Deleting the Other ’l’ in the Word ‘Mallam’ and Other Such Matters


Muhammad A. Yadudu



Have you ever wondered why the word ‘maalam’ is almost always spelt as ‘mallam’, that is with double ‘L’, in Nigerian newspapers? Or why ‘Babbar  Riga’ is spelt as ‘Babban riga’ or why the Hausa  name  ‘Badamasi’ is spelt as ‘Badamosi’ or why ‘Fura da nono’ is ‘Fura de nono’ or why ‘Bakin Zuwo’ is ‘Barkin Zuwo’?  If your answer is yes to any of the questions asked, then grieve not for you are not alone in your bewilderment. I have spoken to many on this subject and the verdict is unanimous- it is very annoying indeed.


To conspiracy buffs in the north, this proves to them the all too menacing and destructive attempt by the Ngbati press to dominate the north (or is it humiliate and undermine the north?)  But viewing the issue more closely, we will see that even media houses in the north, Daily Trust and New Nigerian to be exact, are not immune from committing these crimes, especially as it pertains to the spelling of the word ‘maalam’. So it is not uncommon to see a news report in the NNN or Trust saying, “Meanwhile, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau commissioned…..” or, “It could be recalled that in 1979, Mallam Aminu Kano’s …..”


Whenever I see a news item containing such mistakes I ask myself, “do these press houses simply don’t bother to ascertain exactly how these words and phrases are spelt, or do they take the lazy route and accept the current way of spelling these words and phrases as the correct way?”  


While I cannot claim being a member of the journalism profession, I think I have read enough to know that newspapers proof read every item in their papers before they are sent out to us, the gullible, undemanding and unscrupulous public. I mean, if the papers do their work as should be done, why then does the problem still exist with us today?


I finally came to the realization that Nigerian papers are terrible at proof reading and fact checking their stories. If someone is looking for a costly example, he need not look further than the infamous Miss World article penned by Miss Daniels of the Thisday newspapers.


But it would be wrong, in fact, to constrain this just to the media because there are many more examples of this kind of mistake in our society today. Whilst the example above had the potential of causing carnage and conflict, some have the potential of embarrassing a whole state.


What I am talking about is the UK Secretary of International Development incident. The secretary was visiting Enugu last year when the ‘fatal’ incident occurred. Written on the banner welcoming the guest to the coal city is the clause, “felicitations and best wishes to Hillary Ben on her official visit to Enugu State”.  To a person who has no clue who Mr. Hillary Benn is, this statement is in order. But as the BBC reporter covering the event told us, (see: ), the secretary, whose name should have been spelt with one ‘l’ and  two ‘n’s, could not contain his laughter knowing fully that he is neither female nor is that the correct way of spelling his name.


As the Enugu example above shows, the society at large is also guilty. Of course I am not saying this is the worst thing that could happen, but the simplicity of making this mistake makes it irritatingly unbelievable.


By the time you finish reading this piece, you must have found many errors that rival the ones I am trying to highlight. Ordinarily, I would be perturbed by this but since I am not paid for writing, then I have nothing to worry about other than my integrity.


My hope is that after reading this, you will insist on getting your full money’s worth when next you buy a paper. Any paper found to be making the same type of mistake repeatedly should be ostracized as that is against the honor of the sacred profession of journalism.


Feel free to tell me what you think.


Muhammad A. Yadudu

Atlanta, GA