Providing an answer to a question in a nationwide television
programme, Obafaiye Shem, a senior official at the Nigeria Security
and Civil Defence Corps, inadvertently chipped in a phrase, "My oga at
The phrase has since caught up with most Nigerians, educated and
illiterates, who apply it to suit different connotations in their
everyday interpersonal communications in Pidgin English.
Pidgin is commonly used as lingua franca among educated and
illiterate Nigerians, given the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nature
of the society.
This is further re-enforced by the nation’s high illiteracy levels
that varies from one section of the country to another, and even within
each section of the society.
Language experts say that the Nigerian Pidgin had, for a long time,
been viewed as an effective medium of unhindered self-expression in
Amos Tutuola, a famous Nigerian literary giant, did most of his works including "The Palm- Wine Drinkard (1952)", in Pidgin.
Many later writers have had to do works in Pidgin, thus depicting the
popularity and wide usage of the language as a medium of communication.
Aig-Imouekhuede’s poem, "Stew and Sufferhead’’; and Ken Saro Wiwa’s collection of songs, "Dis Nigeria Self’’, for instance are written in Pidgin.
Not only this, Mamman Vatsa’s "Tori For Geti Bow Leg’’, Ezenwa Ohaeto’s "I wan Bi President’’ and "If To Say I be Soja’’, are also expressed in Pidgin to communicate to a wider audience.
Edwin Oribhabor’s "Abuja na hevun, na
kpangba an oda puem dem’’ was published in 2010.
Today, one of the most popular FM radio stations in the FCT, Wazobia FM, runs all its programmes in Pidgin.
In spite of its popularity and usage, some scholars are skeptical
about the use of Pidgin, especially in official engagements, insisting
that it does not deserve much recognition.
They hinge their argument on the fact that Pidgin could adulterate individual’s capacities in written and spoken English.
But linguists observe that Pidgin could come to play when there is
need for better understanding in discussions involving a wider society
where the choice of English Language as a medium may hinder audience
Dr Kelechukwu Ihemere, a senior lecturer in the Department of
English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, University of Westminster,
UK, notes that more than five million Nigerians speak Pidgin.
In his book entitled: "An integrated approach to language attitudes:
the case of the Ikwerre of Port Harcourt City, Nigeria’’, he says that
Pidgin is a second language for another 75 million Nigerians.
According to Ihemere, Nigerian Pidgin is derived partly from the Edo-Delta area of the country, but varies among the speakers.
He posits that dialects of Pidgin exist, including that of Warri,
Sapele, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Lagos especially in Ajegunle, and Onitsha,
noting that Pidgin has gained more popularity for dealings in the
nation’s socio-economic activities.
The views of language experts notwithstanding, some observers have
different opinion on whether or not Pidgin should be encouraged as a
tool for effective communication.
Maimuna Bashorun, 62, a trader argues: "I no no why we dey force ourselves
dey learn anoda person language wey hard to speak’’.
But "Asonwata Idahosa, a journalist, thinks that "Pidgin does not
give the impression that we went to school; the problem with it is that
it is boundless, admitting new vocabularies every day.
"The kind of vocabularies it entertains makes it difficult to study.
I am not comfortable when I listen to people speak in pidgin,
especially on radio programmes.’’
Margret John, a teacher, supports Idahosa, saying: "I hate to
listen to Pidgin English because I feel it is a language of the
"It is common now to listen to some conversations even in government quarters such as "na now you dey resume work’’; my oga at the top never come? It is not tidy’’.
But Mr Femi Yusuf, a trader, thinks differently, saying: "I prefer
to interact in Pidgin because it gives me a chance to express myself
Olakunle Soriyan, also a trader, says the ability to speak and write good English may not be a proof of one’s intelligence.
Patricia Okoye, a parent, argues that: "Many students in our
schools lack sound education because some of the teachers unconsciously
teach the students in Pidgin.
"In Nigerian schools where the English Language is a compulsory
subject, one will not be surprised that regular failure of this subject
is due to this development.’’
Although the study of English Language is compulsory in Nigerian
secondary schools, and form part of requirements for admission for
degree courses, some youths say that frequent use of Pidgin is affecting
the performance of many students negatively.
They say that many students are no longer interested in speaking and writing in good English Language.
Ibrahim Kadiri, a student, says he lacks the ability to speak good English because of his exposure to Pidgin at an early age.
But Chimezie Okafor, a student, has a different opinion, insisting
that "Pidgin can be used in teaching students to enhance
For Omobola Williams, a student, "Nigerian Pidgin serves as a bridge
between the mother tongue and English Language because it is a vital
tool for wider reach and interaction, public announcements and
Prof. Robert Trask, a linguist at the University of Sussex, asserts: "It is nobody’s mother tongue...; it has no elaborate grammar; it is
very limited in what it can convey, and different people speak it
All the same, language experts define Pidgin as a simplified form of speech formed out of one or more existing languages, and used by people who have no other language in common.