April 03, 2022 | 5:51
When famed broadcaster Tracy ‘Suo’ Chapele completed her English and Literature program at the University of Benin, little did she know that her broadcasting career would be launched by her ability to speak Nigerian Pidgin effortlessly. Chapele grew up speaking Nigerian Pidgin. The language is widely spoken in Warri where it was…
When famed broadcaster Tracy ‘Suo’ Chapele completed her English and Literature program at the University of Benin, little did she know that her broadcasting career would be launched by her ability to speak Nigerian Pidgin effortlessly.
Chapele grew up speaking Nigerian Pidgin. The language is widely spoken in Warri where it was born, and it serves as a first language in some communities in the Niger Delta.
“I jumped into Pidgin [broadcasting] when I came to Lagos,” Chapele said. “It was more difficult to break through despite having a degree in English and literature. But people seem to like my sound when I express myself in my most basic form.
The basic form she referred to is Nigerian pidgin, which is gaining traction in Nigerian media.
More than Wazobia
In 2017, the BBC World Service launched the Pidgin digital platforms for its audience in West and Central Africa. Ten years ago, Wazobia FM, a radio station owned by Global Communications Limited, started broadcasting in Nigerian Pidgin.
Until now, the language had played a minor role in Nigeria’s television and radio stations, which were dominated by the English language and major local languages such as Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
Wazobia, Nigeria’s most popular indigenous radio station, sees millions of listeners tune in every day from Nigeria, neighboring countries and the Diaspora. The station uses Pidgin as a way to reach and interact with people from across the country, regardless of class, background or language, a feature that explains its success.
In fact, Wazobia was among the top three radio stations in Nigeria based on audience share in the fourth quarter of 2017. A GeoPoll report indicated that the station was number one at the end of the first quarter of the same year with 9.6% of the audience share.
Three years after Wazobia FM started operations, another radio station – Naija FM – debuted in Lagos on October 1, 2010 and has now expanded its presence to Ibadan and Port Harcourt. Others such as Correct FM and Kpoko FM which came after Naija FM are also enjoying a level of acceptance.
If the growth of these stations is any indication, the Nigerian pidgin plays an important role in uniting people across Nigeria.
According to a few studies published over the past 15 years, about three million people in Nigeria use pidgin as their first language and put the number of those who speak it as a second language at 75 million. While available research suggests there are more native speakers of Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and English, the national and official languages of Nigeria, this researcher claims there are more native speakers from the Nigerian pidgin.
“[It] is not only the African language with the largest number of speakers, but also the most widely spoken pidgin/creole language in the world,” writes Nichola Faraclas in The survey of Pidgin and Creole languages in 2013.
In addition to providing a linguistic rallying point for a multi-ethnic African country like Nigeria, where the promotion of one or a few local languages can quickly snowball into a full-fledged ethnic crisis, Pidgin is also a unifier across the board. the West African coast, particularly in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigerian Pidgin is also spoken in some countries that share borders with Nigeria, such as the Republic of Benin, a French-speaking nation where a large number of Nigerians reside.
Despite its spread and number of speakers, Nigerian Pidgin has no official recognition and is not even recognized as a language.
Besides already becoming Nigeria’s national language without any official recognition, Nigerian linguist Kola Tubosun says its spread can provide much-needed answers to the country’s national aspirations if it becomes an official language.
Although the English language and the national languages of Nigeria provide the main materials that make up the Nigerian pidgin, Tubosun claims that its birth is rooted in early contact with Portuguese merchants who came to trade on the coast and hinterland of the country. West Africa.
Where does the Nigerian pidgin come from?
One of the first problems faced by Portuguese merchants was the language barrier. To trade successfully with West Africans, they needed a language that both parties could understand.
“It is not known what kind of Portuguese these sailors spoke, but it is possible (and even probable) that they spoke a twisted and unrefined Portuguese, also suitable for this social class of illiterate sailors,” Tubosun wrote on his blog. Ktravula in 2020. “The contact of this pirate-like Portuguese with the language of coastal Africans resulted in what eventually became Pidgin, and later Nigerian Pidgin.”
Nigerian Pidgin has since grown from the possible gibberish that it was in its infancy to become “probably the only organic Nigerian language that has achieved the regional spread that our national aspirations have demanded over these years”, Tubosun said.
