Political advertising in the past two decades has assumed a new dimension with the increasing use of negative election campaign adverts (Beard 2000; Won Ho Chang & Jae-Jin Park, 1998). Before the advent of this new trend in Nigeria, political candidates concentrated more on promoting themselves and their programmes through the adverts with very few instances of the use of negative publicity. However, with the resuscitation of political activities in 1999 after the long years of military rule, the competitiveness and the "winners-take-all" syndrome that characterised the last general elections in 2003, many candidates abandoned positive, issue-focused, image-building adverts for manipulative use of language and direct attacks on their opponents.
In this paper, I provide a structural and functional description of the significant features of English usage in the campaign texts produced in an L2 context with the primary aim of demonstrating this innovative and emerging trend in political discourse. The data set came from adverts produced in English during the last general elections (2003) as published in selected Nigerian national newspapers.
The approach of discourse analysis is adopted in the description and interpretation of the data. Relevant aspects of the Speech Act Theory (Searle, 1969; Schiffrin, 1994) and Expectant Theory (in Won Ho Chang & Jae-Jin Park, 1998) provide the theoretical framework for the study.
The study shows that this phenomenon has become one of the most effective discourse strategies for promoting the image of the candidates and persuading voters. It demonstrates further that, perhaps, socio-cultural and contextual factors underlie the deployment of this technique in election campaigns. It has also led to the creation of new words/expressions that has expanded the corpora of political discourse in Nigeria.
In conclusion, the study raises the issue of the appropriateness and morality of negative campaigning against the backdrop of the legal implications and voters' reactions.
Key Words: Political discourse, Negative Campaigning, Nigeria, Speech Act etc.
'Tunde Opeibi, Ph.D. teaches English Language and Linguistics in the Department of English, University of Lagos, Nigeria. His areas of interest are in Sociolinguistics, Discourse Analysis, Forensic Linguistics (Legal Discourse), Political Discourse, and Applied Linguistics. He is the Nigeria's representative of CLARITY-an international association promoting plain legal language.