bai Edwin Eriata Oribhabor

From numerous advertisements that are rendered in Naija Langwej in both the print and electronic media, I have no illusions in my mind that millions of Nigerians are not only reappraising their negative mindsets about the Language, but embracing it with dobul han. After formal meetings where pipul blo big big oyibo in Nigeria, majority find it convenient to use Naija Langwej to informally brek daun eviritin. Top functionaries in different fields of human endeavour speak Naija without reservations whenever they chose to because they have come to realise se na awa identity. Therefore, if asked to say something about the state of Naija Langwej today, I will simply say it’s cutting across old sentiments/barriers as well as winning high profile personalities as speakers than one would ever have imagined.

The assertion that Naija na awa identity is becoming stronger by the day as its popularity and acceptance is growing very fast in different communities, as people keep moving and mixing for diverse reasons especially economic. While foreigners are taking more than a cursory interest in the Language, Nigerians are identifying with specific Naija words that are drawn from different indigenous/traditional languages, further endearing the Language to them. I first encountered the word kuma in 1996 in Kaduna where I met people who used it regularly as they speak either Hausa/Naija or switch between Naija and the English Language. Even though commonly used then by the Hausas and all that may have lived in the Northern parts of Nigeria or have had something to do with people from that part of the country, the use and popularity of the word kuma has gone beyond the aforementioned category of people.

When some years back I was in Warri on holidays, I mentioned kuma in course of my discussions with some of my friends and one of them interjected thus; “si Oribabo don de spik laik Hausa!” Then, the word kuma was purely regarded as Hausa (never considered as a Naija). In this respect, people in Warri and most parts of Southern Nigeria (not captured above) may not have realised that some traditional words they use as Naija in their various localities, also fall in the same category with traditional words like kuma.

Irrespective of one’s location in Nigeria, you may have heard people mention kuma as they speak. The following words; Shuo!, Ho!, Abi and so many traditional words that have found their way into Naija Langwej are fundamental to the Language’s unique flavour; making it one of the most richest (loaded) in the world. What is kuma? (Wetin bi kuma?).

Despite making indirect references to the origin of kuma, it’s proper to formally declare that it has its roots in the Hausa Language. On several occasions, I had come across people used it to either stress a point or make reference to someone e.g. mi kuma (“even me”), yu kuma (“even you”), dem kuma (“even them”), etc. or to mention something or someone else as an addition to an issue/subject matter e.g. kuma a tel am se... (“in addition, I told him/her that...”) or A tel am kuma... (I also told him/her that...), etc. From kuma comes another word; kukuma used interchangeably with the former to mean e.g. “had to.../for the sake of.../just because of...” etc. In this perspective, it signifies either reluctance, or an expression of lack of total agreement with whatever action one intends to take (usually under unpleasant conditions) or one may just be compelled to take an action for one reason or the other. For example, if you had solicited the assistance of someone to pick up an item on your behalf somewhere, and the person responded thus; mek a kukuma si di pesin (“let me see how I can get across to the one I am supposed to meet”). Kukuma could also mean “just” e.g. mek a kukuma kom (“let me just come over”). From this, one could glean that the person has a disinterest to act but had to do something all the same.

The word kuma as used in Hausa means “also” or “too” while kukuma means “you also, you too” (plural) i.e. in reference to more than one person. With same spelling but differently pronounced as kúːkúːmàː, the meaning changes to a traditional violin (musical instrument) in Hausa only, not in Naija.

From the preceding, the meaning of the word kuma as used traditionally, seems to strike a chord with how it’s used in Naija but not completely so. However, we have instances where the meaning of a traditional Naija word is different from the way it is used in proper Naija. For example in Hausa, the word mugu means a wicked person, but represents a fool or anyone that could be easily deceived in Naija. Shuo!

Edwin Eriata Oribhabor

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(received 10/11/2010 — Published 10/11/2010)

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