[lg policy] Babawale: Promotion of indigenous languages key for development

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Feb 14 10:31:27 EST 2018

 Arts & Entertainments <https://newtelegraphonline.com/category/arts/>
Promotion of indigenous languages key for development

14 hours ago

February 14, 2018


*The immediate past chief executive/director general of the Centre for
Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), Prof. Tunde Babawale, and
currently an Electoral Commissioner at the Lagos State Independent
Electoral Commission (LASIEC), in this interview, explains the essence of
cultural policy, indigenous language, preservation and promotion of our
rich cultural heritage among other issues. TONY OKUYEME reports *

There has been sustained discourse and calls for a National Cultural
Policy. Why is this policy so important?
There is no question about the fact that a policy is the key to the
development of any sector, be it cultural, social, economic or even
political. So, there is no way any government would succeed in a sector
that is not guided by policy. Policy is the signpost, the roadmap that you
require to be able to navigate through the sector and decide what your
activities would be. So, I am also shocked that for a very long time we
have been battling with this problem of cultural policy for Nigeria.
Of course, we have the 1988 one, and we also have the revised cultural
policy which I think even up until 2010 was still being revised. A lot of
work had been done on the 1988 document, workshops had been organized. As I
said, a new document has been produced, a copy of which I have. What is
left is for this document to be formally presented to the public.

Why then has successive governments failed to implement it?
Unfortunately, I am still at a loss as to why the Federal Ministry of
Information and Culture has not deemed it necessary to formally launch the
document. It seems as if we are working without a policy guide. And that
could also be partly responsible for the lull that we are witnessing in the
Arts and Culture sector in terms of what government policy is on it. So, I
want to appeal to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai
Mohammed, to as a matter of urgency get his team in the Ministry to dust
this document that is still in the archive of the Federal Ministry of
Information and Culture, and ensure that this particular document is
presented to the public. It is of essence that this is done as urgently as

As a nation, are we doing enough in terms of documentation, preservation
and promotion of our rich cultural heritage?
I am not sure that we are doing enough in terms of preserving and
documenting our culture.

There is a very high concentration on tourism by successive regimes. That
in itself is not, but it becomes bad when it is done at the expense or at
the detriment of the cultural components. You cannot have tourism without
the raw material, and that raw material is provided by culture. This is
where the documentation and the preservation of our cultural heritage is
very important. One of the ways by which this can be done, in my view, is
to have this policy, and also enunciate in it what the specific agencies
need to do in terms of how to preserve our cultural heritage. For example,
we have world heritage site in Adamawa State, we have in Osun State. How
much or what effort have we made as a people and government to popularise,
improve on these world heritage sites to become a showcase of our own
heritage and at the same time earn us enough money. There is no doubt about
it that if we promote our cultural heritage it will reduce our dependence
on oil, because as you know, oil is exhaustible. Culture is sustainable; it
cannot die. And the only way by which our culture will not die is for us to
preserve that culture. One way by which we can do it is to incorporate
elements of our culture heritage in our school curriculum at the primary,
the secondary and at the tertiary levels of our educational system. Today,
in my view, the curriculum of our schools seems deficient in the area of
content that emphasises the preservation of our heritage. Don’t forget,
heritage is in two parts, the material and the non-material. By material we
are talking about the physical manifestations in terms of those historic
sites and monuments; whereas, the non-material refers to our music, dance,
mode of hair dressing, cuisine, and all of the other things that make the
non-material aspect of our culture. Now, how far have we gone in teaching
our children our languages? Language is the vehicle of culture; without the
promotion and preservation of your languages there is no way you can
preserve your culture. It is important to also stress that on a daily
basis, we promote culture in the way we interact with people because it is
also about your world view, about your custom, tradition, morals. Your
proverbs contain culture, your worldview is about culture. That is why we
talk about the cosmological aspect of culture; we also talk about the
ontological aspect of culture which is philosophical in essence. And we
also talk about the interaction between people, which is the aetiological
aspect of culture. So, my point of view is that our school curriculum must
be enriched or revised in such a way that these elements of both the
material and non-material aspect will become a central part of that
curriculum. Most importantly, the teaching and learning of our languages at
every level of our educational system must become a norm in our country.
That is a starting point. Two, we must create programmes; and government,
for example, must ensure that specific days of the week are devoted to
promoting the use of indigenous languages, especially in the States Houses
of Assembly, like Lagos has done. We would have started on the road to
promoting our culture; we would also have started on the road to preventing
the extinction of our languages.
So, I am saying that in neglecting our culture and our language we are
depriving our children of certain aspects of our existence that should come
naturally with them. And one of the reasons why many of them are not
performing well in the English language is the absence of that environment
where they can drink from the fountain of philosophy where they could have
vocabularies to express themselves. Every normal person thinks first in his
indigenous language before he translates into a second language. This is
why preserving, promoting our cultural heritage is of utmost importance.

Stakeholders appear divided on the merger of the National Theatre with
National Troupe of Nigeria. What do you think is the best option for the
I personally don’t think it is in the interest of the National Troupe to
have a merger with the National Theatre. Managing the National theatre, in
my view, is a technical matter which requires a technical person to do. For
instance, somebody who has a management or engineering background can
conveniently handle matters relating to National Theatre, because it is
just a structure that can be managed by those who have the technical
But the National Troupe requires a professional, a competent professional
to handle it. There is a possibility of distraction when you merge the
office of the manager of the National Theatre with that of the National
Troupe because the manager spends a lot of time concentrating on those
issues that have very little to do with the promotion of culture or the
arts. Those who decided to separate it in the past had very valid reasons
for doing so, and I think we need to revisit it. This is not to say that in
the culture sector there is no need to do some restructuring of some of the
agencies and parastatals.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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