Friday, 17 May 2013

Traditional Communication and Youth Development in Nigeria



      Communication from time immemorial has been a veritable tool for exchange of ideas, information, experience, thoughts or opinions, from one person to another. In fact, communication is intrinsic to the economic, social and technological changes that societies the world over pass through on their way to development.

      Having said that, the importance of communication cannot be overemphasized. The same amount of importance is attached to traditional communication in Nigeria, mostly in rural areas.

In rural areas, traditional communication subsumes the use of traditional means of communication to foster oneness, exchange ideas, resolve contentious issues and vexed problems, share information, etc.

      Also, the impact of tradition communication in youth development makes it quite indispensable. Through traditional methods of communication, youths have been able to discover and rediscover their cultural identity.

Apropos the above point, it also instills in the youth all the traditional values that are intrinsic to their growth and development including that of the society. 

Definition of Terms

There are some vital terms that need to be defined with a view to enhancing better understanding, thus:

§  Tradition: Tradition subsumes the beliefs, customs, established methods, practice, stories, events or occurrences that are handed down from one generation to another.

§  Communication: Communication is the process of sharing and exchanging information, thoughts, ideas, experiences, etc., with the aim of making it common knowledge.

In addition, communication can be seen as the act of receiving and sending information aimed at creating mutual understanding between the parties involved.

§  Youth: Youth is a generic term used to refer to a period of time of life sandwiched between childhood and adulthood. The term youth encompasses both sexes – male and female, of young age.

§  Development: This is the act of progressing. In the opinion of Nwabueze (2005) “the term development simply refers to as a change process that seeks to better the life and environment of man largely through his own effort and at his own pace” (p, 2).



Prior to colonialism and the emergence of modern systems of communication, there existed in Nigeria some means of communication. These means of communication were handled by people who are versed in the art. Little or no training is required in handling these traditional means of communication.

The people were familiar with the means of communication so employed. The result? Grasping the message was no conundrum because they are steeped in a people’s culture.

By extension, these among other methods were the means of traditional communication – town crier, wooden gong, metal gong, talking drums, blasts of local gun, palm frond, etc. These were used to reach every segment of the community where it is used.

However, with the advent of modern systems of communication such as radio, television, newspaper, magazine, etc., some of, if not all, these traditional means of communication began to erode and give way to technology. Today, these traditional means of communication as mentioned earlier are wallowing in the abyss of antiquity.


The traditional means of communication in Nigeria include:

Ø Town Criers: These are people who use instruments like wooden gong, bells, metal gong, to disseminate information to every stratum of a community. Before passing the message, the town criers play to the gallery, stand at strategic points and disseminate information.

Ukonu & Wogu (2006) state that “the town crier is the public relation officer of the particular  group he represents....his functions are defined and established by the specific sect…for whom he works, and this gives legitimacy and, therefore, credibility to his message”(p.13).

Ø The Wooden Gong: In some parts of Igboland, this is known as IKORO. It is used to communicate emergencies that need to be tackled. When struck or beaten, it signifies that there is danger in the offing. The result? Every member of the community is obliged to convene to discuss issues that will plague the community in a common square or place, (Showcampus, 2010).

Ø The Talking Drum: These drums are accompanied by several signals, dance and diversified beats. They are used to pass information to the subjects at the behest of the leaders or heads or elders and betters of the community. These drums when beaten – are seen as a call or summon for the people to assemble – sometimes for communal labour.

Ø The Metal Gong: As hallow metals, metal gongs are interspersed with another metal to produce mind-blowing yet convoluted beats. They are mostly used to make announcements to members of a community.

Ø The Blasts of Local Gun: The blasts of local guns portray varying meanings in different communities in Nigeria. It is shot in spurts, or rather sporadically.  In some communities, local gun blasts signify the death of a renowned community member; whereas in other communities local gun blasts herald celebrations of important festivals.

Ø Setting Fire on Bushes: As a means of tradition communication, this act brings to the fore situations of emergency. At the glimpse of this, community members try to ferret out the mystery.

Ø Palm Frond: This usually strewn on roads to indicate danger. It is also hanged on houses or land to show that a particular land or house is out of bounds. Again, it indicates a vehicle carrying corpse.


Traditional communication in itself has got a myriad of attributes which makes it distinctive. Below are few attributes of traditional communication:

§  The message is naturally believed with no modicum of doubt.

§  The audience is familiar with the source and the codes employed by the source.

§  It is not expensive because it requires little or no cost.

§  It integrates different  segments of society through cultural gatherings, festivals, etc

§  The communication is transactional in that feedback is immediate.



No quick answers are expected to questions of traditional communication being a boon to youth development. Of a truth, it is a boon to youth development when seen from the angle of traditional methods of education.

In traditional methods of education, diversified methods are adopted to not only bring about sustainable development in youths but also for the entire community. Thus, the following methods of education, as outlined by Gbenenee (2010), are employed in traditional communication to herald youth development:

§  Family Education

§  Peer Group Education

§  Festival Education

§  Cultural Education

§  Rites of Passage

Family Education: The family plays a vital role in the traditional society. Through the family (nuclear and extended) the values of the child is shaped. His attitudes and values are, to a large extent, determined by the family through good upbringing (Iremeka, 2012). It is within the family that moral values, beliefs, behavioural patterns and the like are acquired.

Gbenenee (2010) pontificates that

Children acquire skills, knowledge, attitudes and behavioural patterns upheld in the larger society. Family education incorporates moral instruction, social studies, agriculture, trades, arts, crafts…in other words, value beliefs, norms, etc which govern behavior in the larger society are equally deeply noted in families.(p, 156).

