Nigeria is a conglomerate of different ethnic nationalities and one major problem hindering moves to achieve unity in the midst of this diversity is the language barrier.
This is the position of Kunle Elegbede a Nigerian based in Houston, Texas, who insists that one of the major mistakes made in Nigeria since the 60’s is the failure to make the study of Nigeria’s three major languages Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba compulsory in Nigerian schools.
In his exposition, titled “Let’s Unite Nigeria,” detailing his personal experience of having to learn Chinese, Spanish and Igbo languages in America linking same to the Nigerian situation, Kunle Elegbede, a Nigerian-American political activist, who has run for office in Texas and is a committed community leader, said “One of the major mistakes made back in Nigeria since the 60s was not to make Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages a compulsory subject in the Nigerian schools.
“You start teaching them the three languages from elementary school to the Secondary school levels. You make it compulsory but not too rigid as to fail students over it. Have waivers in places necessary to move students along.
“Here I am in America trying to learn to speak Chinese, Spanish and Igbo language. Igbo language because 50% of my bosom friends are Igbos.
“Spanish because in America almost half of the population are almost Hispanics who speak Spanish. Chinese because of the rising influence of China in global affairs. Recently, I was even in a Chinese class to learn to speak Chinese.
“Whenever I dazzle some of my Chinese friends in Chinatown with the few lay man’s Chinese language I could speak, they are very happy and amazed and very accepting of me more immediately. The bridge is built to friendship and trust.
“My point is we have missed opportunities in Nigeria. Whenever you understand and speak the language of other people, other tribes, you remove the mistrust and misunderstanding among people and unity is forged more easily and forever.
“The “You people” will be replaced by “We the people”. We have missed opportunities but it’s not too late to start by thinking positively.
“This is another idea out of the box to unite Nigeria (though it’s not a new concept). An old idea which must not be dismissed summarily again. We can call it early National Youth Service Corps program initiative,” Elegbede posited.
On the benefits that this idea will have on the Unity of the multi-lingual Nigerian people, Elegbede stressed that in ten years’ time, young Nigerian kids will be able to communicate fluently with each other thereby removing the existing language differences and its attendant negatives like misunderstanding and mistrust.
“In less than ten years, you will begin to see the results,” Kunle insisted, pointing out that “We don’t have to wait for decades to see the results of this program. You will start seeing the results in your children and in your grandchildren coming home speaking in the three major Nigerian languages fluently. You will hear them all communicating to each other in the three major languages, and it will amaze you.
“They will become the influencer of all family members whenever someone from another ethnic group comes to visit your home, or you have an encounter with someone from another ethnic group outside your home. It will be your elementary or high school children or grand kids who are the beneficiary of this compulsory three language education who will then take the lead in communication for your family.
” Nigeria will finally be on its way to unity. Other national developmental problems we will deal with later. Congratulations on your way to achieving national unity. When a nation is truly united, you can do almost anything, ” he concluded.