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At the root of the dilemmas of national integration in Nigeria is the country’s search for a lingua franca. No doubt, in a plural and deeply divided society like Nigeria, a national language is seen as unifying symbol..in the absence of common, nationwide ethnic and cultural identity, new nations proceed to plan and create such an identity through symbol that can lead to mobilization and involvement above,beyond and at the expense of pre-existing ethnic/ cultural peculiarities … it is at this point that a national language is frequently involved … as unifying symbol [1].

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The above quotation epitomizes the central argument of this study, the thrust of which is to explore the imperatives ofnational language policy or lingua franca as an integrative mechanism in a plural and deeply divided society like Nigeria [1].

This becomes necessary in the sense that language is widely recognized to be an important theme of symbolic policy-making, and a potential instrument of National integration or mobilization, in multi-ethnic societies .Although Nigeria does not appear to have any definite,distinctive or comprehensive national language policy, the issue of a national language has featured prominently in the country’s academic, constitutional and political debates Echoing the significance of national language(s) for Nigeria, Fafunwa (1986 see also [5]), affirms that “all national questions directly or indirectly relate to the question of language particularly in a bilingual or multi-lingua country like Nigeria It is important to observe that a national language has been successfully adopted as a unifying factor in a number of African countries like Tanzania and Somalia, whose lingua franca are Swahili and Amharic respectively. But unlike Tanzania and Somalia, the choice of a lingua franca in Nigeria is problematic.

The primary reason for this is not unconnected with the avalanche of languages and dialects which scholars have put at different figures [6, 7]. Probably; the most authoritative survey is that of Hanford, which identify as 394 indigenous languages spoken within the territorial boundaries of the country [8].

But a number of scholars suggest that the actual number may well be higher considering the fact that a closer investigation of the Ijo language in Rivers State has been found to be 17 different languages, rather than a single dialect [9].

Even so, some people have come up with ludicrous figures ranging between 400 and 600 languages. What is clear, however, is that Nigeria is extremely linguistically fragmented. The numerous languages spoken in Nigeria have been variously classified into groups too.

For example, Adekunle (2000:23-29), classifies them into four groups on the basis of  their speakers’ population and importance [10]. Agheyisi (1982:41-52), on the other hand, classifies them into two using the same criteria [11]. The disagreement between them stems from the fact that those languages in classes ‘A’ and Agheyisi’s with the exception of Edo, which tops the list of minor languages, regards ‘B’ of Adekunle’s classification as major languages. The second groups of languages are the minor languages.

These are spoken by 100,000 speakers or more. There are about 25 languages in this category. By implication, this problem of multi-lingualism carries with it the commentary myths that have developed around the concept of language and the nation.

The first is that multi-lingualism is a barrier to national integration. To break this myth in India, according to one estimate, out of 1,652 languages or dialects that are spoken in India eighteen of them are recognized as ‘languages of India’ but this kind of selection has never been both easy and easily done in Nigeria.

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The second is that national integration necessarily involves the emergence of a nation-state with one common language [13]. The myth that multi-lingualism impedes  national integration is a widespread one, and it is expressed in such views as the following: differences between indigenous languages keep people apart, perpetuate ethnic institutes, weaken national loyalties and increase the danger of separatist sentiment .With the above overview of the national language imperative

and the accompanying dilemma vis-à-vis national integration

in Nigeria





 Shift of over idealization of English from primary to university- bilingual medium

 The status of the indigenous language should be reviewed and student should be reviewed and students should pass one indigenous language as a requirement for admission.

 This will encourage authors and scholars to publish materials in these languages.

 At the tertiary level of education GNS COURSES should be made compulsory in the indigenous language where students will be made to study Nigerian Languages such that they should be proficient in their own language this will boost their efficiency in their own language. This will help in perpetuating their culture.



 Better teaching learning in indigenous language Ife project, Akinbote, Amao, river reader project.

AFRREV LALIGENS, Vol.3 (1), February, 2014 Copyright © IAARR 2014: www.afrrevjo.net/laligens 178 Indexed: African Researches Review Online: www.arronet.info


 More active involvement of student in teaching learning project.

 Promoting the culture of the language.



 Absence of teachers who are proficient in the language and can use it to teach.

 Negative Attitude of parents towards educating their wards in indigenous language (Emersion).

 Many languages are not committed to writing.

 The failure of Nigeria Languages Centre.

 Over idealization of English language in all facets of our national life.

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Ifiokobong Ibanga

Ifiokobong Ibanga is the founder of InfoGuideNIgeria.com. You can get in touch with him on Instagram @ifiokobong. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly send a message. Much Love!

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