Quite simply, before the convergence of 14 countries in a conference held in Berlin between 1884 and 1885 of which France, Britain, Portugal, and Germany were the key players. Nigeria was known to have been a custodian of her customs and traditions. The nitty-gritty behind the Berlin conference was to thrash out the way forward in the partitioning and scrambling of Africa under the auspice of German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck. On the long run, Nigeria became a colony of Britain alongside other West African countries.
It would be regarded as a preconceived notion, illogical and sentimental to say that colonialism had totally affected us negatively without putting into cognisance some of its significance. Though, the application of its deadly weapon of English language to its administration then, is really affecting indigenous languages currently. A renowned research analyst on indigenous communication said, it is hard to say that Africans would have been culturally better or worse if there was no colonisation. Rather, Africans would have been culturally different.
Worse still, there have been incredible paradigm shifts in Nigeria’s cultural norms and values. As the Britons continued to pioneer the affairs of Nigeria before she became a republic, Nigerians gradually became captivated to Western lifestyle. Getting acclimatised with Westernisation is not discouraging and has never been discouraging, but allowing Western culture to subdue in totality our indigenous languages such as Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa let alone of other languages will be abysmal, appalling, and catastrophic to posterity.
Over the years, however, indigenous languages have been hijacked by English language. It is becoming a formidable tool used in accessing information and knowledge among various institution of learning thereby ostracising the indigenous languages. Other cultural practices in Nigeria may have gone to extinction, but allowing indigenous languages to do same will spell doom in years to come. With the introduction of information technology and ongoing globalisation eating into the fabrics of the nation there are possible tendency that indigenous languages might go into extinction.
It will be naïve to ask of the significance in embracing indigenous languages, because it’s a necessity and can never be overemphasised. It remains the propelling latitude in invigorating the nation’s cultural practice. Nigeria’s indigenous languages are cultural identity that needs to be embraced in totality; it is a major component of culture that defines a particular geographical entity. It is easily grasped when it is used as the medium of communication during infancy of which the child finds it difficult to forget ages to come.
Interestingly, controversies may have been generated in recent years in a bid to ascertain the clog behind the wheels. Laying criticisms on the Britons, the parents or even the educational sector on the dying state of indigenous languages will never help to resuscitate the communication medium. However, the parents and educational sector, including scholars have vital roles to play.
The parents have enormous and indispensable roles to play in the task of ensuring the continuity of indigenous languages. Sadly, most of the parents have decided to take the negative feats of communicating with their children using the English medium, thereby jettisoning their native languages. Those who could actually communicate in their local language are in most cases discouraged and undermined by their own parents, family members, including relatives. An overwhelming number of Nigerian youths today have deviated from speaking their native languages while some of them have no pleasure at all in speaking as a result of parental upbringing from infancy.
Better still; the educational sector is not left out in the task of resuscitating indigenous languages. The sooner the Ministry of Education propounds indigenous languages as a requisite for prospective university students the better for Nigeria. Including indigenous languages amongst the five credit passes required from candidates will drastically reduce the nonchalant attitude portrayed by Nigerians towards indigenous languages. Most private schools in recent years have adopted the America and British curricular at the expense of ours. All their academic work and exercises are curled out from the Britain’s and America’s. The sector has a role to play here; the individual owned schools should be compliant to the WAEC and NECO syllabus, not the other way round. Organising workshop for students in the area of career choice could also be helpful to curb the ongoing negative development. Students who might be keen to obtaining a degree in indigenous languages should be encouraged. There are media houses that are placing advert seeking for students who has degree in indigenous languages.
More importantly, authors, playwrights, movie industries amongst other in conjunction with the Ministry of Education recommend books and literary piece written in indigenous languages. Films and movies should also be done in indigenous languages because of Nigerians are now addicted to watching movies, that will also have positive impacts.
Justice Okamgba is a social commentator, writes from Lagos
Send reactions to: