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Nigeria Languages: Failing Health and Possible Healing

JT Dooga


The expressions “self actualization,” “autonomy,” and “autonomous community” have now become descriptive staples of what various communities in Nigeria are struggling for, especially the ethnic minorities. Along with these are the words “crisis” (as in the Niger Delta region), “religious crisis,” “hostage taking,” and “kidnapping.” Whichever form it takes, a common denominator is the demarcation along the lines of ethnicity expressed in language dichotomy. Indeed the “we”/”us” versus “they”/“them” language has been repeatedly used by politicians and those seeking political recognition or power. This paper seeks to show by means of evidence from the linguistic field, that even as many Nigerians identify with their individual language groups and are willing to support it (sometimes even by violent or other unconstitutional means), the languages themselves are sick, and many are in the process of dying. It presents results of research in the field that gives an insight into just how endangered our indigenous languages are, including two of the so-called big three. It suggests that policy makers should pay more than lip-service to mother-tongue literacy, and that politicians should re-channel their energies to developing these languages instead of exploiting ethnic differences for selfish political ends. It advocates a re-focusing of the patrilineal zest in order to preserve, protect, and transform Nigerian languages, thus preserving these vital aspects of our cultural identity.

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eISSN: 2227-5460
print ISSN: 2225-8604