1.1       Background to the Study

            The role of language in human communication cannot be underestimated. It is a vital instrument which aids the communicative ability of members of a speech community. In the course of human interaction, the intentions and objectives of a speaker is reflected in his choice of language. Consequently, the choice of language in a particular environment serves as a viable instrument in binding them together or tearing them apart depending on the effect of the linguistic features adopted by the speakers.

            In governance, effective communication has become the most viable means of bridging the gap between the governments and the electorates. In other words, a successful government needs to be conscious of the importance of good communication with the members of the society if she wants to be the people’s choice. Therefore, language has been utilized as one of the most viable and practicable means of expressing thoughts, norms and sentiments especially when it comes to politics, most especially, partisan politics. The language of politics has been said to be persuasive. As a result, politicians have been meticulous about their various choices of language as they make careful choices so as to project their various manifestoes in such a way that could catch the attention of the electorates. Scholars have described the nature and roles of political language in different ways. Balogun (2012) describes the language of politics as persuasive and emphasizing. Oha (1994) also sees political language as a manipulative tool which politicians use to achieve their political ambitions. From the foregoing, it could be said that the language of politics has great potentials to influence and shape public opinions.

            As it were, communication seems to be a sustainable feature of every government which desires to maintain cordial relationship and intimacy with the members of the society so as to gain their confidence. This therefore gives preference and much concentration of the language choice of politicians. This assertion corroborates with the importance of delivering speeches at one occasion or the other.

            Political speeches, just like it has been affirmed above, are characterized by persuasion, emphasis and manipulation. For instance, it has always been a constitutional duty of a president or an administrator to give an inaugural speech on his assumption of office as the head of state and head of government. Such speech is bent towards emphasising on his commitment to the campaign promises and also persuading the electorates who have voted for him on the need to be committed to the new administration. Other speech types whose contents are achieved through the manipulations of language features are manifestoes (campaign speeches), and independence speech. Campaign speeches are constructions of promises so as to manipulate the electorates and members of the community. Such speech is always manipulative and persuasive with the aim of gaining the allegiance of the party members and other members of the communities who are willing to vote for better governance in the society. This is so because in countries where true democracy is practiced, politicians can only come to power after effective campaigning.

            In Nigeria where true democracy is practised, there is always a need for political office holders to show and recount their commitments to the citizens in order to give room for wider participation in the government. One of the most resourceful avenues used in achieving this as stipulated by the constitution through ‘Independence speech’. An independence speech is an annual speech delivered by the president or a governor on the day of Independence (October 1st, as in the case of Nigeria). The content of this speech is modelled after giving necessary disposal of the president’s or party’s achievements in the course of the year and also to re-emphasize his commitment to other promises which have been made in the course of the campaign.

            People tend to misunderstand as well as give false interpretation to what is said and how it is said. The solution to this language problem is the writer’s choice of words and the linguistic features adopted by such speaker to negotiate his thoughts with his audience. The aspect of linguistics that caters for this is ‘discourse’. Discourse analysis is said to be the sets of linguistic explanations made about the use of language in a given context (Halliday & Matthiessen, (2004). In discourse, linguistic items are connected and linked in a way that meaning is realized. This is termed cohesion. According to Norah (2017) a texture is organized based on the relationship among the linguistic items in the text. Halliday and Hassan (1976) cited in Norah (2017:2) posit that “these items, whether semantic or grammatical, are what called cohesive ties”. The most recurrent among the cohesive devices in discourse are repetition, substitution, ellipsis, references and conjunction. These devices are often adopted in order to achieve the intending aim in interactive discourse. In discourse when a text is well connected, then coherence is possible. For instance, examining the following utterances:

Sade is a brilliant student, Sade caters for Sade’s school fees, Sade has no parents, Sade’s parents died long ago.

 These utterances are meaningless and senseless because proper cohesive devices are not used. The utterances when they are well connected will then give us

Sade is a brilliant student, but caters for her school fees. She has no parents because they died long ago.

The cohesive devices which were adopted in the utterances to make it coherent are
i. Substitution: ‘she’ for Sade; ‘her’ for Sade; and ‘they’ for Sade’s parents

ii. Conjunction: coordinating conjunction as in but and subordinating conjunction as in ‘because

iii. Reference: Anaphoric as in ‘she’, ‘they’ and ‘her’ point backward to refer to Sade

iv. Ellipses: …….but (she) caters for her school fees.

            This is why it is important for language users especially politicians, as in the case of the present study, need to understand the use of various cohesive devises as mentions above in order to make their speech or other communicative information meaningful and relevant to the society. 

            In the course of investigating the linguistic choice of President Muhammadu Buhari (hence, PMB), there have been numerous researches about the language use of the president to express his commitment towards his administration. An attempt to examine the discourse features in PMB’s speeches over the years gives birth to the comparison of his inaugural speeches. A research attempted by Amaechi (2016) who investigated the discourse features in the maiden coup address of January 1 1984 delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari when he assumed office as the military head of state and the inaugural speech in May 29, 2015 when he assumed office as a civilian president, reveals that use of language in the president’s maiden speech when he was a head of state was blatantly authoritative as it portrays the culture of masculinity, speed, precision, discipline, comradeship and nationalistic feelings, which the military as an institution is often associated with and which are often reflected in their pronouncements. In the military, words function to enable the speaker to exercise solid control through commands, order, request, threats etc. Amaechi (2016:1) states that:

 his utterances were seen to be authoritative, forceful, preemptory, and direct as he needed to exercise a solid control through commands, orders, firm request, and threats. In contrast to the above, his use of language in his inaugural address which was made in the context of popular democracy, was relatively informative and persuasive ,and reflects ingredients of social relations and interactions.        


