The IUP Journal of English Studies
"I Belong to Everybody and I Belong to Nobody": Clusivity in Political Discourse

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES90621
Author Name : Isaiah I Agbo and Kingsley O Ugwuanyi
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 21



Questions of association and dissociation are recurrent motifs in practically all forms of discourse, especially in political discourse. Political actors rely on a range of strategies to align themselves with and demonstrate in-group solidarity while "othering" the out-group. The study employs the pragma-cognitive model of association and dissociation proposed in Wieczorek's (2013) clusivity theory to analyze the inauguration speech of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. Using this model, the study deconstructs the unique character of the speech, unpacking the sociopolitical forces that underlie the text. Specifically, the study analyzes the speech in line with the pragma-cognitive features of politeness, common ground, referentiality, and conceptual metaphor. The analysis uncovered that the speaker's claim of belonging to everybody and nobody is questionable in view of the evidence of association and dissociation in the text.


The quoted statement-"I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody"-that forms part of the title of this paper is a one-sentence paragraph in the inauguration speech of Muhammadu Buhari, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the swearing-in ceremony that brought him to power on 29 May 2015. Since then, this statement has generated heated contentions and varying interpretations among Nigerians (Lagunju 2017). Unsurprisingly, the statement provoked such widespread discussions considering the concerns it raises-the question of belonging, which engenders boundaries and group identities. One of the most intriguing things about the statement is its ambiguity, saying and unsaying itself, which, according to Bull (2008), is characteristic of political discourse.

Discourse is used to include and exclude, thus polarizing between the included and excluded groups. This is always subversive in most discourses, but the use of the word "belong" by the president readily brings to the fore the point that some group is being included, or excluded, since Nigerian politics is characterized by sectionalism, ecocentrism, and nepotism (Osah et al. 2014). Although this statement has generated questions from many quarters, it is, to the best of our knowledge, yet to receive critical attention in terms of looking at the nuances of the statement in relation to the entire text and its sociopolitical underpinnings.


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