Under the caption, “The Assault on Nigerian Languages”, ThisDay newspaper’s Editorial of Wednesday, March 16, 2011 p.19 bemoaned the lack of attention that’s generally being given to our local languages and stressed that they “are becoming extinct because not only are parents denying their children the opportunity to communicate in their mother tongue, they themselves shy away from speaking their local dialect.” Furthermore, it stated that, “The English language has sadly become the preferred language of communication.” If English language, the nation’s official lingua franca was described as “sadly” “the preferred language of communication” there’s no better way of saying that the language is only struggling to survive in a multi-ethnic composition called Nigeria.
I have always wondered why some parents discourage their children from speaking the local languages including Naija (aka Nigerian pidgin.) Apart from the fact that it’s not going to be the reason why their children may not be fluent in speaking English language, it will painfully lead to the loss of their “cultural identity” as highlighted in the said editorial. If my early encounter with Naija (aka Nigerian Pidgin) is anything to go by, I shouldn’t be as fluent as I am in speaking as well as writing the English language; mi fo no ivun fit de rait di smol smol inglish a de rait bikos awa papa no sabi inglish. Bot wi de tek fest fo inglish. Wi de kari fest fo school.
These days, parents are “running after money” laik se tumoro no de . Hardly do they have the time to sit down daily or weekly to jointly with their kids/wards to review their school works. The more parents abandon their responsibility of speaking their indigenous languages to their children, the more we shall be experiencing a steady growth in the number of speakers of Naija. Sometime ago, I wrote in one of my articles titled “The Naija Bug” that once upon a time, speakers of Naija were largely looked down upon with disdain and regarded as either incapable of speaking “good English” or only being compelled to speak it to enable a communication with those who are not versed in it. Accordingly therefore, whenever one speaks the English language in the Nigerian way, it is the conclusion of many that such a person should jos kip kwayet as if grama na awa langwej . It is against this backdrop that one stands to defend our “one and only” Dame Patience; the wife of President Goodluck Jonathan and First Lady of the Federal republic of Nigeria in respect of hau dem se she de trowe inglish fo campaign mata .
According to som tatafo wit aut waya plus reactions gathered from some social networking sites, dem se madam maut no de flo wel fo grama mata. To put it in proper perspective, she was accused amongst others of calling on voters to pres dia han fo PDP ombrela fo April elekshon.
I wouldn’t want to waste precious space chronicling ol di tins we dem se madam don tok . Rather, let me state without mincing words that the President’s wife may have only communicated the way she did to enable an effective communication with her Naija audience. Let it be said here that some of the best speakers/orators around, effectively combine the English language with parables from the local languages. The same goes for Comedians and multinational companies in Nigeria that had long keyed in to this. Today, dem de hama koret koret kudi from the use of Naija and English language .
Naija langwej A-Z is out to promote Naija (aka Nigerian Pidgin) alongside the numerous indigenous words that have found solid expression in the language. It is also to support and encourage every effort at ensuring that our children do not abandon our indigenous languages. Therefore, I make bold to say that no matter what we do as individuals or corporate bodies, a blend of English language and Naija is very healthy in our clime where numerous languages compete for space and recognition.
If Patience Jonathan se mek wi put awa han fo PDP, na koret langwej bi dat . She is already ahead of millions of Nigerians who are yet to see the handwriting on the wall that grama don de boro leg smol smol fo awa obodo kontri . Accordingly, her “supposed” grammatical “flaws” or “gaffes” are in tune with what I have long dubbed “the future writing and speaking style” of Nigerians; a blend of English language and Naija as being demonstrated in the column; “Naija Langwej A-Z”. Here is a woman who has been working so hard for the realization of her husband’s dream of becoming the President of Nigeria and the increase in the participation of women in politics. Why should anyone imagine that Dame Patience is above mistake fo langwej we no bi im oun. Abeg, mek una liv madam Pechens elon! She has better things to worry about. Na grama wi go chop?
Edwin Eriata Oribhabor
Mr Oribhabor is a Promoter of Naija and resides in Abuja