REVIVING the dwindling fortune of the Yoruba language was once again brought to the fore recently in Ibadan when a Canada-based Nigerian, Rotimi Osuntola, launched the audio version of the books of the late Daniel Olorunfemi Fagunwa.
At the event, which was held at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan, were language and cultural stakeholders, who emphasised the need for parents to pass the language on to their children.
In his opening remarks on the occasion, the initiator of the project, Rotimi Osuntola, said he was bothered by the fact that Yoruba sons and daughters find it hard to read Yoruba literary works.
“We have great Yoruba literary works that can enrich our lives as Yoruba people, but due to the fact that we don’t value our language, we are neglecting some of these works and the values they teach.
“That is why I took it upon myself to read the works of the late literary genius, D.O Fagunwa, for the benefit of those cannot read in the language. I did this work in partnership with Evans Publishers, which has the right to the print copies.
“The project wasn’t that easy, as some other people had even approached Evans with the same idea, but I was able to include different sounds in mine to depict the situation being read at a particular time. With this, I got the attention of Evans, and the result of that is the presentation we are having today,” Osuntola said, while commending the efforts of the late managing director of the publishing firm, Mr Wale Olayaawo, who he started the project with three years ago, but passed on last year.
While also speaking, the managing director of Evans, Alhaji Lukman Dauda, who was represented by Mr Femi Anifowose, commended the project by Mr Osuntola, admitting many people no longer have the time to read the books, but with this, they can enjoy books at their leisure time.
“Apart from not having the time, many can’t also read Yoruba fluently, so this is a great opportunity for all Yoruba sons and daughters to enjoy the works of the late D.O Fagunwa,” Alhaji Dauda said.
Also in his remarks, the Coordinator of the Centre for Yoruba Engineering, University of Ibadan, Professor Kola Owolabi, lamented the fact that Yoruba parents are no longer passing on the language to their coming generations.
“Parents now prefer to speak only in English to their children, and as a result, the Yoruba language is suffering; sooner than later, a language that is not being passed to the coming generation will die.
“However, stakeholders have come together to ensure that the language continues to thrive, because in it are cultural values that should be sustained.
“So what we are doing at the Centre for Yoruba Engineering is to find the Yoruba names for some English items like ipads, computers, chandeliers, pinging, chatting, among others.
“We want Yoruba children to be versatile in the language, so that they won’t be mixing it with English words, and that is what we are currently doing.
“We have also been able to produce cartoons in the Yoruba language, and this is interesting to our kids, but unfortunately, we are being supported by Igbos in producing the cartoons; I hope more wealthy Yoruba sons and daughters can also partner with us in this area,” Professor Owolabi said.
For Chief Dipo Gbenro, the policy of the Oyo State government which makes it compulsory for students of the Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo and The Polytechnic, Ibadan, to study the Yoruba language as part of their General Studies, is a step in the right direction.
“I hope the government can also apply this policy to all primary and secondary schools in the state, while other states in the South West can also embrace this policy.
“Our children need to understand the language from their early years, as it becomes difficult for them to pick it up when they are older,” Chief Gbenro said.
A professor of the Yoruba language from the United States of America, Professor Moses Mabayoje, charged Yoruba parents to project their language.
“When you tell your children to speak in English, you are not projecting the Yoruba language, but suppressing it at the expense of the English language.
“Our language is just so rich, particularly in the area of respect for elders, and we can’t just lose that because we want our children to speak in English.
“Studies have also shown that children who are fluent in their mother tongues can be fluent in other languages, so why are we relegating our language to the background? Our culture is the only thing that distinguishes us from people from other parts of the world, and no matter how fluent we are in English, we can never be English people, we can only be Yoruba,” Professor Mabayoje said.