But because Nigerian society has a history of deferring to elitism, which sometimes manifests itself in the ability to speak “Queen’s English”, Pidgin was in the past referred to as the language of the uneducated lower class.
The Nigerian Pidgin, however, is shedding that toga. It is now used in movies, music, literature, on the streets, and it is perhaps the only language other than English that binds people of different ethnic and socio-economic divides together.
When it was rumored in 2005 that then-President Olusegun Obasanjo was dead, he responded to the rumor by declaring at a meeting of the Federal Executive Cabinet: “I dey kampe”, which means “I am doing very well”.
Additionally, many minority communities now use it as their first language. Herbert Igboanusi, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Ibadan, wrote this in an article published in 2008. The adoption of the Nigerian pidgin by many communities in the country is not defined by tribal sentiments. And in some cases, it gives a unique Nigerian identity to the works of Nigerian artists, writers and filmmakers.
Fela Kuti, the founder of Afrobeat and one of Nigeria’s most popular musical personalities, sang almost entirely in Yoruba and Pidgin. With this, he had successful tours in the United States and Europe. Afrobeats, arguably an offshoot of the Afrobeat music genre he founded, carries the torch of Nigerian pidgin. Afrobeat artists such as Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy have sold out gigs in dozens of countries in Europe and the Americas and achieved international fame.
“Next to [from] football, the Nigerian pidgin, or naija as it is commonly known, is a tremendous unifier of our multilingual and multi-ethnic nation,” researcher EE Oribhabor wrote in his paper delivered at a conference organized by the French research institute. in Africa (IFRA) at the University of Ibadan in 2009.
Naija or Nigerian Pidgin?
However, despite being used by tens of millions of people in Africa’s most populous country, the Nigerian pidgin is still mired in a specter of identity crisis, behavioral discrimination and government recklessness.
For many Nigerians in the diaspora, “I be omo Naija” is an anthemic and evocative way of professing their Nigerianness. Naija, a nickname for Nigeria, fits well in the linguistic context of pidgin and Nigerian pidgin is more or less a cultural identifier. And for the majority living in the country, Naija only refers to Nigeria.
However, scholars agreed at the IFRA conference to refer to the language as Naija. This decision was based on the fact that Nigerian pidgin is no longer a pidgin since it has creolized and people are using it as their first language. We therefore needed a name that was not restrictive.
“It doesn’t matter what name it is,” Tubosun said. “Naija is good because it correctly identifies it with Nigeria (as opposed to other West African pidgins), but people will still call it Pidgin or Nigerian Pidgin if that suits them.”
Beyond the name, scholars at the conference highlighted the need for an “acceptable writing system” and standardized vocabulary and lexical processes. Additionally, there are concerns about which variety of Nigerian pidgin can be used as a standard.
“Cultural purists and religion zealots might not be willing to accept the Nigerian pidgin,” said Dr. Gabriel Ayoola, senior lecturer in comparative literature and cross-cultural studies at the University of Georgia, USA . “Is there a unified Nigerian Pidgin, or how do we approach the question of whether it is the Warri Pidgin or the Anambra Pidgin that should be accepted?”
Ayoola told Guardian Life he had no doubts about the “tendency and ability” of Nigerian pidgin to serve as the official language of Nigeria. This tendency and capacity is currently limited by the lack of “sufficient educational and cultural resources to express Nigerian sensibilities”.
Chapele, however, insisted that the language has a “structure” that expresses Nigerian nuances.
Regardless of Ayoola’s apprehensions, all sources interviewed by Guardian Life agreed that Nigerian Pidgin is a strong candidate for official language status since it is spoken by the majority of Nigerians and could offer the country unique benefits.
“It will remove one more barrier to equal participation in national life,” Tubosun said.
Ayoola himself explained that making Nigerian Pidgin an official language would gain more respect in Nigeria by removing a language barrier that blocks national integration and unity.
“[Nigeria] could mark and patent its findings and research in Nigerian pidgin, just as China and Korea would with their languages,” Ayoola said.
But sources fear that Nigerian government officials are unwilling to confer official status on a language considered inferior.
“We need to look at the level of government support for the research already done,” said Dr Damilare Atolagbe, a senior lecturer in the Department of English and Communication at Kwara State Polytechnic. “We need to consider the implementation of the findings and recommendations of this research by policy makers. Is there a positive attitude on the part of decision-makers towards the results of this research? »