An Intertextual Analysis of Inter-Party Debates in Nigeria (2011 and 2015) – A Critical Perspective

Samuel Olabode Ajibiye


This study investigates intertextuality as a discursive strategy employed presidential candidates in the projection of positive self-construal, as a vote-getting tactic during the televised inter-party presidential debates in Nigeria (2011-2015). Data were collected from the archives of TV stations in Nigeria, authorised to cover the inter-party presidential campaign debates. The recorded-video of the candidates’ spontaneous campaign speeches in 2011 and 2015 were transcribed verbatim, to ease data analysis. The study is underpinned by Fairclough’s concept of intertextuality (Chouliaraki and Fairclough 1999; Fairclough, 1993). This study reveals that presidential candidates – incumbent and challengers – engaged intertextuality of documented evidence, past shared experiences, (in)direct quotes and Self-quotations in an attempt to enhance the credibility of and assert authority to their debate discourse, so as to bolster self-image credibility ratings. Though the candidates creatively constructed and deployed these intertextual insertions differently, the invocation of intertextual properties as a discourse strategy served two similar purposes: to cause maximum damage to the public image of their opponents and to seek maximum public support for Self. Thus, this paper argues that intertextuality of positive self-attributions constitutes an integral part of TV inter-party presidential debate discourse in Nigeria.

Keywords: inter-party presidential debates, CDA, intertextuality


Language facilities are often deployed as a vehicle of self-expressions during interpersonal communication encounters. Such conversational exchanges are influenced and shaped by the discourse constructs of other participants (Blackledge, 2012:617). Consequently, discourse participants often ventriloquize a network of related ‘voices’ for the sake of making their discourse constructs informative, authoritative and plausible (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). The act of employing ‘multiple-voiced discourse’ to inform or persuade other discourse participants in a communicative environment is a linguistic phenomenon known as intertextuality. Of particular interest in this paper is the critical discourse analysis of intertextual relations in the campaign debate speeches of presidential candidates, who participated in the 2011 and 2015 TV inter-party presidential campaign debates in Nigeria.


It is worth mentioning that a few discourse scholars had conducted various investigations into the study of language use during presidential election campaigns in Nigeria. For instance, Babatunde Opeibi (2009) investigated Discourse, Politics and the 1993 Presidential Campaigns in Nigeria. Using Halliday’s Systemic Functional framework (SFT), the study concludes that the two presidential aspirants deployed creatively discourse facilities, stylistic and semiotic resources as persuasive genres in achieving their political ambitions.

The study by Abdullahi-Idiagbon (2010) centres on Language Use in Selected Nigerian Presidential Election Campaign Speeches: A Critical Discourse Analysis Perspective. Using Huckin’s model of critical discourse, Abdullahi-Idiagbon demonstrates, in this study, how three presidential candidates in the 2007 General Elections employed discourse resources as tactics of manipulation in their attempts to woo voters.

Kupolati and Boluwaduro (2017) carry out a Socio-cognitive Analysis of Gubernatorial Debate Sessions in Nigeria. Relying on Benoit’s Functional Theory of campaign discourse and van Dijk’s socio-cognitive theory (context model), the scholars discover that candidates’ debate utterances range from acclaims to attacks and defences, which reflect their mental models of beliefs and dispositions. Thus, our investigation reveals that the communicative functions of intertextual insertions of TV inter-party presidential debate discourse in Nigeria have been neglected. Consequently, the paucity of scholarly investigation in this regard informed the need for this present study.


A careful study of the previous general elections in Nigeria reveals that different political candidates employed traditional methods of advertising self to the electorates which include the use of radio jingles, handbills, billboards, roadside posters and newspapers (Awonusi, 1996:110). It should be noted that televised pre-election debates were first introduced into the country during the 1993 presidential election campaigns between two presidential candidates: Chief Moshood Abiola, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the National Republican Convention (NRC). Ever since, inter-party presidential debates have become a tradition during every presidential election campaign in Nigeria. However, the downside of TV pre-election campaign debates in Nigeria is the choice that the parties’ candidates have to accept or reject offer of invitation to take part in the face-off.

