THE PIDGIN BUG
Edwin Eriata Oribhabor
In those days, Nigerian Pidgin (Naija Pidgin) was largely painted in different derogatory epithets like “Pidgin English”, “Broken English”, “Barrack Language”, “Gutter Language” etc. Also called “street” or “market” language, it was mainly associated with low class people like office Messengers, House helps and all “road side” people of this world. Initially a simplified and adulterated version of the English Language, it was regarded as a disjointed form of “blabbing” by those without a common Language. Its speakers were not only looked down upon with disdain, they were regarded as either incapable of speaking “good English” or only being compelled to speak it to communicate with those who are not versed in speaking “proper English”. The situation has since changed because Nigerian Pidgin (NP); one of the richest in the world is now the “beautiful bride” in the world of pidgins & creoles. It is fast gaining currency as the most preferred mode of communication in Nigeria.
The increasing interest of Nigerians & foreigners in learning and speaking NP clearly testifies to its growing acceptance. More than ever before, the time for its standardisation in terms of the provision of an acceptable autography is now. Therefore, the on-going efforts in this direction by IFRA and its Naija Languej Akedemi are commendable. As a follow up to this, NP would be lifted by a few notches towards properly positioning it as a Language in its own right. The growing enthusiasm of Nigerians in speaking Naija Pidgin as well as its usage in social network sites in the internet is also a demonstration of the fact that the “peoples’ Language” is moving steadily towards attaining the much desired government’s recognition as a lingua franca.
Therefore, the country’s policy formulators in the Education Sector have a great role to play in shaping the nature, content & character of Language policies viz a viz curriculum that hold the various courses offered in schools in such a way that NP would be properly accorded its due recognition.
Unfortunately, “In the National Policy of Education, the learning of indigenous languages was rationed. There are more that 400 languages spoken in Nigeria yet our leaders recommended the teaching of only three languages namely: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo and to adopt them as lingua franca at the expense of the multifarious odd languages. One of the reasons often cited for this policy is that Nigeria needs a lingua franca to forge National Integration. As it later turned out to be, the adoption of these languages helped to fan the embers of ethnic nationalism” (John Idumange -The Guardian, July 18, 2010 p.25). It has become very glaring that like football, NP helps in continuous unification of the diverse peoples of Nigeria. As a neutral language, it is opportune that as a nation, we should build on it for a true and unadulterated National Integration.
Whether we like it or not, a lot of Nigerians are being bitten by the Pidgin bug. Thus, people of class now openly speak Pidgin at high profile functions just like our former President Olusegun Obasanjo did at campaigns leading to his election as the elected President of Nigeria. As an “endorsement” of the Language, the former President freely used whenever he chose to “hama di nail fo di head”. While assuring Nigerians of his confident “grip” of the state of affairs at the height of his squabble with his former Vice President Atiku Abubakar he said with a tinge of boast; "I dey kankpe” meaning he was in total control. The relevance of NP in our daily interactions cannot be overemphasized. Whenever I find myself in a situation where I needed to speak for NP, I usually ask this simple but “technical” question; how much of good English or “oyibo” did you peak today when compared with NP “awa languej”. Jos ask yo sef dis kweshon; tode hau meni oyibo ai don spik, hau meni pidgin ai don spik?
Only last week my researcher friend named Rudi Gaudio, the author of the book “Allah Made Us” was given a private farewell party as he prepared to return back to his country the united States. He had successfully completed a yearlong research on Nigerian Pidgin. His research was focused on finding out to what extent NP is helping in unifying Nigerians in the nation’s centre of unity, Abuja. Right now, my friend speaks NP with pride. According to him, his best gift ever from Nigeria is NP.
While in the country, he spoke pidgin during conversations with me and his other friends. He has a trade mark opening greeting on telephone which is; “mai gai wetin de hapun?
While a lot of foreigners are staking their time and resources working to see that NP is taken to the next level where it will be studied as a Language, policy formulators in the nation's educational sector keeps a blind eye to the reality on ground; the growing usage of NP in the print and electronic media and its vibrancy in social relationships. If you are one who loves contributing to discussions in online community pages on the internet, you will understand the extent at which NP is being used worldwide. Pidgin na awa languej. Kpakan (Fulstop).