CALL FOR UNITY: NATIONISM VS NATIONALISM IN NIGERIA.

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A Cross Representation of the Major tribes/ethnics in Nigeria

Justifiably, the creation work of the british administration in this part of the sub Saharan Africa over a century ago has not only suffered instability but also disunity. Nigeria has (and is still witnessing) series of events, actions and reactions. And like a seasoned movie, the end is not in sight.

These continual troubles have further raised issues and opinions as to whether the Fredrick Luggard’s hosted marriage was even a right bid. So far, the country is been torn apart by internal crisis, war, and hates speeches thereby threatening the nationhood.

Sir Hugh Clifford, the British colonial administrator and Governor General of Nigeria ( 1920 – 1931 ) after Fredrick Luggard, described Nigeria as “a collection of independent Native States, separated from one another by great distances , by differences of history and traditions and by ethnological, racial, tribal, political, social and religious barriers.” –Culled from James Smoot Coleman’s book, Nigeria (p. 194).

It is in this plight that this article wills to dig out solutions from the present ditch using sociolinguistics terms and some historical antecedents as it relates to the theme. The title has already given insights to the approach. First, we would understand the concepts of ‘Nationism and ‘Nationalism’. Then we forge ahead with other relevant concepts.

Nationism:
Nationism is the practical effort and services geared towards running and maintaining a nation. This means that, unlike the belief of some, nations are artificial creations. Therefore,

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ENGLISH LANGUAGE; THE BEST BET FOR A PLURALISTIC NIGERIA

To start with, language (as it were), is the most important element of culture. Language can be said to be part of the history of a culture and also the tool in which the history will be recorded. It expresses the spirit of the people and also bears the mark of generations of their experience. It serves as a sort of coded history and at such gives a group of people a sense of identity. Having said all these, it’s deduce-able that language is capable of preserving a particular culture to which it associates with. Thus; placing a language (as an official lingua franca) over other languages in a multilingual setting can amount to empowering or preserving the culture and status of the community it is identified with and demoting the others.

However, in such a pluralistic environment like Nigeria, the need for integration and interaction so as to provide a common denominator for the existing number of groups or tribes has prompted the necessity for the choice of a lingua-franca. Lingua-franca, therefore, can be described as a type of language that is used among people who speak various different languages. It can also be called a working language or a unifying language as it must be capable of unifying people of different (speech) community with different language.

Therefore, to pick a lingua-franca for a nation like Nigeria, so many views need to be considered. Moreover, the number of indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria is a matter for conjectures. So for five decades after her independent, she (Nigeria) is still desperately in search of an indigenous lingua-franca that will be capable of welding the multifarious ethnic groups whose separate identities year for unity and integration. Since everyone understands the implication of choosing a language over the others, every ethnic group wants her language to attain the status (lingua-franca) so as for them to gain recognition and prosperity over the others. Indeed! They say Nigeria is ‘united in diversity’. Following the menace, it is obvious that the choice of an indigenous language as a lingua-franca is not practically visible as it is capable of causing countable political and social uproar and misunderstanding which, thus, negates the motif behind the principle of lingua-franca. Therefore, given the historical circumstances in which we emerald as a nation, we do not need an indigenous lingua-franca for a menorah integration.

Historically, Nigerian presents a precarious map of a people lumped together in spite of their languages. It was brought into being not by the political will of a local imperialist. This explains why the country does not have a lingua-franca yet. Invariably, each ethnic group is inseperably attached to its own language; and for functional purposes, both literate and illiterates speak formal (standard) and special (localized or acculturated) English respectively. Some speak even the Pidgin.

However, some scholars still negate the usage of this foreign language (English) as an official lingua-franca but the fact remains that this language, right from the days of our colonial masters, has been the language that has continually and successfully bonded Nigeria together till now. It is, however, a language that is in affiliated to any particular tribe or region within the country. So it, unlike the indigenous languages, possesses the smallest issue for disintegration. With it, no tribe can claim superiority.

Moreover, the decision to look into one of the three National languages for adoption for the purpose of lingua-franca for the country, to me, seem to be the most torturous route to national integration. No doubt, the adoption of these languages would help to fan the embers of ethnic nationalism and exacerbate the continued warfare among the three dominant ethnic groups. It will result into regional loyalism or nationalism. If Igbo, for example, is taking over Hausa and Yoruba, the Hausas and the yorubas will begin to feel depressed and deprived thereby creating a bigger force of enmity between the three groups. So with these, the nation will continue to disintegrate and will not progress. Thus: leading to break-up.

We should also bear in mind that such a selfish policy will infuriate the minority groups who may see it as an attempt, imposed on them under the rubrics of national integration. Let’s also take cognisance of the fact that an average African is power hungry.
Every language spoken in Nigeria have equal validity of the law under the constitution, and no linguistic entity has the moral or constitutional right to impose its language on any other group. So what then are the criteria for selecting these languages over the other ones? Why should the taxpayers’ money be used with impunity to develop just three (3) languages to the neglect of others? Why?

With all these, if you will agree with me, English language is the closest thing to a lingua franca for a pluralistic country like Nigeria. Around the world, about 500 million speak it. The U.K comprises of the English, the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish yet English language is the official lingua franca of the kingdom. Even France, which prides herself for its linguistic integrity, have conceded English as a number one. English language, as a foreign language, seems suitable for a multilingual nation like Nigeria so as to up hold integration and to unify Nigerians.

In addition, all over the world today, it is the dominant language in general education, technology, electronic, and advertising in radio, media and in international relations. Then, why cant we set aside all vices of using an indigenous language (that has appeared to be in workable after 5 decades) to using a world embraced English language as a lingua-franca so as to stop the expensive bogey of cultural ‘wazobianization’? to what extent will an indigenous lingua-franca be of relevance to scientific education and calculus.

English can be seen as a vehicle of national cohesion since it is free from cultural partisanship. Given the significant position English holds in education, Nigeria does not need to search for an indigenous lingua-franca. Our educational system which is already in a state of topsy-turvy should not alienate youths from minority ethnic groups. So, if Nigeria is poised to use language as an instrument for national integration, the teaching and learning of English should be upheld.

To conclude, the use of any of the national language as an official language is unarguably liable to produce disintegration; the use of any of the minority language, as well, will aggravate the already high rate of tussle for selfish recognition of tribes. Pidgin English, in Nigeria, as a lingua-franca isn’t a welcome idea as it isn’t that standardized. Moreover, it has been tagged the language of the illiterate and of comedy. Therefore, from the foregoing, English (as a foreign language) is best suited for a polylingual society like Nigeria. It isn’t affiliated to any group and as it has been able to bond Nigeria so far.