Besides, given the broad optimism on the importance of pre-election campaign debates in democratic politics, a non-partisan, non-profit organization tagged: Nigerian Election Debates Group (henceforth, NEDG) was born in 2003. Thus, televised presidential campaign debates were organised for aspirants in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 in Nigeria by NEDG in collaboration with Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Thus, pre-election debates have now become entrenched on Nigeria’s political scenery.


Research in critical discourse analysis (henceforth, CDA) has provided fundamental insights into the enormous influence that the use of language has on social relationships. The major proponents of CDA as a theoretical framework include Fowler (1996), Fairclough (1992, 2003, 2010, 2012), van Dijk (1998, 2006, 2009, 2016), Wodak (2001, 2006, 2009), van Leeuwen, (1993a), Wodak and Chilton (2005) and Chilton (2004). These discourse scholars opine that CDA is an aspect of language study, that utilises different research methods and analytical approaches for establishing and explicating the underlying relationship between language, ideology and power.

Another crucial aspect of CDA is the ideological intents underlying discourse constructs in political texts and media reportage (Fairclough and Wodak 1997; van Leeuwen 1993a; Fairclough 2001; van Dijk 1998, 2006). As van Leeuwen (1993a:193) argues that “critical discourse analysis is, or should be, concerned with (…) discourse as the instrument of power and control as well as with discourse as the instrument of the social construction of reality.” Thus, these discourse scholars concern themselves with exploring how power relations, positive Self projection and ideological leanings are implicitly (re)produced, instantiated and projected through and in discourse formations.

Fairclough’s approaches to CDA centre around the linguistic analysis of ‘texts’, drawing much influence from Halliday’s (2004) Systemic Functional linguistics (SFL). Thus, his approach to discourse analysis is oriented towards the critical analysis of lexical features, syntactic choices and social contexts. This present study is thus underpinned by Fairclough’s analytical model with a pointed focus on his conceptual postulation of Intertextuality.

Intertextuality as a Critical Component in Fairclough’s CDA

Fairclough’s approach to intertextuality was motivated by the influential works of Bakhtin (1981, 1986) and Kristeva (1986). Essentially, Bakhtin (1981:345) opines that the concept of dialogicality centres on how the words used by language users consist of “half ours and half someone else’s”. In other words, Bakhtin’s perspective on dialogicality is intended to emphasise that the words spoken by speakers during interactional exchanges are partly adaptations and repetitions of what somebody said sometimes ago in different communicative contexts. Suffice to mention that Kristeva (1986:37) argues that the words spoken in a discourse is “a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another.”

Interestingly, one of the key terms in Fairclough’s approach to CDA is ‘text’. He thus defines ‘text’ as a piece of “written or spoken language produced in a discursive event” (Fairclough 1993:138). Of importance is that different textual elements may coexist within the same discourse constructs – ‘prior’ or ‘after’ one another – particularly to substantiate a speaker’s claim, a situation that results in a number of texts coming together. The relationship that emanates from the coming together of different textual ‘voices’ within the same discourse construct is what Fairclough refers to as Inter-textual-ity (Fairclough, 1999, 1992a).

A number of (critical) discourse scholars had worked extensively on the concept of intertextuality, and these are Zhao (2017), AlAfnan (2017), Al-Haq and Al-Sleibi (2015), Waaijma (2010), Wang (2008), Martin (2006), Gadavanij (2002), Allen (2000), Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999), among others. This study will however be undergirded by Fairclough’s postulation on intertextuality. Chouliaraki and Fairclough (1999:118) thus define intertextuality as “the property texts have of being full of snatches of other texts, which may be explicitly demarcated or merged in, and which the text may assimilate, contradict, ironically echo, and so forth.” This means that intertextuality provides an analytic framework through which discursive constructs can be analysed and explicated beyond textual features.

