to be seen as a populist. Whatever she wants to gain from it is still personal. None of the FEC members has disrespect for the Vice-President. As far as we are concerned, the VP is our leader and he is leading us. What she is trying to do is self-seeking; let her go and confront herself with what happened in NAFDAC.”

In fact, the quality of his spoken English would make one believe that he is very well educated by Nigerian standard and seems to be thinking in English while formulating his sentences.

His refutal barely two days later however leaves room for disbelief and wonderment. Wonderment seeking to know the language in which Mr. Aondoakaa may have been processing his thoughts in his own mind while formulating those hard words on his cabinet colleague in English. Forgetting the linguistic analysis of semantics and the correlation of facts and sentences as ordered in a message, Mr. Aondoakaa states clearly that the sentence "let her go and confront herself with what happened in NAFDAC" was indeed supposed to transmit a positive connotation urging Mrs. Akunyili to go and rest on her past glories in NAFDAC. But does the word “confront” as grammatically and conventionally used in English language agree with this reasoning? Having just referred to Mrs. Akunyili with words like “cheap hero”, “make herself an angel” “be seen as a populist” “self-serving” etc., asking her to confront herself with what happened in NAFDAC could mean nothing other than asking her to first go and clear up the mess she laid in NAFDAC before anything else.

How asking someone to confront herself with what happened in the past can magically translate into the eulogy of urging comfort in the glories of the past can only be imaginable if such thoughts were made in Tiv or Hausa language and ambiguously packaged in English words in a manner that is liable to misunderstanding.

The renowned Word Reference Online dictionary describes the word “confront” in the following words: “deal with (something unpleasant) head on”. In its description of “confront”, the reputable Merrian-Webster online dictionary says “to face especially in challenge : oppose <confront an enemy>”

These indeed, are the negative connotations that the word “confront” usually entails in conventional English language usage. It is puzzling indeed, where Mr. Aondoakaa found the positive content of the word in English if not in his native language.

Indeed, if I had not been privileged to hear him speak and be convinced that he has a good command of the English language, I would have refused outright to dismiss the insinuation that he was an illiterate traditional cattle-rearer who was accidentally decorated with the office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.

Given his physical disposition with constantly flashy and colored eyes whilst not a victim of yellow fever or jaundice, I have always refused to subscribe to general insinuation in public debates amongst Nigerians here in Germany that the traditional Gworo or other stimulants may have played a role in many of Aondoakaa's public utterances.

Far-fetched arguments may be adopted to stand logic on its head in proving legal points because the law is generally believed to be an ass. But is language also an ass? Can language be so subjected to such a brutal rape in the daylight sorcery of transforming “confrontation” to “consultation”?

Flippant languages, shrewd, naughty and stinky gutter and abusive qualifications hardly drew any attention to something wrong with Aondoakaa’s psyche as long as they were directed at popularly hated figures at the start of Yar'Adua's term. When this fellow however, began to bite more than he can chew by setting obnoxious rules for Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC, the society began to get split down the middle. His true color finally emerged upon his vehement defiance of the British judiciary in defense of James Ibori. The final fallout with Farida Waziri totally aroused sleeping heads to wake up and take a closer look. The days of Yar’Adua’s unceremonious and speedy departure from Nigeria spelt Aondoakaa’s final hours of desperation. Standing linguistic logic on its head is only the latest in his chain of woes that should unfold pretty soon.

If some disgruntled Nigerians had rejoiced at the demise of Nuhu Ribadu in self-serving jubilation with legendary phrases like “what goes round comes around” “the bird has finally come home to roost”, what Nigeria is about to witness in Aondoakaa in the very near future will surely tell Nigerians “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

By the way, are we slowly seeing the role of women in Nigeria? I hope the role of competence in technocracy played by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the courage of Dora Akunyili in NAFDAC and in belling the cat at the Federal Executive Council as well as the marginal courage displayed by Farida Waziri in telling Aondoakaa “Enough is enough” is not lost on credible observers. As of today, I see two competent and qualified individuals for the Nigerian Presidency if Nigeria would let them be: Nuhu Ribadu and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Dora Akunyili in her present state will qualify for the Vice Presidency any day, anytime until other names appear. But of course, that is just my dream only for the day that Nigeria will be ruled on Meritocracy.

 

 


 
 

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