The Sociolinguistics of English in Nigeria and the ICE Project
The amalgamation in 1914 of the Northern and Southern Protectorates to form the Colony and Protectorates of Nigeria can be taken as marking the first step in the modernization process of Nigeria, for the aim of amalgamation was to render the territory more amenable to development--initially, to be sure, for the benefit of the colonizing power. But the process of exploitation inevitably benefited sections of the local populace as well, giving them more economic power, and exposing them to precisely those modern ideas that were to help them, after barely fifty years, to terminate the colonial status of the country.
It is possible to see modernization process as taking place simultaneously in two interlocking domains, namely the public and the private. The English language --and often the literacy skills of that language--plays a prominent role in both domains.
In the public domain, we can identify politics, administration, the judiciary, education, commerce, the media, and the arts. The role of English in Nigerian politics tends to be subsumed under the role of the language in other sub-domains--notably administration and the media. But true as it may be that politics does find expression in these two other areas, there are other aspects of the use of English in politics which deserve independent examination.
Before 1960 Nigerian politics had mainly been concerned with the struggle for independence. The advent of party politics from 1950 onwards had introduced a new dimension to the use of English in Nigeria. Of the three regions, the North alone had a lingua franca in the Hausa language. The West was almost linguistically homogeneous, with the majority of the citizens speaking Yoruba as a first or second language. But there were, in addition, important languages in the eastern part of the region. Similarly in the East, the majority of the citizens were Igbo- speaking, with other languages spoken in the southern and south-eastern parts of the Region. In the south, therefore, English was, from the beginning, the language of politics. But since, later on, all politicians had to compete for power at the centre