Peer Group Education: Learning is easily as well as readily acquired within the peer group. The reason that could be deduced for this is the suitable atmosphere of friendliness and willingness to learn and acquire new skills which permeate peer groups. Within the peer group, youths who are peers rely primarily on one another to acquire and exchange ideas, experience, skills, information, etc.

Gbenenee(2010) opines that “they set into forests learning geography by mastering tracts, practicing physical education while learning and putting moral education into  practice by sharing and caring”(p, 157).

To sum-up, through peer groups, youths imbibe the spirit of oneness and working wholly for their collective benefits as opposed to working for selfish gains.  

Festival Education: Festivals permeate traditional Nigerian communities. Through festivals like new yam festival, cultural heritage is being preserved. Lending credence to this assertion, Gbennenee (2010) postulates that festival “gives potency and vitality to the associated activities from one generation to the other and enhances social solidarity” (p, 157). Through festivals, youths learn to cohere with others, respect as well as preserve their cultural heritage.

Cultural Education: This is simply the transmission of culture through cultural meetings. In communities in Nigeria, myriads of meetings are held to resolve issues, in times of travails, sorrow, imminent danger, etc.

It is in these cultural meetings that youths learn the rudiments of their culture. It presents them the opportunity to not only exploit but also acquaint themselves to their culture.

Rites of Passage: There exist in many traditional societies in Nigeria rites of passage. These rites of passage initiates youths into different groups in society. Youths get to feel the presence of society in their lives through rites of passage. In agreement, Gbennenee (2010) asserts that “they through rituals individuals feel the presence of society in their lives. They learn from rituals, adjust their behaviours(sic) pattern, in order that they can participate and be part of society in this way the social order is maintained”(p,157).


Prior to the advent of modern systems of communication, traditional communication held sway in many, if not all, communities in Nigeria. But, today, modern systems of communication seem to obviate the need for traditional means of communication.

According to (2012) “the world has witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented explosion in communication technology and media. All boundaries have been transcended…” hence, traditional communication is no exception to these transcended boundaries.

That said, it is not that rural dwellers are indifferent to technologized means of communication – it is just that they feel a deep sense of alienation from modern communication systems. Hence, the desired level of message fidelity cannot be realized. Thus, youth development which is steeped in culture gets caught in a quicksand; since development hinges partly on information to thrive. In fact, with traditional communication wallowing in the abyss of obsolescence, youth development becomes a mirage.

Moreover, development in youth and a nation has message fidelity as a staple part of it. This is because “it is a strategic resource for vitally everybody…” (Aniogbolu, C., Grace, A., & Florence, O. 2010).

Making a case for the low level of message fidelity in rural areas, Tesunbi (2009), affirms that “a message falling outside of the magnetic field, far from the receiver’s perceptual field, not only fails to evoke the sender’s intended meaning, it may convey a meaning unintended by the sender” (p.150).

Summing-up, below are factor that militate against free access of information using channels of modern communication in rural areas:

Ø High rate of illiteracy

Ø Lack of awareness

Ø Absence of extension services

Ø The use of English for TV/radio programmes intended for rural dwellers.

Ø High cost of information materials

Ø Absence of information centers in rural areas

Ø Lack of good roads (poor road network inhibited wide circulation and  distribution of newspapers, magazines and other printed information materials).

All these aforementioned factors militated against free flow of information. This and other factors left the people feeling these modern communication systems so employed are not meant for them. Consequently, hampering youth development.


With all these maladies listed above, it is anticipated that traditional communication will erode and give way to modern communication systems. But then, traditional communication systems were vital and still are, especially in rural areas. Therefore, the need for recommendations comes in handy, especially nowadays where these traditional means of communication are becoming antiquated. They recommendations follow thus:

§  Participatory programmes that pertains to development – particularly youth development, should be made available for the audience, especially rural dwellers.

§   Establishment of an effective rural press (that will offer programmes in both  local languages and English)

§  With or without an effective rural press, the mainstream media should not forgo rural reporting.

§  Extension services should be readily available in rural areas.

§  Youths who are key initiators of development efforts should be part of the communication process that is aimed at gingering them to participate in development activities.


If these and other recommendations are not only considered but also expedited by  media practitioners, agencies and the government, youth development will increasingly grow.


§  Aniogbolu, C., Grace, A., & Florence, O. (2010). Information Needs of Rural Communities in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria.  Ekpo, S. & Madu, P. (Eds.) International Journal of Research in Education. 7(2) pp. 21-28.

§  Gbenenee, N.(2010). The Nigerian Educational System: Ancient and Contemporary. Ekpo, S. & Madu, P. (Eds.) International Journal of Research in Education. 1(1), pp. 155-161.

§  Iremeka, F. (2012). Re-orientation of Nigerian Values: Implications for National Development. In Ikwuemesi, C.(ed.) Astride Memory and Desire. Peoples, Cultures and Development in Nigeria. Enugu: ABIC Books.

§  Nwabueze, C. (2005). Mass Media and Community Mobilization for Development: An Analytic Approach. Okoro, N.(ed.) International Journal of Communication, 2.pp.

§  Showcampus (2010). Nigerian Traditional Means of Communication. Retrieved May 2, 2013 from

§  Tesunbi, S. (2009). Culture and International Advertising: Perspectives on the Standardization versus Specialization Debate.Mojaye, E. and Imoh, G. (Eds.) Journal of Communication and Media Research, 1(2), pp.147-157.

§  Ukonu, M. & Wogu, J. (2008). Communication Systems in Africa. Nsukka: University of Nigeria Press Ltd.