Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the most complex, multilingual, pluralistic and heterogeneous African countries with at least 500 languages spoken by people within its shores.

Consequent upon the above, Nigeria comprises of about 250 different ethnic groups with Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani being the most dominant ethnic groups both socially and politically and the languages indigenous to these groups are accepted as the major languages spoken in and by Nigerians.

Before Nigeria came in contact with Europe and colonization, these groups existed as a sprawling territory with each group having distinct linguistic, cultural patterns. The natural implication of these diversities is that language becomes a principal source of individual identity and also expressed in traditional socio-political, educational and religious systems.

In a bid to unify this multilingualism within the context of "Unity in Diversity" and due to the influence of the colonialism, the Federal Republic of Nigeria adopted English as the official language of Nigeria but "pidgin" (broken English) remains quite popular because, the entire population do speak and understand as it helps a lot in communication.

However, despite efforts of successive regimes to foster ethnolinguistic unity, it is perceived that not much has been achieved. Evidently and hitherto, ethnicity and or linguistic diversity still remain one of the biggest problems of the nation. Most importantly, politicizing of ethnicity along linguistic parameters has always been on the rise.

This problem still remains the same till today. That is why as Nigerians, we are most times disillusioned, dismayed, dispirited, dejected, depressed and feel out of place at the dominant pseudo-linguistic tendencies of Nigerians thereby hampering the unity of purpose that ought to translate to national development. For example an Igbo man who does not understand Hausa language feels uncomfortable around people speaking Hausa language and same for when a Yoruba man visits eastern part of Nigeria.  What this suggests is that the "Unity in Diversity" is more of a slogan rather than achieving its purpose.

Of the truth, language transcends barriers of religion, unite people of different religions and so powerful that it is the only natural way by which we can reach into the depths of another mind and fetch from it.

The president of the post apartheid rule in South Africa; Nelson Mandela once said "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart". Hitherto, negotiation power has greatly featured language in Nigeria. For example, the likelihood of getting more beneficial deals with a Nigerian trader is high if you talk to him in his language. As a matter of fact, the best map to the heart of a Nigerian man is the broad yet narrow way of language that the  government of Nigeria must  proffer in the National Policy of Languages (in Education) if we want a sustainable and Ideal " Unity in Diversity ".

Against the foregoing, the submission of this piece therefore, is for government of Nigeria to:

1. Reignite and reverberate an ethical ethnolinguistic revolution, a proposal for a more inclusive quadrilingual language policy that recognizes the importance of the local languages (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) in our curriculum from primary to secondary education and special domains of the
lives of the people.

2. As a matter of importance, these three main indigenous languages must be made compulsory just as Mathematics and English Language in our basic education.

3. Our unique national character must be featured in our executive and parliamentary systems such that individuals are allowed to speak one of the languages (Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba) in meetings which should be translated.

For the benefit of doubt, the efficacy of the recommendations in this piece can be further validated with an inference from one of the African Countries; 'Madagascar'. The Republic of Madagascar has the local language; 'Malagasy' of Malayo-Polynesian origin as her official language which is spoken by about 95% of the citizenry despite having up to 20 ethnic groups. Although a francophone country, the official language of Madagascar still remains Malagasy and French.

Thus, Madagascar dropped English as an official language in the constitution, which was approved by voters in the November 2010 referendum. By implication, if 95% of the population of a country speaks a particular local language, that gives them an invisible power of unity that could metamorphose into having an edge over their neighbouring countries who has divers languages.

The submission in this regard, is that Nigeria should refrain from promoting the foreign language that has over the years been perceived to be used  for indirect colonization of the people and adopt a system that  exalt our local languages depicting and showcasing our uniqueness.

This, in my view, may not seem realistic and or practicable within the present clusters of old and or unwilling folks who might be deprived of the willing power by educational and geopolitical factors. But the positive effect of Nigerians understanding the trilingual and acceptable languages is endless.

Conclusively, the linguistic diversity of Nigeria can profit the nation if a compulsory quadrilingual language policy in which all the types of language are given due recognition is embarked upon.  It is not the fact of ethnolinguistic diversity that constructs social-political problems in Nigeria; rather it is the politicizing of these differences that is the problem.

The proposal in this piece is for a language policy that is focused on linguistic equity for both exogenous and indigenous languages. So, in the end, unity in language will provide strength and a combination of ideas for betterment of the nation. Imperatively, the four-tier language proposed in this piece is by no means sacrosanct to our acclaimed "Unity in Diversity". God bless Nigeria.

You can email Emmanuel at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EmmyCool_Babs.


  1. My brother, u have done well. I wish our leaders can look into this.


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