Sunday, March 12, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Orwellian Doublespeak About Buhari’s Health



Thank you very much for your very civilized response! I lived, studied and worked in Sweden for some years, but you have helped me to learn more with your eloquent response below! We need more of such a well-cultured analysis but not wanton insults! You certainly remind me of former VC Aluko, whose USA-Africa postings are gems and very educative! We thank our Maker for serious and regular contributors like some of you!! My legendary mentor (Baba Ajebu or Ijebu) would say: "More ink to your fountain pens..."

A.B. Assensoh

From: <> on behalf of Cornelius Hamelberg <>
Sent: Saturday, March 11, 2017 6:14 PM
To: USA Africa Dialogue Series
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Orwellian Doublespeak About Buhari's Health

Dear Godwin Okeke,

That was cute of you signing off as "Mr. Know it all".

How to explain? In this life I have been assigned to play the role Cornelius - nobody else - and I'm writing my own lines, just as you are writing yours.

Like Ray Charles, I'm fresh out of tears.

My friend Menachem told me yesterday when I complained to him, he said " Well, you know that the Germans like titles" The Germans like titles and some people don't like the Germans, all because of the führer - and so you see, for some people, sometimes, one bad apple represents the whole bunch. You could even extend that one bad apple to someone like this little ex-Hitler Youth

I like your name - just as I liked the name of our chemistry teacher Vidal Godwin in the third form of secondary school. It's a good name, as good as other names such as Good-luck, Good-looking, Patience, Blessing; the Almighty has multiplied us into millions of souls to serve him and so Besserwisser (good German word), I love you too, I love our people and this means that your problems are also mine, really. It's not as if should I be the weakest link in the chain then the problem is mine and not yours also

According to another besserwisser, "We get the governments we deserve" - this is unarguably the case with one-man-one-vote Nigeria, so, in my opinion, if some people don't agree with this and want to become self-governing as an independent nation to be known as e.g. Biafra, that 's absolutely OK with me as long as they go for it peacefully, starting with a referendum, because I don't want to countenance any wanton killing; I don't want anybody to die just because they ask for a divorce from being married to Nigeria.

Question : Shouldn't we all be having a good time?

I understand that you asked a rhetorical question.

In Sweden, we have a parliamentary system of government and a prime minister, not a president. Here, transparency is a reality and not just a slogan - so if our prime minister were to fall ill for an extended period of time - to the extent of not being able to perform his duties as prime minister, I do believe that it would be in place for us to know about it (unless of course - God forbid it was something like HIV - which has such a stigma) - but there are privacy laws and so normally my medical journal cannot be accessed and made public just like that, not to talk about that of our King or our prime minister. No one's extended illness has to cause a crisis in government or a constitutional crisis; I'm sure that there are provisions in our constitution and in the Nigerian constitution as to how to how to deal with such an eventuality.

Check this out : US presidents who concealed ill health

Concerning the mystery enveloping President Buhari's state of health and the question, of transparency about the matter, our own Oga, Professor Falola has explained that it's cultural - mark his words: "Africans don't like to report their health, whether it's a poor farmer or the president" . Africans. All Africans? Africans, generally? Is Godwin Okeke an Oyinbo or an African? Mainland or Diaspora?

Fact is that as far as I know, no one has yet asked President Buhari, exactly what the matter is. When he took time off and was off to London to fix his ear everybody knew that it was an ear problem . Now it's certainly something more serious than just his ear. Bottom line, I think that in Sweden too a person whether a poor farmer or the prime minister has a right to privacy and even if he is a public servant, he/ she does not have to make his ailment public.

Passing by


On Saturday, 11 March 2017 13:57:23 UTC+1, Godwin Okeke wrote:
May be that is the way the President of the country you reside is hidden away from the people who put him in power when he's facing any health challenge. Some of you can never see anything wrong with the manner the country is administered because of reasons best known to you. Mr know it all.

On Fri, 3/10/17, Cornelius Hamelberg <> wrote:

 Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Orwellian Doublespeak About Buhari's Health
 To: "USA Africa Dialogue Series" <>
 Date: Friday, March 10, 2017, 8:45 PM
 Sami allahu liman hamidah - rabbana lakal hamd
 Buhari returns to Nigeria !
 This has laid to rest the many ugly rumours and the
 unhealthy speculations by the ne'er-do-well, about the
 whereabouts of
 the President.
  Since President Buhari is the president of all
 Nigerians, I wish
 that I knew exactly how to express the same sentiment of
 thanks and
 gratefulness to the Almighty for bringing him back safe and
 sound to
 our Nigeria in all the indigenous Naija dialects and all of
 varieties of Nigerian English - of which there are many
 varieties - and in terms of indigenous language interference
 - as I
 pointed out to a dear friend this afternoon, there must even
 be a
 variety of jargon known as "Biafran English"  - if
 should ever want to "nationalise" that speech
 within and even without imaginary borders. As to exactly how
 sounds - as with all languages, with special lexical
 prosody, thought patterns and usual modes of expression, we
 ask those who speak it fluently and fully understand the
 It was frail looking Muhammadu Buhari that we saw getting
 off that
 plane on TV - but  - another Baruch Hashem - his eyes
 bright. May the Almighty fortify him  and shine His light
 upon him is
 our prayer,  according to His will. We heard his spokesmen
 Garba say on BBC  Focus of Africa that the President will be
 some more time to rest and heard the
 voice of President Buhari himself confirm his intention to
 do so  
 It should be strictly, doctors orders - in this case
 peace and
 The advice that one usually gives to the Brethren - the
 includes yours truly and all those who believe that when the
 orders complete rest for two or three months he only has the
 toubabs / oyinbo  in mind  and that real Africans are
 usually back in
 the field  playing football again after a mere  two or three
 I guess that rest in this case should include rest from
 the little
 jabs from certain sections of the  always oppositional and
 Naija press that would like to torment him even now. May
 they never
 be satisfied!
 Good thing that the vice president is already performing
 at peak
 On Monday, 13
 February 2017 08:43:08 UTC+1, Farooq A. Kperogi
 wrote:My "Politics of
 Grammar" column in today's
 Daily Trust on Sunday
 By Farooq
 A. Kperogi,
 Doublespeak is intentional manipulation of
 language to conceal uncomfortable truths or to cleverly tell
 outright lies. The term came to us from George Orwell,
 although he didn't use it himself. The term he used in his
 famous book titled 1984 is "newspeak," which he
 said consists in limiting the range of words people use and
 in stripping language of semantic precision in order to
 facilitate government propaganda and mind
  The mainstreaming of Orwellian doublespeak
 in Trump's America is already causing an enormous spike in
 the sales of Orwell's 1984, which was first
 published in 1949, especially after a Trump administration
 official by the name of Kellyanne Conway defended habitually
 intentional falsehoods by the Trump administration as merely
 "alternative facts."
 All governments lie, but the brazenness and
 consistency of the lies of the Buhari government are simply
 remarkable. It competes favorably with the Trump
 administration in prevarications and loud, bold defiance of
 basic ethical proprieties. Nowhere has this become more
 apparent in recent time than in the information that
 government officials share with the Nigerian public about
 President Muhammadu Buhari's
  I have no evidence for this, but my hunch
 tells me that Buhari isn't nearly as sick as his
 detractors make it seem, but the illogic, intentionally
 deceitful and mutually contradictory language of government
 spokespeople in explaining away the president's prolonged
 absence from Nigeria have conspired to fuel unhealthy
 speculations about the state of his
 As I told the BBC World Service in a February
 7, 2017 interview, the labyrinth of tortuous lies, fibs,
 half-truths, and conscious deceit that emanate from the
 government make it impossible to even guess the
 The president's media advisers admit that
 the president is in London on a "medical vacation"
 (which is doublespeak for "he is sick and needs medical
 attention"), and his latest letter to the National
 Assembly said he was awaiting the results of medical tests,
 but the Acting President and the Minister of Information say
 he is "hale and hearty" (which means he is vigorous and
 doing well). No one can be simultaneously on a "medical
 vacation," be awaiting the results of medical tests, and
 be "hale and hearty." That's a logical
 It gets even stranger. Senator Abu Ibrahim, a
 senator from Katsina State who said he was in touch with the
 president, told newsmen that the president was neither on
 medical vacation nor hale and hearty, but only "exhausted
 by the weight of the problems the country is going
 through." So London is the president's destination of
 choice to rest, while millions of people who voted him into
 office squirm in the severe existential torment his
 administration either deepened or caused?
 On February 7, Presidential Media Adviser
 Femi Adesina also told Channels TV that he was
 "daily" in touch with the President, but
 doesn't "speak with him direct." How does one
 "keep in touch" with someone thousands of miles
 away without "directly speaking" with
 Well, Adesina said he does that by being
 "in touch with London daily." I am not making this
 up. You can watch the interview on ChannelTV's YouTube
 channel. But it gets worse still. He added: "People
 around him will speak daily. Daily." You would think
 the word "daily" was in danger of going out of
 circulation and needed to be verbally curated on national
 TV.This doublespeak recalls my grammar column of
 December 10, 2009 on the late President Yar'adua's
 health. It was titled "Yar'adua's Health: Amb.
 Aminchi's Impossible Grammatical Logic." Read it below
 and note the similarities with what is going on now.
