A senator has defended President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial use of Hausa language in his Sallah message to Nigerians Saturday.
Shehu Sani, a senator from Kaduna State, joined Kola Tubosun, a language teacher, and other commentators to play up the bright side of the ailing president’s action, which has been widely criticised.
“There’s nothing wrong with the President sending Sallah message in Hausa language,” Mr. Sani said in a Facebook post.
Mr. Sani, a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, said Mr. Buhari was not speaking in his capacity as Nigerian president but as a private citizen, since the country already has an acting leader in place.
“He is on medical vacation. He has transferred power to the Acting President. It’s the Acting President that is bound to act ‘officially’ on state matters, including speaking in ‘our official language, English,” he said.
But the senator admitted that the controversy sparked by Mr. Buhari’s use of Hausa was “avoidable” in the light of recent tensions in the country.
Mr. Tubosun looked at the controversy from a more scientific perspective.
In a few posts Sunday, Mr. Tubosun said spoken language does not necessarily engender improved economic performance or national unity.
“We are a multilingual society, yes. But all the arguments are never in favour of multilingualism, but of monolingualism: English.
“If speaking English could foster national unity, the first Biafra would never have happened since Ojukwu and Gowon spoke British English.
“And if support for mother tongue were the problem, Wales (not Scotland) would have been the one calling for secession from Great Britain,” Mr. Tubosun said.
“We have plenty problems, but we’ve been approaching the language one wrong. And maybe that’s part of our biggest issues,” he added. “Let our presidents speak their language at as many public opportunities they can, especially when abroad. Provide more jobs for translators.”
In a 2016, he decried the widespread use of English by Nigerians while local dialects gradually go into extinction.
Some Nigerians had said Mr. Buhari’s decision to address the nation Hausa, a language not understood by millions of his citizens, was divisive and capable of blighting ongoing efforts at lowering ethnic tension in the country.
In the recorded message, which was the first since he departed for medical treatment May 7, the ailing president thanked Nigerians for wishing him quick recovery and preached peace across the land.
“Mr. President’s Eid-el-Fitr statement in Hausa was totally wrong because Nigeria is a clime of hundreds of tongues where English is the official language,” said activist and university lecturer, John Danfulani. “Whosoever advised him to use Hausa has done a great disservice to him”.