The Deji of Akure Kingdom, His Royal Majesty Oba Adebiyi Adesida (Afunbiowo II), has urged the Federal Government to expedite efforts in the introduction of the use of local languages as media of business transaction in the three tiers of government, noting that language plays an important role in the preservation and promotion of culture and should not be thrown into the wind.

The Deji stated this at the opening ceremony of the 2012 edition of the Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme (NILP) by the South West Zone of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), at the Ondo State Senior Staff Club, Alagbaka, Akure, Ondo State, on Wednesday, August 8, 2012.

Oba Adesida decried the situation whereby most children can no longer speak their indigenous languages fluently, and called on all and sundry to strive hard to protect our languages as bases of our cultural identity, as well as a tool for unity, progress and national development.

He further expressed great pleasure for being part of the epoch-making event and promised the traditional institution’s unwavering support for NICO’s noble efforts at ensuring the preservation and promotion of our cultural heritage.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, enjoined the gathering, especially parents, to avail their children and wards the ample opportunity of the one-month intensive language programme, to learn a language of their choice, adding that it has become imperative in order to stem the steady decline of Nigerian Indigenous languages.

The ES, who was represented by the Director, Research and Documentation, Mr. Louis Eriomala, drew the attention of all to the inextricable connection between language and culture, warning that the death of any language means the death of its speakers’ culture.

He appealed to Nigerians to pay serious attention to the revitalization of languages across the country through their use in legislative business, education, and the media, and reiterated NICO’s commitment to the preservation and sustenance of the country’s rich cultural heritage through the inclusion of Nigerian languages in the Curriculum of NICO Training School, spreading the establishment of NICO Cultural Clubs in Secondary Schools and encouragement of Indigenous Language Quiz and Essay Competitions, among other measures.

In his address, the chairman of the occasion, Mr. Deji Falae, who is the Ondo State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, described the event as history-making, noting that our culture is undoubtedly our identity and strength as a nation.

The Commissioner, who was represented by the Director of Culture in the Ministry, Mr. Lawrence Amimi, said Nigerians should have faith in our culture and de-westernize altogether, and that language is part of culture that should be preserved and impacted on children at a tender age through household folklores, and thanked NICO for its tremendous efforts in promoting our cultural heritage through its training programmes, promising the State Government’s continuous collaboration with the Institute.

The representative of the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Mr. F.A. Ogundolie, the State Controller, Federal Mortgage Bank, Mrs. Mojisola Gbadebo, representative of the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission, Mr. Patrick Davou, and the Director, Federal Ministry of Power and Steel, Alhaji A. J. Quadri, all delivered Goodwill Messages at the occasion.

In his vote of thanks, the South West Zonal Head, Mr. Ohi Ojo, thanked guests for attending the opening ceremony and implored them to encourage their staff, children and wards, to avail themselves of the month-long programme, where Hausa, Igbo, Izon and Yoruba languages will be taught.

The event was treated to colourful and exhilarating cultural performances by NICO South West Zone Theatre Troupe and NICO Cultural Clubs from Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School and Oyemekun Grammar School, both in Akure.

Dupe Oyelami