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Why Vernacular Newspapers fail in Nigeria



Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai












By Rotimi Ijikanmi

Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, the Chairman Leadership Group says indigenous language newspapers do not do well in Nigeria because of limited circulation and the lack of advertisements to sustain them.

Nda-Isaiah whose company publishes Hausa language newspaper, “Leadership Hausa’’ stated this on Monday in Kaduna at a Two-Day Annual Round Table on Cultural Orientation.

The event jointly organised by the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture has the theme “the Indigenous Language Newspapers and National Development’’.

The Minister of Information and Culture declared the event open.

The publisher said that indigenous language newspapers have had very low shelf life because the publishers, in most cases, established them for the sole purposes of educating and informing the people and in many cases to advance their political aspirations.

He stressed that indigenous newspaper, like any other ones, must be run as a business if they must be sustained.

Nda-Isaiah said though there were still no daily vernacular newspapers, but the sway of the publication should not be underestimated.

According to him, vernacular newspapers “are the most consequential publications among the masses and they are strategic to national development’’.

He therefore called on the nation’s policy makers not to fail to understand the influence and power of indigenous newspapers as a force for good and to counter mischief and manipulation.

“Foreign policymakers surely understand this better than we do and that is why for instance, we have the BBC Hausa Service, VOA Hausa Service and similar radio services by the French, Germans and the Chinese.

“Of course, we are aware of Arewa24 TV recently launched by the Americans for counter-terrorism,’’ he said.

Tracing the history of indigenous newspapers in Nigeria, Nda-Isaiah said the first ever to be established was a Yoruba language newspaper called “Iwe Iroyin fun Awon Ara Egba ati Yoruba’’ (Newspaper for the Egba and Yoruba).

He said the newspaper was first published in 1859 by Reverend Henry Townsend, an Aglican Missionary in Abeokuta.

“Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo’’, the most famous Hausa language paper was established in 1939 and was taken over by the New Nigerian Newspaper when the latter was established in 1966.

He noted that a significant development in history was the establishment of three indigenous newspapers by the Late Chief MKO Abiola on the same day.

Nda-Isaiah said the three newspapers – “Amana’’ in Hausa, “Isokan’’ in Yoruba and “Udoka’’ in Igbo did not survive the death of the publisher in 1998.

The publisher advocated the codification of Pidgin English and publication of indigenous newspaper in it.

He said pidgin English commonly call “Broken’’ has approximately 30 million native speakers in Nigeria and 100 million speakers in West Africa.

“We must take advantage of this God-given language, codify it and deploy it immediately as a medium for the unification of our people,’’ he said.

The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el’Rufai who was represented at the event by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Muyiwa Adeleye said literacy must not function only on the understanding of English Language.

He underscored the imperative of protecting and preserving indigenous languages which he said are concrete manifestation of the nation’s diversity.

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