In his work, Fairclough (1992:85) introduces two related types of intertextuality: “manifest intertextuality” and “constitutive intertextuality”.  Manifest intertextuality is the undisguised manifestation or presence of (past) textual elements in one single (present) text. It involves making an explicit reference to ‘some socio-cultural experiences’ (e.g. proverbs, values, historic events), ‘official documents’ (e.g. according to the Constitution, …), ‘International Treaties’ (e.g. the Geneva Conference report says…), ‘media reports’ (i.e. The Guardian Newspaper confirms that…), self-quotes (i.e. I presented a keynote speech in a Conference where I said that…), etc. in an attempt to tie, emotionally, the audience and the discourse. Such precedent utterances do not only enhance easy comprehension of a ‘text’, but also heighten the intended appeal and persuasive effects of political campaign discourse.

It should be noted that constitutive intertextuality is not within the purview of this study. Our interest, however, lies in exploring how the debate utterances of presidential candidates were embellished with “manifest intertextuality” during the 2011 and 2015 televised inter-party presidential debates in Nigeria.


For the present study, we adopted a non-participant observation fieldwork approach, especially the use of relevant methods such as media monitoring, library research, retrieval of archival materials, and manual downloading of the inter-party presidential campaign debates on YouTube. Since pre-election campaign debates are natural, spontaneous speeches of aspirants, our data comprise audio-visual recordings of candidates’ debate speeches.

Data Collection Procedure

The data collection procedures involved a fieldwork technique, particularly a non-participant observation method. The recorded videos of the presidential campaign debates were retrieved from the archives of two television stations in Lagos and Abuja, i.e. Africa Independent Television (AIT) and National Television Authority (NTA). The data were accessed electronically, and stored in an electronic format. A Digital Video Camera (DV/CAM) recorder was employed to store the raw speech data from the video transmission recorder (VTR) connected to a computer internal Hard Drive, using Adobe Première software system. The audio-visual recording of the selected data was subsequently converted and compressed to a readable size, using Total Video converter to a single-sided, playback-only Digital Video Disc player (DVD), from where the researcher then transcribed the recorded speech data into written texts. The study adopts a qualitative method of data analysis.

Data Sampling Procedure

The study adopts purposive sampling technique, as a data sampling method. Since Nigeria operates a multi-party system of democracy, some of the candidates rejected the invite. The candidates who accepted the invite and their parties are represented on the table below:

YEARS 2011 2015
  Presidential Candidates and their political parties   Ndok  &  Dara   (UNDP)     (NTP) VS  Utomi & Jonathan  (SDMP)       (PDP)   Kelani, Galadima, & Owuru (AA)    (ACPN)       (HDP)   VS Ahmed, Salau, Ayeni & Ekeh (ADC)   (AD)  (APA)    (CPP)     Sonaiya, & Jonathan   (KOWA Party)   (PDP) VS Okoye  Okorie & Onovo    (UPD)    (UPP)       (NCP)    
Minutes of each Debate   124 minutes     110 minutes     105 minutes
Debate sessions 1 1 1

Thus, the researcher purposively limit data to the number of presidential candidates who participated in the 2011 and 2015 TV inter-party presidential campaign debates. In other words, those aspirants in 2011 and 2015 who rejected the invite were exempted from the population of study. Thus, our population of study consists of sixteen presidential candidates (i.e. four candidates in 2011 and twelve candidates in 2015).


In order to reveal “manifest intertextuality” in our analysis, we first highlight the purpose of the intertextual insertions in the campaign debates, and then explicate instances of documented evidence and (in)direct quotations (i.e. manifest intertextuality) below:

  1. Criticism of the Ruling Government: This involves the opposition candidates using intertextual insertions to expose the incompetence and inefficiency that characterised the PDP sixteen-year regime in Nigeria (1999-2015). Examples are analysed below:
  2. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says: The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice. Subsection 2b of the same section tells you [that] the Federal Government will look out for the security and welfare of the people, and it shall be based on the primary purpose of the government. (…) Section 18, subsection 3 promises to eradicate illiteracy by providing free education from primary to secondary; free education at the university level, and free adult education. If you look around, you will agree with me there is NOTHING.”

