The Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Sidi Bage Muhammad I, on Saturday called for the official recognition of Pidgin English as a language in the country and for unifying Nigerians through its spoken words.
Muhammad, a retired Supreme Court Justice made the call at the 35th Annual National Conference of English Scholars’ Association of Nigeria in collaboration with Department of Languages National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja.
He said it was time to appreciate Pidgin English especially as it had enabled Nigerians communicate in time of difficulty as presently witnessed in the country.
He said: “Pigeon English has done very well because it has become a medium of communication in this country.
“This has helped a lot of Nigerian who do not have a great command of English language opportunity to communicate with people at our level, and it has kept this country together.
“I did say when we were having conference at the Court of Appeal to decide on some pertinent question that there is the need for pigeon English to be given some recognition in this country.”
According to Muhammad, even the Court of Appeal recognizes that Pidgin English can stand the place of English and as such its statements can be admissible in evidence.
He said: “There was this argument in the past whether a statement made in Pidgin English can be admissible in law; it was subjected to a lot of interpretations and it started from the level of the High Court and met us at the Court of Appeal.
“The decision of the High Court is that Pidgin English is not English and as such that statement cannot on its own stand the test of a statement; it has either to be interpreted in English which was what the court said it must be subjected to but that it will require some degree of corroboration.
“It came to us at the Court of Appeal and we sat at the panel to decide. Our decision at the court of Appeal was that Pidgin English is English, and we said that what is important is that it has communicated exactly what the owner of the statement intended to convey.
“Again, we said that the audience it was intended for fully understood it, so Pidgin English can stand the place of English and such statement can be admissible in evidence.
“We thought that the parties affected will appeal to the Supreme Court since it was of a national importance so that it can become a law and not be subjected to another form of interpretation next time, but they didn’t go to Supreme Court.”
Prof. Amina Bashir, who delivered the keynote speech with the theme “Language, Literature, National Integration and Sustainable Development”, said that the development of any ideal nation depends on the people and their inclination to develop themselves and their nations.
This, she said can be achieved through the medium of language which is not only an end but a means of attaining national integration and sustainable development.
“Language serves a mediating function; literature embodies a whole body of imagination, development, societal integration, history and common artifacts. All these identify individual as belonging to a particular groups sharing wide range of cultural identities.
“Literature therefore, mirrors the language, culture, national integration of the people, objective representation of creative writers and the objective reality of life.
“Nigerian literature as seen by Chidi Amuta (2005) is a super manifestation of process, the process of creation of ideas and values within the limits prescribed by the social essence of language.
“Language and literature in the face of sustainability and development are mutually inclusive. Literature is the total reflection of our imagination through linguistic mediated process,” she said.