 Enjoy:Nigeria's ambassador to Saudi Arabia,
 Alhaji Garba Aminchi, was quoted by an
 Abuja newspaper to have fulminated against
 the unnervingly prevailing buzz that President Yar'adua is
 in a persistent vegetative state and in grave danger of
 imminent death. "And all these insinuations are lies,"
 he was quoted to have said. "To the best of my knowledge,
 I see him every day, and he is
 To the best of his knowledge, he sees the
 ailing president every day? So our ambassador is not even
 sure if, indeed, he sees the president every day, but he is
 certain nonetheless that the president is recovering. Huh?
 This is a supreme instantiation of a case where thought,
 language, and materiality have parted
 At issue here is the idiom "to the best of
 my knowledge," which is also commonly rendered as "to my
 knowledge." This expression, according to
 the Macmillan
 Dictionary, is used for saying that you think something
 is true, but you are not completely certain, as in, "To
 the best of my knowledge, the President has not decided if
 he will resign because of his failing health."
 The Free
 Dictionary defines the idiom thus: "as I
 understand it." The Oxford Dictionary also defines it as,
 "from the information you have, although you may not know
 So, the idiom is deployed principally to
 express thought-processes that reside in the province of
 incertitude, of inexactitude. If, for instance, someone were
 to ask me (and somebody did indeed ask me a couple of days
 ago) if Yar'adua was dead, I would say "well, to the
 best of my knowledge he is alive." Here, the phrase "to
 the best of my knowledge" admits of both the possibility
 that he could be alive or dead. In other words, it betrays
 the uncertainty and tentativeness of the information I have
 about the query.
 Now, for Ambassador Aminchi to use the idiom
 "to the best of my knowledge" (which admits of
 uncertainty) in the same sentence as "I see him every day
 and he is recovering" (which connotes cocksure certitude)
 evokes an eerily bizarre disjunction between thought,
 speech, and reality, one that is impossible to conceive of
 even with the wildest stretch of fantasy. This is as much a
 grammatical slip as it is a logical
 One perfectly legitimate interpretive
 possibility from the ambassador's statement is that he
 actually sees a figure in Saudi Arabia in the likeness of
 President Yar'adua that is convalescing from a sickness,
 but is uncertain if this is merely the apparition of a
 spooky specter masquerading as Yar'adua or if it's
 Yar'adua himself. In spite of this dubiety, however, he is
 positive that the real Yar'adua is
 This is obviously not what the ambassador
 wants to be understood as saying. So, one or two of three
 things are happening here. The first is that the ambassador
 is being barefacedly mendacious in order to conceal the
 graveness of the condition of Yar'adua's health. And
 this won't be out of character. After all, English
 diplomat and writer Henry Wotton once famously defined an
 ambassador as an "honest man sent to lie abroad for the
 good of his country." Only that, in this case, our
 ambassador is lying abroad for the bad of his
 The second possibility is that the ambassador
 is simply clueless about the meaning of the idiom. And a
 third possibility is that he has been misquoted or
 mistranslated by the reporter who wrote the
 Now, this isn't an idle, nitpicking censure
 of an ambassador's innocent slip by a snooty,
 self-appointed grammar police. This issue is not only about
 the health of Yar'adua; it is also about the health of our
 country. Since Yar'adua took critically ill, the nation
 has been in even much graver illness. In somber moments such
 as this, we cannot afford the luxury of tolerating
 intentionally deceitful and irresponsible political language
 from public officials.
 between Bad Language and
 In his famous 1946 essay
 titled "Politics
 and the English Language," George Orwell
 railed against this very tendency among the public officials
 of his day. He wrote: "Political speech and writing are
 largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the
 continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and
 deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can
 indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too
 brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with
 the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political
 language has to consist largely of euphemism,
 question-begging and sheer cloudy
 Do you see any parallels here between
 Ambassador Aminchi's illogical grammar—and indeed that
 of most Nigerian public officials—and the public officials
 of Orwell's days?
 Interestingly, the problem endures to this
 day even in Britain. On Nov. 3, 2009 the Guardian of
 London reported that a British
 parliamentary committee excoriated "politicians and civil
 servants for their poor command of the English language"
 epitomized in the "misleading and vague official
 language" of prominent
 Tony Wright, chairman of the committee, said:
 "Good government requires good language, while bad
 language is a sign of poor government. We propose that cases
 of bad official language should be treated as
 Maybe the committee chairman's sentiments
 are a bit of a rhetorical stretch, but someone should tell
 Ambassador Aminchi that he cannot simultaneously be unsure
 that he sees the ailing president and yet be certain that
 the president is recovering. That's impossible grammatical
 logic. And that can only sprout from a mind that is wracked
 by psychic
 Farooq A. Kperogi,
 ProfessorJournalism & Emerging
 School of Communication &
 MediaSocial Science
 Building Room 5092 MD
 2207402 Bartow Avenue
 State University
 Kennesaw, Georgia, USA
 Cell: (+1) 404-573-9697
 Personal website: www.farooqkperogi.comTwitter: @farooqkperogAuthor of Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms
 of Nigerian English in a Global World
 "The nice thing about pessimism is that
 you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly
 surprised." G. F. Will
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