            The transitive features of the 2016 Independence Speech by President Muhammadu Buhari was notable for its features as the president adopted certain processes as means of conveying his thoughts to the citizens. As confirmed by Aderoju (2016) who attempted a discourse analysis of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 Independence Speech, President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech was characterized by seven material processes, five mental process, two verbal processes; and one attributive relational process. This implies that the President has specially selected words which are suggestive of action. Interpretively, that was a warning or a reminder for those who thought the President could no longer take any further action against corruption as he earlier promised during his manifestoes. Also, submission by Odunsi (2018) who worked on the discourse features in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2018 Independence speech through pragmatics was characterized by the President’s use of following pragmatic acts: the pract of Celebrating, the pract of lamenting, the pract of reaffirmation of intentions and the pract of felicitation. These practs were used by PMB pronounce negative judgements in reference to the saboteurs of the Nigerian project such as Boko haram insurgents and Fulani Herdsmen. In the course of the research, positive appreciations were used for the edification of the Nigerian history while negative appreciations were used by the President to foreground certain pitiable aspects of the life of the nation, especially some important sectors.

            Sequel to the above, this study intends to carry out a thorough investigation on the use of cohesive devices in 2019 Independence Day speech by President Mohammadu Buhari. This study aims at examining the discourse features adopted by the President to communicate his thoughts to Nigerian citizens. The 2019 Independence Day Speech is distinct due to its ability to capture some shocking revelations of Muhammadu Buhari which have been hidden for common Nigerians. As a way to distinct itself from other researches, this study will be focusing on the President’s linguistic idiolect in terms of how cohesive or connected his linguistic items are to capture the mind of Nigerian citizens. The study will explore the President’s use of ellipsis, references, substitution, conjunction and lexical cohesion.

1.2       Statement of the Problem                    

         Every research is bent towards filling a gap. Previous researches have shown, from all indications, that a good number of works on discourse have been done on political speeches of President Muhammadu Buhari. Most of the works on the speeches of PMB have only covered the president’s speeches within 1984 when he assumed office as the Military head of state and 2018. No research has been conducted on the President’s most recent Independence Speech which he delivered on the 1st of October, 2019 to mark the annual Independence Day in Nigeria.  If any, the President’s use of cohesive devices in the speech has not been attempted.

            However, the current study aims to fill in the gap by attempting to critically investigate the use of cohesive devices in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study                     

            The aim of this study is to carry out a discourse analysis of the use of cohesive devices in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech. The specific objectives are to:


  1. 1.      examine the dominant cohesive devices used in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech and what it was used to achieve;
  2. 2.      explain how the cohesive devices have been utilized as agents of foregrounding in the speech;
  3. 3.      determine the underlying contexts in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech; and
  4. 4.      explore other discourse features that were adopted by PMB in the speech and their contributions to the meaning.

1.4 Research Questions                                                              

               The following research questions have been formulated to guide the steps of the researcher in subsequent progress of the study:                              

  1. 1.      What are the dominant cohesive devices used in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech and what it was used to achieve?
  2. 2.      How the cohesive devices have been utilized as agents of foregrounding in the speech;
  3. 3.      What are the underlying contexts in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech?
  4. 4.      What are the other discourse features that were adopted by PMB in the speech and their contributions to the meaning?



1.5       Scope of the Study            

            This study titled ‘the use of cohesive devises in President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 Independence Speech’ is aimed at studying the use of language in the President’s speech. The areas to be covered would be the cohesive devices as stipulated by Halliday and Hassan (1976). They are substitution, Ellipsis, conjunction, references and lexical cohesion.

1.6       Limitation of the Study                                    

              The choice of limiting the scope of the study is determined by a number of factors such as time and accuracy. However, that the study has been limited to PMB’s 2019 Independence Speech alone because it seems to be an untouched textual piece which needs critical analysis. Concentrating on the 2019 Independence Speech does not guarantee weaknesses/lapses in the study. It is, therefore, crucial to state that the limits of the restriction are laudable areas worth examining. Also, since all discourse features cannot be examined due time restrictions, therefore, the need for the concentration of cohesive devices. 

1.7       Significance of the Study                    

This study will be beneficial to linguists and language students who have vast interest in applying their linguistic knowledge to political discourses. The study will help language students and teachers to understand the importance of context to meaning, especially to naturally occurring discourse such as speech. It will also help them to understand how cohesive devices could serve as agents of achieving coherence in communication through a well-connected textual features and cohesive ties. 

1.8       Definition of Operational Terms

            The following terms are defined below, in line with their contextual use to suit the purpose of this study.


Discourse deals with the sets of explanation about the use of language in different contexts. In the context of this study, the focus will be on the political discourse.  


Cohesive Devices

              Cohesion means unity. Cohesive devices are those discourse features that ensure connectivity and unity among linguistic features in order to achieve coherence.


              Coherence means sense making. It is the product of cohesion.


Politics is an important feature of every democratic government. It defines the place of power. Politics determines how powers are shared and distributed.

Independence Speech:

                   Independence speech is an official statement or proclamation delivered by the leader or President of a nation or country, in the course of celebrating the freedom of such nation from external control. In the context of this study, 2019 Independence speech, which was delivered by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari, would be critically examined by paying attention to the cohesive devices.