bai Edwin Eriata Oribhabor

The Ministerial “ban” on the use of Naija sounds more of an “order from above”. Most of such orders hardly stand the test of time. I have tried to rationalize it with the phrase Warri no de kari last now popularized by Comedians. Although associated with “Waferians”, it is now common to hear people say Naija no de kari last meaning, Nigeria would always triumph. I cannot imagine an elected governor of Delta State pass an order to ban the use of the use of Warri no de kari last in Warri or anywhere in Delta State. Should he embark on such a delicate ride, his opponents who appreciate its importance may use it against him. If you say he would lose the next election as a result of this hori hori oda, you may not be far from the truth. Whenever a “Waferian” finds his/herself in any difficult situation, he says Warri no de kari last and takes a brief time to reflect on a way out. A new approach and thinking of the way forward is compulsorily drawn form a latent or hidden energy to surmount whatever the challenge may be. Warri no de kari last is the same as Naija no de kari last and in the same category with such powerful shout of comradeship/identification like Igbo kwenu. Just imagine an Igbo Chief, Eze, or King ordering his people to stop using Igbo Kwenu which is more than just a shout or whatever. Naija is more than a nomenclature and should be treated as such.

While Nigerians are taking a cursory look at the use of Nigerian Pidgin, international organizations like IFRA – Nigeria (Institut Francais de Recherches en Afrique) has put in place a Naija Langwej Akedemi (NLA) working assiduously towards producing a full-fledged language from our pidgin to be studied in schools in Nigeria and across our shores like French, English, German etc. Interestingly, the adopted name for Nigerian Pidgin is now Naija or Naija Langwej. The order being handed down by the Minister of Information may be coming at a time when Naija has gone beyond just a name as has been severally stressed in this article. If the Honorable Minister is well briefed about Naija, and many other forces of rebranding (yet to be tapped into), she would most likely step down her “ban”.

Naija is a neutral Language, long accepted and recognized as the unofficial lingua franca of the people of Nigeria, spoken by more than 30 million people. The conference on Nigerian Pidgin organized by IFRA in 2009 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria was where the name Naija was coined and adopted as the name for the new Nigerian Pidgin that would evolve after ol di panebitin. The reason is simple and not far to seek. As a word, it is widely accepted by Nigerians. Should all requirements of a language provided for our Pidgin, for Nigerians and the world, why not Naija as a name for the language?

In one of my serials on “Warri and the Nigerian Pidgin”, I stated inter alia that while growing up in Warri, pidgin was referred as Wafi; drawn from the adopted name of Warri. Similarly, whenever a “Waferian“ (one raised in Warri) comes in contact with any one that speaks pidgin the Wafi way, you will hear something like yu sabi spik Wafi? Therefore, the adoption of Naija as the new name for an improved Nigerian Pidgin makes it nationalistic and ready for the international “language market”.

The wide acceptance of Naija is the reason why so many companies are successfully using it in selling their products. If the best advertisements in Nigeria are those that are rendered in Nigerian Pidgin (Naija), the ban on Naija would have wide ranging economic and social implications for individuals and numerous companies. In civilized settings, companies could seek for compensations from Government for all the different advertisements currently running on national radio & television as well as bill boards across the length and breadth of Nigeria to fully comply with the ministerial ban from the Minister of Information and Communication. If the adoption of the use Naija as the name of our pidgin would be taken seriously, the ban on the use of the word Naija automatically voids Naija as the name of a language.

The acceptance and patronage of Naija as an adopted name for Nigeria is not associated with only the youths as perceived by a section of our society. This perception is likened to the old thinking that once believed that pidgin is for the uneducated or lowly classed peoples. The former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo used pidgin at will and at the recent event of the declaration of intention by Goodluck Jonathan to fly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flag in the forthcoming presidential elections, governors and big-wigs of PDP freely used pidgin (Naija). The Minister of Information and Communication need to have a rethink about her ban on the use of Naija bikos di tin pas levul.

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(received 19/11/2010 — Published 02/12/2010)

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