Importance of Oral Tradition in Nigeria’s History

Oral traditions are one of the earliest works from Nigeria put into writing. It involves a form of human communication in which knowledge, art ideas and cultural materials are acquired, conserved, and conveyed orally from one generation to another. In Nigeria, oral tradition has played a very important role in preserving and transmitting historical information and its various functions. This historical information is usually transmitted through speech, songs, folktales, prose, chants,Importance of Oral Tradition in Nigeria's History and ballads. In this article, the importance of oral tradition in Nigeria’s history will be discussed.


The importance of oral tradition in Nigeria’s history will be discussed below:

  • Oral Tradition was used to Transmit Historical Events

Before the inception of the written word, historical events were transmitted from one generation to another through the use of storytelling. People used narratives to preserve their historical heritage. In every society, there is a historical and cultural heritage that people hold on to. It is through the oral tradition of storytelling that these are transmitted. This shared way of knowledge not only talks about life’s events but also preserves the history of people and societies from one generation to another.

In those days, in the era where there was no civil education, storytelling was used as a medium to educate people, preserve oral history and disseminate cultural standards in Nigerian societies. Storytelling was used as an oral discourse since writing was unknown to most people at that time. Oral tradition played a vital role in making sure historical events are preserved and transmitted from generation to generation.

  • Oral Tradition was used as a Medium of Education

In the olden days, storytelling which is a form of oral tradition was a communal participatory experience or a way for parents to educate their children. Most evenings, farmers who had worked all day on the farms would relax and start telling their children stories. These stories in one way or another had moral lessons. Parents used this medium to teach respect, moral values, norms, societal values, and also the history and culture of the people. Children are taught various places, names, sites of importance, and their functions as well as a list of past rulers.

  • Oral Tradition was used to Preserve the Identity of the People

Oral tradition served as a medium through which the identity of people was preserved. Children were meant to understand certain information about their culture and origin through storytelling. In both formal and informal settings, oral tradition was used to pass down certain cultural standards thereby preserving the true identity of the people, handing it to different generations.

  • Oral Tradition was used to Promote Listening Skills

In the pre-literate Nigerian societies, oral tradition in the form of storytelling was used to promote listening skills among young Nigerians. Young children were told stories in the form of oral inscriptions by their parents, grandparents, and other elder members of their families. This way, young children were able to learn how to obey instructions from their elders by practicing listening skills and learning about their heritage. For the older listeners, stories were used to illustrate the wisdom, knowledge, and power of elders. These particular sets of stories were sometimes incorporated into proverbs, which are brief, outstanding sayings that communicate a belief or piece of advice.

  • Oral Tradition Influenced The Communal Lifestyle of Living

In those days in Nigerian communities, especially in the rural communities, after the day’s work, people would gather around the village square every evening. They would gather to listen to music, watch dances and also watch special narratives that took on various characters. This particular oral tradition Is in form of folktale, which has a distinguishing feature and includes a combination of music, drama, voice and dancing. This plays a vital role in the community life of Nigerians and also reflects on their communal lifestyle of living.

These folktales stories told in the village square kept the history of Nigerian people alive, and people learned considerably from these stories. The values of the society were characterized by folktales.

  • Oral tradition makes unwritten or undocumented history available to people. Oral tradition ensured that was not filed or recorded attainable any time any day.

  • Easy to Understand

In the pre-literate era of Nigeria, oral traditions were easily understood by everyone. It is convenient for both the educated and the uneducated as it only required listening. In as much as it is in a language that is understood by everyone, oral tradition was convenient in passing information.

  • Oral Tradition Helps in The Reconstruction of History

Oral tradition provides evidence from written sources. Many historical sources were based on oral tradition. It requires several sources in order to tell a story. Oral tradition bridged this gap as it provided this evidence.

  • Oral Tradition is Easily Accessible

Information about cultural beliefs, as well as other historical artifacts, are made accessible by oral tradition. In almost every region, narrators were available. Anyone seeking to obtain information could easily reach the people directly involved to get first-hand information. Whosoever looking for historical or genealogical information could easily access the information as long as the information is available.

  • Oral Tradition Cost Less

Of all the significance and advantages of oral tradition, the one that states that it cost less and apparently the cheapest means of transmitting information is the ideal advantage. Elder people were always willing to provide information free of charge. This makes this source cheap. Grandparents were not paid to tell stories to their offspring.

  • Oral Tradition Provides First Hand Information

The information provided by oral tradition was provided by people who were present at the time the occurrence happened. Many people who told stories through different forms of oral tradition such as storytelling and folktales, were usually the primary sources. In order words, whatever information obtained was gotten firsthand.

Oral tradition tries to bridge the gap left by other sources of history. It is oral tradition that fills the gap that might have been left by other information sources.

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