VESSEL TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: INDIGENOUS OR FOREIGN LANGUAGE?

Language is not the invention of yesterday; it is one of the most precious heirlooms bestowed by the divinity at the moment of creation. IN PRINCIPIO ERAT VERBUM (in the beginning was the word) – Herbert Spencer, Philosophy of Style [1852]

At first glance, it would appear that when we speak of Nigeria’s ascension to greatness, language is nothing but a rickety ladder if not a fiery meteorite which is constantly drawing us back. However, is this truly the case? Can our dialectical diversity or linguistic import ever be a viable tool in our quest for national development? If yes, which is the way? Many have, with good cause, criticised Nigeria’s adoption of an exoglossic language. They say it has caused a massive erosion and corrosion of our culture. They even say it is one of the instruments of neo-colonialism. But then have we ever paused to consider that this may in fact be a blessing in disguise?

Statistics tell us that of the 7106 known languages of the world, as many as 527 are present in this tiny country called Nigeria. This much heterogeneity in the fundamental medium of communication may no doubt be likened to the Sword of Damocles as far as the unity and progress of the country is concerned. Put differently, there is no way a community can develop if the commonalty cannot communicate in unity. A unifying language is indispensable especially in a country like Nigeria where there exists deep-seated inter-ethnic antipathy.

In school, for instance, I cannot imagine what the experience would be like if I could not converse with my friends easily regardless of their tribe. A friend of mine even once remarked that there is nothing stopping him from marrying a lady from the North if not that he fears she may not be able to converse freely with his family. Thanks to our English lingua franca, his fear is trimmed down to a considerable extent.

Above is however just one end to the rope. In spite of it, I still believe we must be wary. We must be wary of the prevailing and potential dangers inherent in exalting the Whiteman’s language when it is not that we have none of our own or that ours are in anyway inferior. We must be careful lest we end up as strangers in our own land and illiterates of our own tongue.

For me, Nigeria can develop at the same pace and even faster without the sanctification of the English language. And one of the reasons this is so is that the English language has constantly constituted a glass ceiling to the youth’s educational advancement. You cannot further your studies to the university level unless you pass English language, a feat many do not find easy. The West African Examinations Council said in August, for instance, that only a meagre 39% of candidates who sat their examination obtained credits in five subjects including English and Mathematics while in 2012, 57% of the students actually failed English language. If this course is made voluntary and is substituted with familiar indigenous languages, it will prevent the dashing of hopes and quashing of dreams merely because of lack of English proficiency.

An understanding and promotion of our indigenous languages can also help to strengthen the amity between us as a people. It will lessen feelings of hatred and distrust. Nelson Mandela clearly understood this when he remarked that if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Thus, if students are encouraged to learn the three major languages in Nigeria during their basic education phase, then we will not have to grapple with situations wherein a Hausa man would think a Yòrùbá man is calling him a thief (bàràwó) when he is actually saying báwo (how are you?). We have even heard of one who murdered his friend because he called him aboki, a word meaning ‘friend’ in Hausa but which Yòrùbás take to mean ‘a dullard’.

Furthermore, indigenous languages can also assist in the preservation of our culture. Marcus Garvey said; a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots; but I feel obliged to add that without roots, it is unthinkable for a tree to germinate or develop. Sadly, we presently live in a generation where mothers tongue-lash their children for speaking in their mother tongue, where pupils are fined for speaking in fine vernacular and where the youth rely on Android applications to get native proverbs. Also, we live at a time when of our 527 languages, 7 are extinct, 27 are in trouble and 43 are dying. All this must change for there can be no national development or even tourist investment if there is no unique national embodiment.

I would say that rather than wait to see how the language of our former slave masters will miraculously help us to become more developed than them, why not preserve and propagate our made-in-Nigeria dialects so that they may equally become foreign languages to other lands? Our fathers often say that no matter how long a log stays in water, it can never become a crocodile. Would it not then be wise for the log to ditch impractical fantasies while it works towards betterment?

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THE SIGNIFICANT ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE NIGERIAN PREDICAMENT.

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WHAT I CONSIDER AS THE SIGNIFICANT ROLE OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE NIGERIAN PREDICAMENT.

First and foremost, philosophy is a discipline without a universally and univocally acceptable definition. However, we can, ad hoc, say that it is a (critical) criticism of the ideas we live by {H.S Staniland}. Another word, needing clarification, ‘Nigeria’, is a geo-political entity known by many names, viz. ‘the sleeping giant’, ‘the mistake of 1914’, and ‘the marriage of misfortune’ etc. All these cognomen point to the widely held and spot-on belief that Nigeria is a failed or better still a failing nation.

No doubt, Nigeria is, today, passing through a very challenging phase in its life-span. And various individuals have suggested ways by which we sail through this storm. The question now is, is the knowledge of philosophy, the possession of the ‘philosophic spirit’ and the daily application of philosophical principles, in any way germane to Nigeria’s development as a nation? I reply with a capital affirmation.

Nigerians, today, nurture numerous dangerous and detrimental world-views. Examples of such world-views include, ‘governance is nothing but an opportunity to live large and embezzle’, ‘our votes do not count’, ‘one day, E go better’, ‘leadership is the birth right of Hausas’, ‘Nigeria can never prosper if she does not disunite’ among many others. Knowingly or unknowingly, these ideas have a impeding effect on our voyage of national development. The work of philosophy is to rectify them. It will rectify the Yoruba extravagance, the Ibo materialism and the Hausa megalomania.

Philosophy helps us, not only to be able to think rationally and coherently, but to be able to act in conformity with our thought. This trait is something that the Nigerian populace and government apparently lack, as we have find ourselves engaging day in day out in improvident, impolitic and immoral acts. We do not aim before we shoot, we do not look before we leap, and we do not consider the consequences of our decisions before we make them. Nigerians no longer think. We just accept whatever we are offered without considering if it is deleterious or derisory. We obey the state without considering whether it is appropriate or the state even deserves it. We pay outrageous taxes without asking if we benefit from them or not. We allow ourselves to be easily deceived by ‘men of God’ who are only interested in our earnings. People engage in corruption, misappropriation and cultism because of this paucity in critical thinking. We are a set of people, if not the only one, who ‘suffer and yet smile’. All these are leading to our downfall, but we are oblivious to this fact.

This is where philosophy comes in. Philosophy inculcates us with the spirit of non-dogmatism, objectivity and amity. Imagine a judicial system free from bias and deliberate injustice, an executive that makes logical and pro-people policies within the quickest time possible, a legislature that actually represents the interest of the masses and people who do not have to be policed before they obey state rules and regulations. All these are possible if only we give philosophy the chance.

Imagine a Nigeria ruled by philosophers most especially ethicists such as Epictetus and Plato, and where the citizenry reflect the Socratic dispositions concerning reflective thoughts and loyalty to the state. If this is the case, then it is not possible for the government to make policies that are either harsh or seem to have been made by kindergarten pupils. It is not possible for the government to expend one billion naira on the presidential nourishment annually. It is not possible for the government to even contemplate the removal of fuel subsidy and many other austere policies Nigerians have experienced and are still experiencing.

 

In summation, I am of the view that philosophy is expedient to Nigeria in her endeavour to achieve National unity, peace and progress, and it has a great role to play in the present predicament we, the people of Nigeria, find ourselves.