Three prominent traditional rulers in Yorubaland yesterday backed the speaking of Yoruba language in schools in Lagos State as well as other Southwest states.
They spoke at a one-day summit of stakeholders at Agidingbi, Ikeja to deliberate on a bill to make the teaching and speaking of the language compulsory in primary, secondary schools as well as tertiary institutions in the state.
The bill is before the state House of Assembly, which organised the summit under the Committee on Education, chaired by Lanre Ogunyemi.
The Obas present at the event are: Ooni of Ife Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Alaafin of Oyo Lamidi Adeyemi and Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos.
Oba Adeyemi hailed the organisers of the programme and said traditional rulers in Yorubaland would support any move to promote the language.
According to him, the first person to do a research on the impact of languages to development was the late Prof. Babs Fafunwa, a former minister of education.
“The first African bishop, Ajayi Crowther, translated Hebrew and English Bibles into Yoruba language and about 11 other languages,” he said, emphasising that language is culture.
Ooni Ogunwusi urged Yoruba people to see themselves as leaders, stressing that God has blessed them abundantly.
The Oba lamented that the language was not being promoted as it should be due to in-fighting and disunity.
He added that this was causing a lot of setbacks for the race.
He wondered why the Yorubas neglected the Ifa oracle, which he called the angel of wisdom that understands everything.
“Ifa is the root of computers and telephones. The white men even named a computer ‘oracle’.
“Presently, we are doing Ifa anniversary in Ile-Ife and a lot of white men are there now,” he said.
Oba Akiolu advised that the programme should be replicated in the states in the Southwest.
He urged everyone to pray for the success of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola attended the event. Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun and Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode were represented.
Aregbesola added that anybody attending school in Yorubaland should be made to study and acquire a certificate in Yoruba language before they can graduate.
In his lecture at the event, notable Yoruba scholar, playwright and actor, Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola, said it was important for the people to promote the language since people are better recognised based on their language, culture and tradition.
Ishola, whose lecture was presented by Prof. Duro Adeleke of University of Ibadan, noted that Yoruba is one of the three languages recognised as the major languages in Nigeria, with the rest being Igbo and Hausa.
The eminent scholar, who spoke on the theme: “Making the teaching of Yoruba compulsory in public and private schools in Lagos State”, the scholar said India and Arabian countries that were colonised by the British did not neglect their local languages.
He said: “We should speak Yoruba in our institutions. Yoruba is one of the languages recommended to be taught in our schools to promote unity and it occupies a prominent position among languages in the world.
“If you lose your language, you would lose your culture. Language of a people has to do with their culture, language, dress, hairstyle and some other things.”
Ishola explained that Yoruba is rich in greetings and that they have greetings for all occasions.
He added that ‘Ifa’ was sent to the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) in 2004 and that it was recognised as being rich in culture in 2005.
He suggested that Yoruba language be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools and that it should be a general study in colleges of education, polytechnics and universities.
He added that books written in foreign languages should be interpreted in the local language.
Prof. Akinloye Ojo, who teaches Yoruba in one of the United States (U.S.) universities and Prof. Akanni Ige, who also lectures the language in Republic of Benin, urged the guests to make sure the language is upgraded and cherished.
Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker Mudasiru Obasa noted that the forum was organised by the House to restore the lost glory of Yoruba language.
He regretted that most of the public and private schools did not follow the National Policy on Education on language.
Ogunyemi said the forum was organised to emphasise the importance of teaching Yoruba language in primary and secondary schools.
Other dignitaries present at the event include Lagos State Deputy Governor Mrs. Idiat Adebule; the state governor’s wife, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode; the lawmakers of the Assembly; Senator Olorunimbe Mamora; Prof. Sophie Oluwole; Prof. Harrison Adeniyi; Abayomi Kinyomi and others.