If you are a first time visitor to the Warri & Sapele areas of South South Nigeria, you will no doubt be attracted to the unique flavour of Naija Langwej formerly addressed as Nigerian Pidgin. Chances are that while you savour the Wafi yans an lingo, you may not immediately catch up or “flow” with the style of speaking there. However, like a memento, you are sure of going home with the word shuo, a trademark of the people of this area. It’s the only place in Nigeria where the word is superfluously used. Put differently, Na fo Wafi na im dem de yuz shuo yangan yangan.
Upon a first encounter with the word shuo, one would most likely presume that it is “coming from the English word – sure” which interestingly, is confusing at the first instance. Thus one may at this point ask Wetin bi shuo? In response to this question, and as expressed elsewhere in one of my articles titled Shuo!, Ho!, Kuma, Abi?, the word shuo is simply an expression of surprise to either a positive or negative development. It could also be used at the beginning or in ending a sentence as a way of stamping one’s position on an issue or opinion. For example if asked the simple question, Wie yu de? (Where are you?), you could respond thus; Shuo! A don de ye sins. or A de ye sins. Shuo! (I have been around). If not properly used, one may however sound sarcastic or disrespectful. In this respect, friends/peer groups are not affected because they at liberty to speak to one another as they choose. Not so for a younger person who may want to respond to an elderly one with respect. Usually, Nigerians from outside the mentioned areas are fond of making one form of joke or the other with “Waferians” by using the word shuo; as a way of saying “shuo is yours”. No agro! (No argument !)
Recently, I was on a private visit to Lagos; Nigeria’s most publicized fusho mega citi. As expected, I met with some of my old padi dem and made new friends as well. It was one memorable trip that reaffirmed to me that shuo no bi tode. When introduced as di man from Wafi to a man I hadn’t met previously, I was thrilled by his spontaneous reaction; Shuo! Na fo Wafi yu fo land? meaning; so you are from Warri? He was so excited meeting someone from Wafi the "home of shuo". I later discovered from my interactions with him that many years back, he had a stint in Warri as a member of the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC). He repeatedly interjected our discussions by recounting fond memories of his stay in the place like, Shuo na wa o!, Shuo wetin de hapun!, Shuo no shekin na!, Shuo yu no go kom tode? etc. His excitement knew no bounds. According to him, he will never forget the place called Warri.
Once introduced as a “Language Practitioner” by Bernard Caron - Director, IFRA - Nigeria during the Conference on Nigerian Pidgin at the University of Ibadan - Nigeria (2009), I am passionate about the promotion and development of Nigerian Pidgin into a complete language that could be studied in schools like any other language. The on-going collaborative efforts of members of Naija Langwej Akedimi (a fall out of the said conference) with IFRA-Nigeria, will eventually give Naija Langwej its true status as a Lingua franca of the people of Nigeria. My interest in the development and standardization of the language is steep in my background as one “born, bred and buttered” in Warri where Pidgin was my first Language of contact. I do not lay an iota of claim to the knowledge of specialist areas of Linguists or Etymologists bot fo sho, a nou se shuo na Wafi. The task of tracing when a word was first used and how it has evolved over time should be left to the specialists in this wide field of human endeavour. Dat won pas mai pawa.
The serial on “Shuo!, Ho!, Kuma, Abi?” was originally set out to highlight and register these words as traditional to Nigeria. If the column “Naija Langwej A-Z” would achieve its purpose of truly promoting numerous words/phrases in Naija, contributions towards situating their origin (not necessarily indigenous) are welcome.
Even though the word shuo is home to Warri & Sapele as earlier mentioned, it is yet to be established whether it’s from any of the tribes in Delta like the Urhobos, Isokos, Ijaws, Itsekiris or Aniomas. It’s worth reiterating that shuo so commonly used in Warri that it has become part and parcel of its yans an lingo. To the average Wafi pesin, Shuo! and Ho! are like spices to any delicacy. Shuo? God abeg o!
Edwin Eriata Oribhabor
(received 11/11/2010 — Published 02/12/2010)