BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN, Kaduna
The federal government warned yesterday that indigenous languages in the country are endangered and that if care was not taken they might go into extinction in no distant future.
It assured, however, that strategies aimed at addressing the challenges militating against indigenous languages are being fashioned out.
One of the strategies, it said, was to encourage parents to appreciate the need for their children to take pride in understanding their languages.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this at the Annual Round Table on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO) held in Kaduna also emphasised the need to support newspapers that encourage indigenous languages to ensure sustenance.
He stressed that parents have major role to play towards ensuring that indigenous languages do not go into extinction.
In his keynote address, chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group Limited, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, regretted that vernacular newspapers do not do well because of limited circulation and lack of advertisements to sustain them.
He noted that this is why there are no daily vernacular newspapers in the country.
Speaking on the theme of the round table titled, ‘Indigenous Language Newspapers and National Development, Nda-Isaiah observed that the country’s policy makers have consistently failed to understand the influence and power of indigenous language media.
The Kakaki Nupe said, “If they (policy makers) did, they would understand that indigenous language newspapers are a force for good, and can be a force for mischief and manipulation. Foreign policy makers surely understand this better than we do. That is why, for instance, we have the BBC Hausa Service, VOA Hausa Service and similar radio services by the French, Germans and Chinese and, of course, Arewa24 TV recently launched by the Americans for counter-terrorism.
“But the sway of these publications should not be underestimated. They are the most consequential publications among the masses of our people and that makes them very key to any strategy at national development as well as a dangerous tool in the hands of trouble makers. The Hausa online community, for instance, is among the most vibrant in the world”.
He further emphasised the importance of ‘pidgin’ English, which he said is indigenous to Nigeria and children speak it from childhood.
He continued: “It (pidgin English) has approximately 30 million native speakers in Nigeria and approximately 100 million speakers in West Africa. Members of each of the nearly 400 ethnic groups in Nigeria can converse in Pidgin English, even though each group has its own slight addition and modification.
“We must take advantage of this God-given language, codify it and deploy it immediately as a medium for the unification of our people. Language is the strongest unifying force among desperate people”.
Earlier, the executive secretary, National Institute For Cultural Orientation (NICO), Prof Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, said if Nigeria’s individual languages are patronised by the younger generation, it will not only enhance their understanding of such languages and culture, but will also receive a boost because the publications are rich in cultural contents.
This formed part of his speech while delivering the welcome address at the two-day Annual Round Table on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO) held at the Arewa House, Kaduna.
NICO is the organizer of the ARTCO programme in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
Ayakoroma said, “It is common knowledge that many of our indigenous languages are endangered. Many local languages are already going into extinction due mainly to our preference to use English language as the medium of communication. This has also affected our culture negatively as language is a major vehicle for the transmission of culture”.
On the theme of this year’s ARTCO, ‘Indigenous Language Newspapers and National Development’, he said that the focus on indigenous languages’ newspapers will go a long way to draw national attention to their invaluable contributions to promotion and sustenance of indigenous languages and culture across the country.
“The round table provides a veritable platform to work out strategies to enhance the potential indigenous language newspapers in order for them to serve as catalysts for cultural renaissance and grassroots mobilization”, he added.
He explained that ARTCO is a platform designed by the institute to bring together various interest groups, stakeholders and scholars to exchange ideas on specific topical issues in the culture sector.
“This is in order to generate recommendations that would impact on government policies and programmes as well as general actions by the citenzenry”, he emphasised.
Ayaroma explained that themes for previous editions were carefully chosen.
He said, “This explains why we have had themes for previous editions, such as ‘The Cuture of Morality’; ‘The Culture of Honesty and Hard Work’; ‘The Culture of Tolerance and Nation Building’; ‘Culture, Patriotism and National Development’; ‘Reading Culture in Nigeria’ and ‘Promoting Nigerian Dress Culture’”.