Copernicus Goes sub-Saharan: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody.”

Copernicus Goes sub-Saharan

Copernicus Goes sub-Saharan: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody.”

It is the nation with the biggest population in Africa – it is home to more people than the second and third biggest countries, Ethiopia and Egypt, combined…

It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world – according to Bloomberg, it is ranks sixth, just behind India and Indonesia…

It is one of the most multilingual places in the world – the official language is English, but there are more than 500 languages and dialects spoken within the country…

The mission of this “Copernicus” column is to share great examples of non-native speakers and give students more exposure to what English sounds like in different parts of the world. (Why is the column called Copernicus?  Find out here

This month we’re going to: Nigeria.

A few weeks ago, a remarkable ‘never give up’ story came to an end when Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria’s new president. Mr Buhari, who ruled Nigeria in the 1980s following a military coup, took part in presidential elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 – and lost them all. In 2014 he survived an assassination attempt, thought to have been carried out by the jihadist group Boko Haram.

In 2015 he once again took part in the presidential election, running under the slogan “new broom” (which explains the brooms in the picture at the top of this page). This time he was successful, beating the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan by 54 to 45 per cent. It was the first peaceful and democratic handover of power in the history of the country.

Mr Buhari (whose mother tongue is Hausa, a language spoken by about 40 million people in west and central Africa) made his inaugural speech moments after being sworn in at a ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. His speech contained some wonderful lines, including this one: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”


Part 1

Part 2


Click here for transcript



(1) Copy & paste from the transcript and create a ‘Nigerian English’ listening/gap-fill exercise

Here, for example, is a verb gap-fill exercise that runs from 3:53 to 5:45 in the part 1 video:

Having just a few minutes ago ______ on the Holy Book, I ______ to keep my oath and ______ as President to all Nigerians.

I ______ to everybody and I ______ to nobody.

A few people have privately ______ fears that on coming back to office I shall ______ after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no ______ off old scores. The past is prologue.

Our neighbours in the sub-Saharan region and our African brethren should ______ assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to ______ any leadership role that Africa ______ of it. Here I would like to ______ the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for ______ their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria.

I also wish to ______ the wider international community of our readiness to ______ and ______ to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century.


(2) #BuhariFixThis

Nigerians used the hashtag #BuhariFixThis to tweet the things they want Mr Buhari to do first (click here ). For example:

#BuhariFixThis fix electricity first and almost everything else will fall in its proper place.

Ask your students to write down one thing they would like you, the teacher, to do (they have to keep to the 140 character limit). This has the potential to be a powerful feedback exercise!


(3) A bit of Shakespeare

Mr Buhari concluded his speech with a Shakespeare quotation (at 8:43 in the part 2 video).

Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and I quote…

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

… unquote. We have an opportunity. Let us take it. Thank you.

So, what does that Shakespeare quote mean? (A short answer: if you get the chance to do something, just do it. A long answer: click here)


Image By Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Flickr: Wahlkampf in Nigeria 2015) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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