Discourse | The Contributions Of Indigenous Languages In Promoting Literature In Northern Nigeria – The Nupe Language Experience By Isyaku Bala Ibrahim (Part II) | The Arts-Muse Fair

1.        Current Efforts
This can be explained as any other development of the language that is none religious that are purely academic and literary.
i.        The Writers’ efforts - Since year 2005, new nerve of creative art brew into Northern Nigeria, specifically in Niger State thereby repositioning itself as the literary hub of the country. Book activities were energized and momentum increased. In a bid to responds to this hype, I wrote, collaborated, translated and published the following books in an effort to further promote development Nupe language literature:
a.       Eganmaganzhi Nupe (Nupe Proverbs – over a thousand proverbs with English translation and explanations), 2009.
b.      Prof. Mohammad Kuta Yahaya’s play – Ignorance is a Disease was also translated and acted into Nupe Language book (Rakpebo Batán Wun Yi ò) and film respectively in 2012, it was collaboration between me and lat  Sadisu Mohammad, a Nupe Filmmaker.
c.       Translated into Nupe language BM Dzukogi’s Sex is Beautiful titled Cìn Sà, 2017.
ii.     Prof. Roger Blench, Roger Marsh Blench is a British linguist, ethnomusicologist and development anthropologist. He has an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.
Nupe Dictionary (Nupe-English) August 5, 2009 (Unpublished)

iii.   Ambassador Solomon Adama Yisa
Eganyekpe Nupe (Nupe Heritage Dictionary), 2013

iv.    Etsu of Patigi, Alhaji Ibrahim Chatta-Umar
Kpin Nupe Gba 1 & 2 (Learn how to read Nupe)

Government Efforts and Policies on Indigenous languages

The impact of language development could be felt more when government creates the enabling environment for it to strive. This is by establishing policies that encourage development of the languages. The former National Language Center transformed into the current Language Development Center (LDC) and under the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in 1976 suggested that in addition to the three major languages, viz: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba; the following nine of the remaining 387 or so indigenous languages in the country should be allowed to feature in the country's formal school system: Edo, Fulfulde, Nupe, Ibibio, Idoma, Igala, Ijaw, Kanuri, and Tiv. 

Thereafter, the federal government through National Policy on Education (NPE) mentioned in an official document first published in 1977, revised in 1981, it for the first time laid down a policy for the whole country that: 
a.       in primary School, which lasts six years, each child must study two languages, namely: 
(i)                 his mother-tongue (if available for study) or an indigenous language of wider communication in his area of domicile, and
(ii)               English language; 
b.      in Junior Secondary School (JSS), which is of three years' duration, the child must study three languages, viz: 
(i)                 his mother-tongue (if available for study) or an indigenous language of wider communication in his area of domicile, 
(ii)               English language, and 
(iii)             just any one of the three major indigenous language in the country, namely, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, provided the Language chosen is distinct from the child's mother-tongue;
c.       in Senior Secondary School (SSS), which also lasts three years, the child must study two languages, viz: (i) an indigenous language, and (ii) English language.5 
In 1978, the Niger State government inaugurated the Nupe Language Project Committee to look into the possibility of teaching the language in public schools especially at the primary and secondary school levels, the state drew its inspiration from the conclusion of the National Language Centre that included Nupe among major languages to be taught at that stage. Sadly, this effort was never realized.

Furthermore, in the portion of the 1989 Nigeria constitution dealing with the educational objectives of the policy. Section 19 sub-sections (4), says simply that "Government shall encourage the learning of indigenous languages."6

In addition, government established media7 organizations both print and electronic in northern Nigeria to reach out to its people with educative and informative local programmes in different languages. At the beginning, indigenous languages programmes that involves news gathering, interpretation and translations was part of the core programmes of these organizations, which was a good language development tool that has the ability to transform the society, suddenly stopped broadcasting in some, with only a skeletal transmission in the Hausa. For instance:

i.        In the 1950s and 1960s, the weekly Nupe Newspaper, Nnanyitsu published by the Gaskiya Corporation, Zaria with over 2500 copies weekly circulation had stopped long ago.
ii.      The Nupe half-hour programme aired on the Radio Nigeria Kaduna in the 1960s had also stopped.

