June 13, 2024

Yoruba leaders move to preserve language from extinction

Yoruba monarchs

*Family unit is most important — Elebuibon
*Extend use of Yoruba Language to politics — ODUPA
*We should be proud of our language, culture — Banjo
*We’re sceptical about implementation—Ekiti, Oyo ex-NUT leaders

By Rotimi Ojomoyela, Shina Abubakar, James Ogunnaike & Laolu Elijah

LANGUAGE is an integral part of the cultural heritage of an ethnic group.
Any ethnic group that relegates its language is inadvertently doing incalculable damage to its culture.

So, to preserve the identity of an ethnic group, the teaching and learning of its language is non-negotiable.

Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, taking cognizance of this is calling on stakeholders, particularly governors in the South-West region, to ensure that the Yoruba language is used for teaching and communication in schools within the zone to prevent the language from going into extinction.

During a caucus meeting convened at the residence of the National Leader of the group, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Afenifere decried the declining state of the language.

According to the Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Jare Ajayi, there is a pressing need to revive the language and prevent it from slipping into obscurity.

The group advocated the formulation and implementation of a policy by the governors that would mandate the use of Yoruba as a medium of instruction for teaching in both primary and secondary schools, adding that parents and guardians should be incorporated into the policy.

“Among the issues deliberated upon that are of concern to Afenifere is the status of the Yoruba language, particularly in Yoruba land.

“The meeting called on the governors, particularly in Yoruba-speaking states, to make it a policy and probably even make it compulsory for the language to be used as a medium of expression in teaching at the primary and junior secondary school levels.

“It’s of great concern to the meeting that many parents are not speaking, let alone teaching their children. We create a positive danger of extinction shortly. The meeting, therefore, encourages all parents to speak the language in their homes,” Ajayi said.

The family unit is most important —Elebuibon

Lending his voice, an Ifa Priest and cultural enthusiast, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon feels that preserving the Yoruba language is primarily the duty of each family.

Elebuibon said: “Each family is first responsible for the preservation of the Yoruba Language. We should all start by speaking it with our children; teach them the basic acts of greetings, material and non-material culture.

“The Yoruba language is already a subject taught in schools, making it compulsory does not guarantee preservation, how many hours do the children spend in schools?

“For me, as I have always advocated, preserving the Yoruba language is majorly our responsibility as individuals in our respective homes. The children speak first the language of their mother and that’s why it is called mother tongue.”

“If Yoruba is to be made compulsory in primary schools, it should be to use it as a language of instruction over every subject in schools within the region. It will enhance students’ understanding and further strengthen its usage among students.”

Akure declaration in order —Onayemi

Similarly, the Convener, Yoruba Commitment Leader, Mr Tayo Onayemi, aligns with Afenifere that the Yoruba language must be made compulsory in primary schools in the South-West region of the country.

Onayemi said: “Afenifere spoke decisively on a Yoruba problem which has been lingering for some time.
“If you want to kill a people/ race without shooting a gun, take away their language and their cultural heritage. They will move into extinction from identity confusion! That Yoruba has been in the throes of death language-wise is no longer in doubt.”

Onayemi blamed the problem of the Yoruba Language that is gradually going into extinction on the deliberate removal of the Yoruba Language from school curricula by successive governments.
He said: “Those who either took away Yoruba from the school curriculum or made the subject optional in our schools in Yorubaland, ignorantly or wickedly did so.

“Our homes must be the first classroom of impartation of Yoruba Language into our children. It ought to be our major means of communication and not an imported language laden with colonial tendencies for the backwardness of what is ours.”

Extend compulsion of Yoruba Language to politics —Taofeek

Also lending his voice to the discourse, the Founder and National President of Oduduwa United Peoples Association, ODUPA, Chief Jimoh Taofeek, said the compulsion of speaking the language should be extended to politicians of Yoruba extraction.

He said every political appointee must be able to speak, write, and read the Yoruba Language fluently, saying that this will also encourage many adults to develop interest in Yoruba Language acquisition.
Taofeek advocated that the measure should not be limited to primary schools only, but should be extended to post-primary schools.

