Ooni warns against extinction of Mother tongue

Yinka Salaam, Osogbo

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi has warn the Yoruba tribe all over the world to prevent their mother tongue from going into extinction by using it as a means of communication at homes, schools and other places .

He gave the warning at this year’s “Mother Tongue Day” celebration in lIle-Ife in Osun State, South West Nigeria.

Ogunwusi said that the use of Yoruba language as a means of instruction to pupils and students would aid proper understanding of studies as it was done in other climes.

History of languages

Tracing the etymology and history of languages, the monarch stressed that if popular languages as English have been proved to have their origin in Yoruba language, a situation where derivative languages are prioritised over the mother-language can only be detrimental and counter productive.

Oba Ogunwusi noted that if the history of slave trade did not remove the mother tongue of the Yorubas who were shipped to Europe and America, it is only instructive for the Yoruba race to remember their roots and pay special attention to its resuscitation, sustenance and growth.

He exolained that this was important to sustain their culture and identity within the global community.

The monarch said “Yorubas are unique globally and that uniqueness is embedded in their mother tongue which must be preserved,”

He urged the Yorubas to love one another.

”If we love each other, we would be united and we would communicate in our mother tongue for the progress of our society,” he emphasised.”

The guest lecturer, Professor Rotimi Harrison, who is the Vice President of Linguist Association of Nigeria said while the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared February 28 as the “World Mother Tongue Day” since 1962 as a mark of the rights by nationalities to communicate and express themselves in their mother tongues, it only came into reality in Africa with its celebration in the year 2000.

Lamenting the recent trend, he noted that Nigerians were downgrading their languages in the wake of global interest

”While many nations are striving hard to learn Yoruba language, Yoruba people in Nigeria are relegating their mother to the background in preference for foreign languages like English French and Arabic.

”Yoruba language is being given special attention in by the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) in America and it is being taught in more than 29 Universities in the USA and lately Japan while Yoruba in Nigeria are non-challant about their mother tongue, ”professor Harrison explained.
Harrison equally bemoaned the absence of language policy in Nigeria, saying lack of political will by the political elites derailed an attempt to put this together in 2007.

Culture and mother tongue

He noted that culture and mother tongue are inseparable and described the mother tongue as the vehicle of expression of culture.

The guest lecturer commended the efforts of Ooni Ogunwusi in declaring Ile-Ife a tourist zone. This, he said was a novel gesture that would further promote the Yoruba language.

Professor Harrison therefore called on royal fathers  and political leaders to emulate Oba Ogunwusi by doing everything possible to promote their mother tongue.

”Our mother tongue must be promoted and preserved so that it would not go into extinction. The political leaders and elites of Yoruba stock must also join hands to ensure their mother tongue does not go into extinction through its promotion by teachings and practice.

”Governments at all levels must also rededicate their energy and resources towards  the promotion of their mother tongue as it has shown that all the advance nations of the world with technological breakthrough use their mother tongue as the means of instruction in schools and communication.

”Therefore, if Nigeria wants to attain the needed greatness, mother tongue should be given its pride of place,” he stressed.