However, despites all the efforts by government in promoting indigenous languages in the country through policies, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba got the dismal result, the rest, total neglect. So, in the face of official neglect, the responsibility of Nupe speakers is obvious. The onus is on them to keep their language alive by communicating with it all the time and to also get involved in language re-engineering with the aim of making Nupe acquire relevance in today’s rapidly changing world.

Traditional Institutions’ Efforts

Inaugurating Nupe Language Committee
Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abuakar, CFR on 11th November 2013 inaugurated the 28-Man Nupe Language Committee which comprises the writer, and other scholars & writers from religious and academic institutions with the sole aim of promoting and developing the language. He stated that Nupe people and the language has a long history which led world researchers from within and outside the Kingdom to write so many things about the language and its people, and that most of these people were not necessarily Nupes. But, they were able to tell the world the greatness of the Kingdom and the Nupe people. He added that most of our traditions and customs are facing the threat of extinction. He urged the committee to go deep and bring them back to life again and lots more. He then read the goals/objectives of the Committee as follows:

i.        to promote Nupe language and culture;
ii.      to develop curriculum for teaching Nupe language and history in schools from primary to tertiary education;
iii.    to produce instructional materials and literature in Nupe;
iv.    to promote Nupe History and heritage; and
v.      to encourage research & scholarship in Nupe language and history

In Niger State, writers are not resting on their oars in a bid to re-energize the almost forgotten Nupe Language Project Committee set up by the then Military Administrator of the State, Colonel Ola Oni.  For that reason, we have to devise means of furthering the development of the indigenous languages’ literature in the state most especially, the Nupe language in the following ways:
-          the stare government should institutionalized the teaching indigenous languages in accordance with the education policies on the subject in the language centres across the state
-          Opening of a translation bureau in collaboration with the Niger State Book Development Agency to published translated works of writers in the areas of Prose, Poetry, even sciences and humanities.
-          NGOs with same motto should be encouraged to teach these languages in states, i.e. Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation has centres teaching Nupe language since 2011, the effort led to discovery of Gloria Zhiri who has written a Novella in Nupe language.
-          There is also a commendable ongoing effort by Eduko Nupe Language Foundation of teaching the language among youths at Minna and Bida towns in Niger State. 
-          Proposing to host a Nupe Language Conference to further promote the teaching of the language in schools in the states.
The impediment here would be the absence of a strategic plan by government, and the inactivity of the languages concerned to consolidate on the past efforts and devising new approaches for producing their works and popularizing the development our indigenous languages.

This being a paper presented at the 3rd Northern Nigeria Writers Summit on the theme “Literature and National Integration: The Role of Writers as Bridge Builders.” Katsina from 3 – 5th October 2017.


Popularly known as the ‘Nupe Writer,’ Isyaku Bala Ibrahim, a trained Manager, holds a B.Sc. in Management Studies and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto and Bayero University Kano respectively.  He currently works with the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja.

He is a member of the Nupe Language Committee set up by Etsu Nupe, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar, CFR, member, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and member, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM)

His published works include:
- Eganmaganzhi Nupe (Nupe Proverbs) - Over 1000 proverbs with English translation and explanations, 2009
- The Rise of a Servant-Leader: Dr Mua’zu Babangida Aliyu, OON, 2009
- Enyalò (Nupe Arithmetic), 2012.

Books translated into Language by him are:
- Prof. Muhammad KutaYahaya’s play – Ignorance is a Disease into Nupe as (Rakpebo Batán Wun Yi ò) with Sadisu Mohammed, 2012
- BM Dzukogi’s Sex is Beautiful (Cin Sà) into Nupe