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Win, Defeat, in Public, the Public

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Win, Defeat, in Public, the Public

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Sample 1: President Muhammadu Buhari was on 29th of May, 2015 elected as the new president of Nigeria, after he won former president Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election.” (Video: I never voted for Jonathan and Buhari…Opera News, 30 Nov., 2022)

I draw readers’ attention to the verb won which occurs in the following context: “he won former president Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election.”Wonformer president Goodluck Jonathan? Can you win a person? Very unlikely, unless the person is a prize. The appropriate word for that context is defeated. In the sense in which the writer has used the word in the context, you cannot win a person. But you can defeat him. The error associated with this wrong choice is a common feature of Nigerian English usage.

Our next task is to differentiate the two words (win and defeat) in practical usage. Please read the following sentences: 1) However hard the team may try it cannot win that match. 2) The team won the match through a last-minute goal. 3) The nation can win the war against drug abuse only by determination and sincerity. 3) The man won the battle against death by submitting to hisdoctor’s instructions and prescriptions. 4) Neither the Federal Government nor the Biafrans won the Nigerian Civil War. 5) No one can win the battle of life without the help of God. 6) One of the aims of science is to win the war against sickness and disease. 7) Deforestation is a war against nature which can be won only at the expense of healthy human existence. 8) Can a Yoruba wife win the war against her mother-in-law? 9) Every society must win the war against illiteracy and ignorance. 10) Nigerian journalists have won many prestigious international awards. 11) Scholars compete with one another to win international grants. 12) Your rating as a scholar depends on how many grants you have won. 13) Nigeria must win the war against ecological degradation especially in the oil-producing areas. 14) He has been fighting a life-long battle with cancer which he thankfully won. 15) The major prizes are being won by young boys and girls. 16) Huge contracts are being won by business upstarts. 17) Wole Soyinka won the NobelPrizefor Literature in 1986. 18) His novel has won numerous international prizes. 19) The lawyer won three major political cases in a row. 20) Money alone is not enough to win a woman’s heart. 21) She won three gold medals in the last Olympic Games.

Now we offer some sentences on the usage of the verb defeat: 1) Having been defeated several times by his political opponents, he withdrew from the race. 2) Once you allow yourself to be defeated in the mind, you have already failed. 3) There is no team that cannot be defeated. 4) We defeated you because we had more experience. 5) The Nigerian Armed Forces have defeated and ousted the insurgents. 6) Truth may seem weak and to have an appearance of being easily defeated; it shall always triumph ultimately. 7) In a surprising twist, the female team defeated its male counterpart. 8) The colonisers took over our landafterdefeating our ragtag army. 9) The Allied Forces defeated Germany in the Second World War. 10) The world seems to have defeated the Covid-19 pandemic. 11) The man defeated his accuser in court. 12) Before their defeat, the team thought they were the most powerful in the world.13) Their defeat can be ascribed to carelessness. 14) The team suffered a humiliating defeat. 15) Every defeat prepares you for the next victory. 16) He did not have an appearance of someone who had experienced defeat.

In the last five of those sentences, the word defeat has been used as a noun.

Do not say or write: The Super Eagles won Bafana Bafana. Say or write: The Super Eales defeated Bafana Bafana; Do not say or write: The lawyer won his colleague in court. Say or write: The lawyer defeated his colleague in court. Or: The lawyer won the case. Do not say or write: The Allied Forces won Germany in the Second World War. Say or write: The Allied Forces defeated Germany in the Second World War. Do not say or write: You won me because I was careless. Say or write: You defeated me because I was careless. Do not say or write: I will easily win you in this game. Say or write: I will easily defeat you in this game.Do not say or write: Our school won their school in the quiz competition. Say or write: Our school defeated their school in the quiz competition. Do not say or write: Alhaji Ganiyu won Malam Haruna in the general election. Say or write: Alhaji Ganiyu defeated Malam Haruna in the general election.

Sample 2: “Tinubu returned to Nigeria in the evening of Thursday, October 6, 2022, barely two weeks since he was last seen in the public…He described the APC presidential candidate’s non-appearance in the public in recent times as a masterstroke to keep the opposition guessing.” (He played mind games with them, Opera News, 7 October, 2022)

I draw readers’ attention to the phrase in the public which occurs twice as follows: “last seen in the public” and “non-appearance in the public”. Let’s note especially the article the occurring immediately before the word publicin each instance. That article, let us note, is semantically significant. Things are said or done in public and not in the public. As for the public, it means the populace or members of the society generally.

The difference in usage between the public and in public is hereby illustrated: (1) The government has not been releasing the correct information to the public. (2) The address of the president was nothing short of an insult to the public. (3) We should be guided by the reactions of the public to the new policy. (4) Members of the public should be involved in the decision-making process. (5) How can the public sympathize with the government when it (the government) has not been sufficiently transparent in the management of the economy? (6) Members of the public deserve to know the truth, no matter how unpleasant it might be. (7) The government should avoid releasing any information that could offend the public. (8) The public had not fully recovered from the shock arising from the increase in the prices of petroleum products, when it was made to bear another burden of taxation. (9) Opinions of members of the public should count on matters affecting their welfare. (10) The public did not appreciate the efforts of the government to make life better for all citizens.

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Now we illustrate the usage of the expression in public: (1) The entertainer has not appeared in public since his humiliation three months ago. (2) There are things public officers should not say or do in public. (3) The politician was accused of insulting his wife in public. (4) The actor sees nothing wrong in appearing nude in public. (5) The Minister was caught kissing his mistress in public. (6) You shouldn’t appear in public in this kind of dress. (7) The Director has not appeared in public since the EFCC’s threat to arrest him. (8) Their religion, they claim, forbids shaking hands in public. (9) Fighting in public is not considered an offence by members of that group. (10) In some cultures, housewives are not permitted to dance in public.

To repeat, there is a difference between the expressions in public and the public. It is not good English to say in the public, precisely because of the intrusive article the. These two expressions (in public and the public) should not be confused with the adjective public: (1) This information is not for public consumption. (2) Public officers should behave decently in public. (3) All human beings hate public disgrace. (4) She has not made any public appearance since last year. (5) Public institutions should not be personalized by government officials.

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