Cultural Activists Strive to Preserve Ethnic Languages in Nigeria


There are more than 250 ethnic languages spoken in Nigeria. Many are sadly, becoming extinct. With the amalgamation of a historic land mass and former kingdom by our British colonizers into a country we now call Nigeria, it is important, specifically to many cultural activists, to preserve a culture and a language that is distinctly ours and distinctly native.

“Yorùbá Lákòtun”, a quarterly cultural program at the Ethnic Heritage Center in Ikoyi, Nigeria seeks to do just that, starting with Yoruba.

The Yoruba people (Yoruba: Àwọn ọmọ Yorùbá) are an ethnic group of Southwestern and North central Nigeria as well as Southern and Central Benin known as the Yorubaland cultural region of West Africa. The Yoruba constitute over 40 million people in total; the majority of this population is from Nigeria and make up 21 percent of its population, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Guest writer at the fourth edition of Yorùbá Lákòtun, held last week, Mr. Kehinde Adepegba, said the poor reading culture of the Yoruba people, the development of information and communications technology with late adoption of that technology have negatively impacted the reading of Yoruba literature which would serve to largely preserve the culture.

According to the author of Òkèlè Àkóbù, Ogbón Ológbón, Eku Edá “the youth of this generation have unlimited access to materials online and they have deserted reading hard copies of the literature that have been published sometime ago.” He asserted that publishers should help potential readers by publishing e-book versions of their books on various platforms and make it available to the global audience.

Photo credit: Irantiola Olugbenga, Guze Photography
Attendees take photos with hosts at  Yorùbá Lákòtun quarterly meeting, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. June 2016. Photo credit: Irantiola Olugbenga, Guze Photography.

Adebayo Adegbembo, who developed the Asa app, said he and his team have been assiduously working on the preservation of the language through this app and they are also working on other Nigerian languages which are being accessed from other parts of the world.

In Adegbembo’s words, “Yorubas in Nigeria should not make the language lose its value because people from other parts of the world, especially those in Jamaica, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and the Caribbean, look up to us at the core areas where the language is spoken and we should not let them down in speaking, writing, reading and listening in the language.”

The news is not all negative however, the Lagos State House of Assembly, under the leadership of the Hon. Mudashiru Obasa is making strides for the Yoruba language to be spoken compulsorily at both public and private schools in Lagos, where the majority of natives are Yoruba. The hope is that other ethnic languages will begin to be rolled into the curriculum as well. This gesture will help our native languages to survive.

For more information on “Yorùbá Lákòtun” a quarterly cultural event where different creative arts are showcased as well as an interview session with a writer contact Peo Davies Concepts here.