The need to encourage and preserve the use of Nigerian indigenous languages towards fostering national pride and identity was again on Monday, August 2, 2012, advocated in Abuja by the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma.
Ayakoroma made this call while presenting his welcome address at the opening ceremony of the 2012 edition of the Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP), organized by the Institute at the Rockview Hotel (Royal), Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Reiterating that the one-month intensive language programme, initiated by the Institute in response to the disheartening status of languages globally and Nigerian indigenous languages, in particular, was designed to create awareness on the need to speak our indigenous languages, Ayakoroma expressed fear that by the next century, more than half of the world’s estimated 6,900 languages will go into extinction if the situation is not arrested.
The NICO Boss added his voice to the opinion of experts that with the rising rate at which Nigerian languages were steadily endangered, most indigenous languages will be extinct in the next three decades, while about 90 percent of languages were estimated to be replaced by dominant languages by the turn of the century.
Stressing that language plays a pivotal role in the promotion, preservation and propagation of culture, he said language remains one of the veritable means by which our intangible cultural heritage can be transmitted, adding that when a language dies, it leads to the loss of cherished cultural, historical and ecological knowledge of a people, which are unique to them, and it brings to the fore, the reality that each language is an embodiment of the unique expression of the human experience of the world.
While calling on government at all levels to, as a matter of deliberate policy, encourage the use of indigenous languages, the ES also said since parents are key to the sustenance of our indigenous languages, they have a critical role to play in ensuring that their children speak our local languages, and therefore advised parents to send their children to any of the study centres across the country for the NICO one-month indigenous language programme to save our languages from extinction and promote our rich cultural heritage.
In his speech, the Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke, commended the management and staff of the NICO for not only making sure that several Nigerian languages were taught during the one month language programme, but also made it a platform to sensitize stakeholders to their responsibility, thereby drawing national attention to the critical importance of indigenous languages to national development.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mrs. Ibikun Odusote, the Minister agreed that over 90 per cent of Nigerian indigenous languages were highly endangered such that if concrete and desperate efforts were not taken to revive them, they stand the danger of being extinct.
Duke, who maintained that the Ministry appreciates language as a vehicle for the transmitting a people’s culture and a veritable means of documenting, processing and promoting cultural heritage reiterated the commitment of the Ministry to the promotion and preservation of our indigenous languages.