In the three old Regions that made up Nigeria, there were the three major ethnic groups and the minorities. In the Old Western Region, you had the Yorubas as the major ethnic group and their minorities in the present-day Edo and Delta States. In the Eastern Region, the Igbos were the major ethnic group and the minorities are the present-day Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, etc., states. In the Northern Region, the Hausas were the major ethnic group and the minorities are in the present-day Middle-Belt Zone.
In the Western and Eastern Regions, the Yorubas and Igbos did not force their languages on the minorities in their respective regions, but in the North, the Hausas forced their language and culture on their minorities. Most youths in the Middle-Belt do not know how to speak their native tongues but Hausa. Linguistics are raising the alarm now that given the next 10-15 years, most languages in the Middle-Belt will become extinct. Why, because there are no young speakers but the aged. Go to Cross River State, you will never hear the Efik communicating to each other in Igbo language or in Edo State, the Eshan or Edo speaking to each other in Yoruba language. But here in Plateau, the Tarok or Angas or Berom family speaks to each other in Hausa language, even amongst the older folks. Middle-Belters, think:
In the present Ondo State, the Ijaws can be found. They are about 1% of the population of Ondo State, yet they have programmes in Ijaw language on the Radio & TV Programmes of the State. But here in Plateau, there are news and magazines in languages from the local government areas. There is no single Plateau Language programme on PRTV, not even the News Broadcast; yet, there are Hausa language programmes and, worst of all, there is the 30 minutes Hausa news broadcast everyday of the year. Is Plateau a Hausa State? Is the Hausa language richer and better than our own Plateau languages? Is this not internal colonization of Plateau and the Middle-Belt at large? Middle-Belt, think. In Great Britain, the Welsh (Wales), the Irish (N. Ireland), and the Scots (Scotland) have maintained their cultural identity over the centuries by not allowing their languages be swallowed up by the English. But here on the Plateau we delight in speaking Hausa and even taunt Southerners that don’t speak Hausa. We ask them – why don’t you speak Hausa all these years you have been living in Plateau State? How come they never asked why one does not speak Berom or Angas or Afizere or any other Plateau languages? Simpley because the Hausas have colonized the Plateau People.
The yoke of bondage and slavery must be shaken off by the Middle-Belt, and it must begin with a deliberate plan to go back to our mother-tongues and put asunder the Hausa language, which is a language of domination.
The government must come in immediately by introducing news slots on PRTVC in the following Plateau languages: Berom, Tarok, and Angas, even if it is just for 15 minutes each.
Plateau, think. Don’t kill your languages. It is God-given. No language is better or superior than the other, all are equal before God.
Joseph Sangosanya, Executive Director, CFSJE, Jos
Culled from Our VISION magazine, Vol. 3 No. 12, March/April 2002