He said: “Yoruba Language should be made compulsory in both primary and post-primary schools and this can revive our cherished Yoruba Language, otherwise it can still gradually go into extinction if it’s only made compulsory in primary schools.

“Another major concern is the way our people prefer to speak the English Language at all times in their households. This is the reason our people needed to be sensitized and motivated to be liberated from the inferiority complex affecting them to overcome the barrier and be so proud of prioritizing the Yoruba Language before any other language.

“It may surprise you that the majority of our people can’t speak Yoruba Language let alone their indigenous dialect whereas they speak, write and read the English Language without problem. It is sheer ignorance to place any foreign language before your indigenous or local language.

“More so, one important way to motivate the kids, and young adults into Yoruba skills acquisition project is for the government and stakeholders of Yoruba communities across Nigeria to jointly invest in visual innovation programmes by changing most of the storybooks, novels, and other written textbooks into modern visual forms such as cartoons, animations and movies in a way of motivating our people since it is obvious that we are in jet age and children of the 21st Century prefer visual learning to others.

“Another important way to sustain the Yoruba Language in our society is to also make it compulsory that every political appointee must be able to speak, write, and read the Yoruba language fluently. This will also encourage many adults to develop a greater interest in Yoruba Language acquisition.”

We should be proud of our language, culture —Ogbeni Banjo

A former governorship candidate in Ogun State, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo called on Yoruba elites to be proud of their language and culture, saying this will go a long way in saving our language and culture from going into extinction.

“Prof. Fafunwa is best remembered for his firmness in the use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction in primary schools. “The policy provides for the use of mother tongue in the teaching of children in their formative years in nursery and primary schools in Nigeria.

“The call by Afenifere is misplaced because there is already a government policy on education that makes it compulsory for Yoruba to be taught in primary schools. What I rather expect Afenifere to do is to appeal to Yoruba elites to shelve their pride and see Yoruba Language as their identity and symbol to be proud of. English Language was imposed on us by the colonialists and therefore should not be superior to our language. The French, Germans and Russians are proud of their language. Why should we allow English to be preferable to our language?

“If Yoruba language will not go into extinction, then it behoves Yoruba elites to be proud of the language and ensure they encourage their children to speak Yoruba not only at home but in school and in their social interactions.

We’re sceptical about implementation—Ekiti, Oyo ex-NUT leaders

Former Chairmen of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, in Ekiti and Oyo states, Messrs Samuel Akosile and Niyi Akano are sceptical about the implementation of the policy.

Akosile said: “Sometime last week on the internet, a Chinese was making Ifa divination, I could pick some Yoruba Language from what he was saying, even as it wasn’t fluent and the way he was saying it, only Yoruba people would know that he was speaking the Yoruba Language.

Also in Brazil, Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, you will see people worshipping Ogun, Sango, using our language.

“The way they speak it with pride, the way they carry themselves with pride is as if somebody living in Nigeria going out there to study Chinese, German, coming back home to demonstrate his fluency.

“A lot of efforts are being put in place by teachers but the most demoralising aspect of it is that anytime some of our parents get to our school, and they see teachers talking to these learners in Yoruba Language, they feel we are wasting their money and time of the learners whereas in private schools, one thing we notice is that even those who speak English Language don’t speak correct English.”

“Afenifere making the call is the right thing in the right direction but my fear is how we are going to implement this thing in a way that will be acceptable to both government and parents.
“How I wish both the teachers and the government most especially, the Ministry of Education, would answer this clarion call from Afenifere.

“We should not allow this clamour to be mere rhetorics, both teachers and government should act on this and help us to revive and re-engineer the use of Yoruba Language in our schools,” Akosile said.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Niyi Akano, a former Chairman of the NUT, Oyo State branch and a former principal said: “It will be a good development because our students who are offering the subject are just doing it as a routine. I remember we started L2 then for non-speaking Yoruba students in Abeokuta and it was going on well. But, it wasn’t allowed to see the light of the day. So, if they come up with that policy, we will love it.”

For Ojedele Olayiwola, a teacher in one of the primary schools: “That will be a good idea if it’s implemented because it’s one thing to say something; it’s another thing to implement it. It’s our slavish attitude and colonial mentality that is taking its toll on Yoruba Language.”