– Mrs. Ebiti Nduak – the U.N.P.D. candidate, 2011presidential debate

Mrs. Nduak, an opposition candidate of the United National Party for Development, employs the ‘manifest intertextual quotation’ of an official document – the Nigerian Constitution – in the statement: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says“, using it as a proof of the ruling party’s non-adherence to the nation’s constitutional provisions, particularly as it relates to the welfare, security, and education of Nigerians. She seems to tell Nigerians that the electorate should reject the ruling party’s candidate, on the ground that the PDP administration has done NOTHING for Nigerians despite being in government for sixteen-years in the assertive claim: “If you look around, you will agree with me there is NOTHING.“This implies that the ruling party members have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities to Nigerians, a substantial ground for the electorate to reject the ruling PDP candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, at the poll. Thus, Mrs. Nduak employs intertextuality of documented evidence to emphasise the unpatriotic attitude of the ruling PDP government.

b.    “My colleague [Prof. Utomi] alluded to the fact that in the past, the regions   were competitive. We believe that the Nigerian political elites have ‘miseducated’ themselves about federalism. Our country is called Federal Republic of Nigeria. Unfortunately, we are neither Federal nor Republic …er and nobody is bothered about that aberration.”

  • Dr John Dara – NTP candidate, 2011 presidential debate

Dr Dara, an opposition candidate of the National Transformation Party, employs ‘manifest intertextuality’ of indirect quotation by quoting Professor Patrick Utomi in order to substantiate his criticism of the ruling PDP for operating a unitary federal system of government, a system that deprives the federating Units from being self-reliance in terms of security, electricity generation, mine operations, and crude-oil explorations. He makes an explicit reference to his colleague’s earlier statement: “My colleague [Prof. Utomi] alluded to the fact that in the past, the regions were competitive” to suggest that in the 1960s and 1970s, all the regions were granted a greater degree of autonomy, an autonomy granted to States to control their economic and mineral resources, and pay royalties to the Federal Government. The PDP had been in power from 1999 to 2015, but operated a highly centralised system of government in which the Federal Government in Abuja controls national and states’ assets, and pay monthly allocations to the regions. Thus, Dr Dara uses intertextuality of past shared experience to advocate a renewed demand for regional autonomy in Nigeria.

  • Scare Tactics: This involves making predictions about looming crises if a group of people fail to take certain steps in order to raise public apprehension. Similarly, opposition candidates in the TV presidential debates employed intertextual insertions to make predictions about impending socio-economic doom and political crises if the ruling PDP should remain in office. This discourse tactic was achieved through “manifest intertextuality” of indirect quotations as highlighted and analysed below:

c. “I- I heard you say …er [that] the economy is growing, but I doubt that because the citizens are engaging in more crimes. So, that is not a reflection of a growing economy.  So, we must be true to ourselves that we will need a true economy, that is growing, and we need true citizenry that is responsible, and that government must come- That’s what we need. What we have now will continue to repeat itself because it’s not taking us anywhere.”

– Chief Ambrose Owuru – H.D.P. candidate, 2015 presidential debate

Chief Owuru, an opposition candidate of the Hope Democratic Party, refutes an earlier submission by President Goodluck Jonathan, an incumbent-candidate, that: “I- I heard you say …er [that] the economy is growing, but I doubt that because the citizens are engaging in more crimes.” He quotes indirectly Mr. President, who is also an aspirant seeking a re-election, as a basis to make his own proposition, suggesting that Mr President’s claim of Nigeria’s economic progress is fiction, not a fact. In other words, he is implicitly suggesting that Mr. President is deceiving Nigerians to believe that Nigeria’s economy is growing. Thus, Chief Owuru constructs a discourse of threats by reminding Nigerians of the dangers of re-electing the PDP. 

d.    “If an offence is committed and somebody is not punished, it will give an encouragement to other person, watching to do similar things. And also in this country, it is necessary for us to make corruption a capital punishment. Before this period, China was one of the most corrupt nations. But, now, when corruption was made a capital punishment, it has reduced to the barest minimum.

– Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima – A.C.P.N. candidate, 2015 presidential debate

The fight against corrupt practices in Nigeria have had little effect in recent years owing to lack of political will by public office holders to prosecute culprits. Thus, Alhaji Galadima, an opposition candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, suggests that the lack of political will to prosecute corrupt officials “will give an encouragement to other person, watching to do similar things.” Since capital punishment for corruption supports execution of culprits, Alhaji Galadima uses the “manifest intertextual” insertions of historical reference to China’s experience in the statement: “Before this period, China was one of the most corrupt nations. But now, when corruption was made a capital punishment, it has reduced to the barest minimum” so as to use a death penalty to strike fear in the minds of corrupt Nigerians. He is thus using intertextual reference to threaten anyone who thinks of engaging in corrupt practices.

  • National Glorification: This is a discursive strategy in which “positive references [are made] to or praise for own country, its principles, history and traditions.” (van Dijk, 2006:738). The glorification of one’s country’s resources and democratic values is a typical example of positive self-description during a political campaign debate discourse. Manifest intertextual examples of such discourse constructs are highlighted and analysed below:
  • I want to tell you, just like the professor said, every sector of Nigeria is well-endowed with something they can take pride in. Let me tell you, Jos is producing erm… potatoes, and the potatoes just grow out just like that. There are other means of what you can do with potato. Potato flour can be used like erm… pounded yam with erm… cassava flour. …er Benue has plenty of fruits. I gathered (that) if people even eat oranges, they have to throw the peels right far away so that it doesn’t grow.”
  • Mrs. Ebiti Nduak – the U.N.P.D., 2011 presidential debate

Mrs. Ebiti makes a manifest intertextual reference to Professor Utomi’s comment in the statement: “I want to tell you, just like the professor said, [that] every sector of Nigeria is well-endowed with something they can take pride in.” to substantiate her own political viewpoint that “every sector in Nigeria“has investment potential. She quotes indirectly what “the Professor said” to align with her viewpoint. Her particular interest is in the agriculture industry when she affirms that: “Benue has plenty of fruits. I gathered (that) if people even eat oranges, they have to throw the peels right far away so that it doesn’t grow” in order to convince Nigerians about its soil fertility and abundant cropland. She uses the other person’s voice (i.e. reference to fellow candidate’s comment) to draw support for her party during the 2011 presidential campaign debate discourse.

  • There is absolutely no justification for us to be where we are. Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the lead founder of our Party, had published that the richer Nigeria gets, the worse for its people. If you plot the graphics of poverty in Nigeria and national revenue, you are going to see clearly that the higher the national revenue, the higher the level of poverty. That is very clear. Even the National Bureau of Statistics, which is a government agency if you use their data, you will find out that Chief Gani Fawehinmi has been right all the while.
  • Chief Martins Onovo – N.C.P candidate, 2015 presidential debate

Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi was a legal luminary in Nigeria, with a passion for human rights activism during the military and civilian regimes in Nigeria. He was a co-founder of a political party known as National Conscience Party in 1994. Thus, Chief Onovo, an opposition candidate of National Conscience Party, makes an intertextual reference to a publication by late Chief Fawehinmi in the statement: “Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the lead founder of our Party, had published that the richer Nigeria gets, the worse for its people” in an attempt to show unanimity in the party’s ideological leanings – ‘Our party protects the interest of the large population of poor Nigerians’. Besides, he also quotes indirectly an official document in the statement: “Even the National Bureau of Statistics…“to further substantiate his earlier proposition. Using a manifest intertextuality of indirect quotation is to reveal how the ruling PDP government failed to transform the lives of poor Nigerians.

  • Positive self-Portrayal: This is a discourse strategy in which a speaker represents self and party members positively in a public discourse in order to secure a degree of public endorsement on his/her proposed claim. In our analysis, we discovered a number of manifest intertextual references that chiefly signal positive self-portrayal in the debate discourse of the presidential candidates. A few examples are analysed below:
  • In UPP government, we shall throw stones. They said [that] those who live in glass house don’t throw stones. No! We are living in very solid moral house, and so, stones will be thrown; questions will be asked. And …er if we do not block the holes from where our common patrimony has been leaking, we would never have enough for development; we would never have enough for welfare of the people.”
  • Chief Chekwas Okorie – U.P.P, 2015 presidential debate

