By Emmanuel Afonne
The Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Sidi Bage Muhammad I, on Saturday called for the official recognition of Pidgin English as a language in the country and for unifying Nigerians through its spoken words.
Muhammad, a retired Supreme Court Justice made the call at the 35th Annual National Conference of English Scholars’ Association of Nigeria (ESAN) in collaboration with Department of Languages National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Abuja.
He said it was time to appreciate Pidgin English especially as it had enabled Nigerians communicate in time of difficulty as presently witnessed in the country.
“Pigeon English has done very well because it has become a medium of communication in this country.
“This has helped a lot of Nigerian who do not have a great command of English language opportunity to communicate with people at our level, and it has kept this country together.
“I did say when we were having conference at the Court of Appeal to decide on some pertinent question that there is the need for pigeon English to be given some recognition in this country,” Muhammad said.
According to Muhammad, even the Court of Appeal recognizes that Pidgin English can stand the place of English and as such its statements can be admissible in evidence.
He said: “There was this argument in the past whether a statement made in Pidgin English can be admissible in law; it was subjected to a lot of interpretations and it started from the level of the High Court and met us at the Court of Appeal.
“The decision of the High Court is that Pidgin English is not English and as such that statement cannot on its own stand the test of a statement; it has either to be interpreted in English which was what the court said it must be subjected to but that it will require some degree of corroboration.
“It came to us at the Court of Appeal and we sat at the panel to decide. Our decision at the court of Appeal was that Pidgin English is English, and we said that what is important is that it has communicated exactly what the owner of the statement intended to convey.
“Again, we said that the audience it was intended for fully understood it, so Pidgin English can stand the place of English and such statement can be admissible in evidence.
“We thought that the parties affected will appeal to the Supreme Court since it was of a national importance so that it can become a law and not be subjected to another form of interpretation next time, but they didn’t go to Supreme Court.”
Prof. Amina Bashir, who delivered the keynote speech with the theme “Language, Literature, National Integration and Sustainable Development”, said that the development of any ideal nation depends on the people and their inclination to develop themselves and their nations.
This, she said can be achieved through the medium of language which is not only an end but a means of attaining national integration and sustainable development.
“Language serves a mediating function; literature embodies a whole body of imagination, development, societal integration, history and common artifacts. All these identify individual as belonging to a particular groups sharing wide range of cultural identities.
“Literature therefore, mirrors the language, culture, national integration of the people, objective representation of creative writers and the objective reality of life.
“Nigerian literature as seen by Chidi Amuta (2005) is a super manifestation of process, the process of creation of ideas and values within the limits prescribed by the social essence of language.
“Language and literature in the face of sustainability and development are mutually inclusive. Literature is the total reflection of our imagination through linguistic mediated process,” she said.
Bashir noted that language just like literature cannot exist in an empty space and that they were inseparable.
She further noted that literature used language in artistic form to mirror life, projecting for the future of our resources (oil, Uranium, Gold, Silver, Diamond etc), education, integration with the outside world, economy and so on.
Prof. Abdalla Adamu, Vice Chancellor of NOUN had earlier said that the general theme of the conference – “English language and literature for national integration and sustainable development” came at the right time giving the situation of things in the country.
Adamu who was represented by Joy Eyisi, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University, described language as a source of national integration and sustainable development.
“We are for national integration, we are for sustainable development and to achieve this aim, language is at the centre.
“This language, in the right scheme of things is English considering the multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual status of Nigeria.
“It is our official language, the language of politics and administration; it is the language of the law court, the language of the media, and the language of the national and international communication.
“It is the language of text books, the language of instruction in our schools, the language for educational advancement and prestigious employment.
“It is the language that serves as barometer with which we measure the quantity and quality of education possessed by a speaker.
“Above all, English language is the language that serves as a vital link that unites all of us together as one Nigeria,” Eyisi said.