Chief Okorie, an opposition candidate of the United People’s Party, makes an intertextual reference to a socio-cultural belief (i.e. proverb) in the statement: “They said [that] those who live in a glass house don’t throw stones. No! We are living in a very solid moral house, and so, stones will be thrown” to project a positive image of his party members. He uses the popular proverb to project his party image, as a party without corrupt people, in his claim: “We are living in a very solid moral house, and so, stones will be thrown“. Such statement is made against the backdrop of the skewed and unaccountable government of the ruling PDP administration. He also seems to justify the underlying reason for which his fights against corruption will be based on: “If we do not block the holes from where our common patrimony has been leaking, we would never have enough for development” in an attempt to represent publicly his party’s ideological orientation of empathy towards and social benefits for the people.

  • If you recall during the Abuja Accord, I came out, and I said that if I become the President of Nigeria, within one month, I will clear Boko Haram. The diplomats there, they were laughing at …er, you know, almost falling over each other. Today, just within two months that I said it, and you see what’s happening, that Nigeria is even tackling this Boko Haram within six weeks that election was shifted, because I knew.
  • Senator Tunde Kelani – A.A., 2015 presidential debate

The Abuja Peace Accord is a treaty agreed to and signed by all political parties and their presidential candidates in the build-up to the 2011 and 2015 General Elections in Nigeria. In the treaty, all political parties and candidates commit themselves to a peaceful electoral process. Thus, Senator Kelani, an opposition candidate of the Action Alliance, makes a manifest intertextuality of self-quotation in the statement: “If you recall during the Abuja Accord, I came out, and I said that if I become the President of Nigeria, within one month, I will clear Boko Haram” to enact positive self-belief, particularly in his own ability to decimate the prolonged Boko Haram insurgence, ravaging north-east Nigeria. The employment of timeframe such as: “Within one month, I will clear Boko Haram” is intended to present himself to the electorate as an intending president with a clear vision on fighting insurgency in Nigeria, within a limited timeframe. Thus, Senator Kelani employed the manifest intertextuality of self-quotation for positive self-construal.

Intertextual Analysis of President Jonathan’s Debate Discourse in 2011 and 2015

In the textual analysis of Mr. President’s debate speeches during the 2011 and 2015 presidential campaign debates, the intertextual resources are expressed through textual features such as Self-quotations and indirect quotations for different purposes. A few examples of the speech data and analysis are thus presented below:

  1. Legitimisation of Self: This involves the use of intertextual inclusions by a speaker to overtly express positive self-belief to the audience during a public discourse, especially in a pre-election campaign debate discourse. Let us consider the examples below:

About two days ago, (…) I was telling my friend that: ‘Look, one of the greatest things in leadership is the cost of leadership. It is expensive business because, as a leader, you pay dearly as you make a lot of sacrifice’. And I agree with you that, for you to be a leader, you must be ready to pay for it.”

  • President Goodluck Jonathan – PDP candidate, 2011 presidential debate

President Jonathan reveals in his personal disposition towards leadership roles, particularly in connection with the imposition of party candidates during primary elections. He therefore deploys the “manifest intertextual representation” of Self-quotation in the assertion: “I was telling my friend that: ‘Look, one of the greatest things in leadership is the cost of leadership.“to re-affirm his personal reservations towards “imposition [of candidates]“by political godfathers.Such discursive re-affirmation is intended for legitimation of self-glorification. Note however, that President Jonathan’s claim: “And I agree with you that, for you to be a leader, you must be ready to pay for it” is at odd with his own insistence to contest again in the 2015 presidential elections, despite the disapproval by some party members. His insistence resulted in an internal political crisis for the PDP because his eventual emergence as the party’s consensus candidate in the 2015 elections was seen by his party members as imposition of Self on the Party.

2. Self-Defence: This involves the deliberate deployment of manifest intertextual insertions that serve as a face-saving mechanism during a public discourse. This is often employed as a discursive weapon of self-defence by speakers. The intertextual example is presented below:

Just like my colleague mentioned that there are some States [schools] where you don’t even have buildings, or you don’t have furniture and we feel that …er using the funds of the Universal Basic Education which is actually owned by the States, the Local Governments and the Federal Government. (…)

  • President Goodluck Jonathan – PDP candidate, 2015 presidential debate.

President Jonathan makes an indirect quotation to a statement by one of the opposition candidates, Chief Martins Onovo of the National Conscience Party, who claims in his debate speech that “In some cases, it’s as simple as the roof is not there, and the students are moved to under a tree, which is not convenient for learning. In other cases, it is that we don’t have enough teachers.” The reference to the absence of basic teaching facilities in primary schools in the North by an opposition candidate is intended to derogate the ruling Party, as a Party that abdicates its constitutional responsibility to national basic education. In response to such claim, Mr. President however gives detailed explanations on the interventions provided by the Federal Government, headed by himself, to the various States/regions in order to revamp the educational system in Nigeria. Thus, President Jonathan uses manifest intertextuality of indirect quotation as a form self-defence in order to persuade and woo the Nigerian electorate.

3. Positive Self Comparison with Others: It involves using manifest intertextual insertions that compare, explicitly, two different personalities or systems, with the sole aim of emphasising the positive side of one person/system as against the other person/system with negative attributes. Let us consider an instance of positive self-comparison in the debate discourse of Mr. President:  

And I will give example, in 2012, we had a devastating flood and the whole world expected us to cry out for …er grains to be brought into this country, and that food prices were going to rise. Food prices were reasonably stable even with the drop in oil prices. My colleague mentioned about Venezuela. There were almost riots over staple foods [shortages] in …er that country because they also depend on oil. But because of the quantity and quality of foods we are producing locally, it does not affect the food prices. That shows that [our] government policies in agriculture are succeeding.”

  • President Goodluck Jonathan – PDP, 2015 presidential debate                 

President Goodluck Jonathan employs a manifest intertextual reference to a national tragedy that ravaged the country in 2012 to show the travails that confronted his administration. Since Nigeria’s economy largely depends on earnings from the export of crude oil, he however re-affirms the success of his administration despite the tragedy in order to show the competence and resilient spirit in his government. He also makes an intertextual insertion through indirect quotation to what another candidate said. Chief Onovo, an opposition candidate of NCP, said: “In Venezuela, [petrol]’s twelve cents per gallon. That comes to less than 7 naira per litre in Venezuela, and Venezuela is our fellow OPEC member!” in order to reveal the maladministration of the PDP government. Mr. President, however, compares the 2012 national tragedy in Nigeria with the experience in Venezuela in order to draw a line of distinction in the way his government managed the 2012 food crisis in Nigeria successfully, unlike the Venezuelan food crisis experience, that resulted in nationwide protests. Mr. President thus derives a sense of personal fulfilment from the self-praise statement that follows: “

That shows that government policies in agriculture are succeeding.” It could be gleaned from the above that President Jonathan of the ruling PDP uses intertextuality of indirect quotation to debunk the antagonistic claims by other contestants in order to encourage the electorate to re-elect him.


Suffice to mention that opposition parties’ candidates in a presidential race often construct manifest intertextuality to claim that the ruling party’s government is marked by irresponsibility, in order to make the incumbent-candidate appear as self-serving and incompetent. By so doing, the opposition candidates seem to show to the electorate that We are more competent to be in office. Thus, the employment of intertextuality by opposition politicians during TV campaign debate is a rhetorical weapon of antagonism. The incumbent-candidate, on the other hand, provides intertextual properties to respond to and debunk the ‘allegations’ from his political rivals in order to sustain public confidence in the ruling party. Essentially, the incumbent-candidate of the ruling PDP deployed manifest intertextuality as a discursive tool of circumlocution (i.e. face-saving mechanism).


This paper uses Fairclough’s concept of manifest intertextuality to carry out a Critical Discourse Analysis of TV inter-party presidential debate discourse in Nigeria (2011 and 2015) in order to establish the discursive deployment of intertextual relations in the candidates’ spontaneous speeches. It is therefore argued that in a democratic setting, intertextual integrations are highly favoured by presidential candidates who participated in televised inter-party presidential debate discourse. This multitude of external texts and mixed voices in a highly ideologically-competing political environment serves the purpose of ad hominem.


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