The diverse forms of traditional communication in Nigeria are cultural vehicles through which members of different groups communicate with one another. And these have been helpful in fostering unity, exchange ideas, resolve contentious issues and vexing problems and sharing information. Various forms of traditional communication have been identified in Nigeria including town criers, wooden and metal gongs, talking drums, blasts of local guns, age groups, the open market, setting fire on bushes and the palm frond. In addition, these diverse forms of traditional communication are classified as Aroko in Yoruba, an indigenous Yoruba semiotic device.

The town crier

  • Traditionally, in the early hours of the day, the voice of the town crier is often preceded by the sound of a gong. The town crier announces important meetings, ceremonies, messages and imminent troubles to the entire community. The town crier also serves as a traditional communication link between the legal head and the villagers. He is considered a community journalist, who bears and delivers the message of the community to all and sundry. The town crier is expected to possess some level of oratory skill and broad knowledge of the community norms, values and heritage. Among the Igbo in the Southeast of Nigeria, the town crier is known as Onye Ogene, he is known as Mai Shela among the Hausa and is usually selected by the Sarki or the village head. A major assignment of the Mai Shela is the announcement of the date and time for the new moon, indicating the commencement of the Ramadan festivities. Among the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria, the town crier is known as ghohun-gbohun and his duty include the announcement of the days of celebration for the Egungun and religious festivals. As of today, the town crier still plays a prominent role across diverse communities in Nigeria.

The talking drum

  • The talking drum is beaten or struck with well carved sticks to produce sound. In the Southeast, it is called Ekwe Ikoro and is used for both official and social functions. In its official function, the talking drum is used to summon meetings, make official announcements at ceremonies and for uniting the people during a war. On the social front, talking drums are used to cheer people up during festivities and ceremonies such as new Yam festivals, wedding and chieftaincy ceremonies. The talking drum is very prominent in Yoruba land, where it is called Gangan/Dundun. The origin of the talking drum has been traced to the old Oyo Empire in Southwest Nigeria. In Yoruba culture, the talking drum is used to communicate diverse messages. It is prominent in palaces across the southwest of Nigeria where it is deployed to communicate challenges ahead and methods to overcome such challenges. In the North, it is called kalangu drum and it is used during festivals, coronations and special occasions.

Age groups

  • Age groups are age-old institutions in most Nigerian towns comprising males of the same age brackets ranging between one to five years. The age group institution is very popular in the Southeast of Nigeria where it plays a prominent role in community development and social networking. These are called Ndi Otu Ogbo and are reputed for contributing to the development of communities. There are records of community projects embarked upon by different age groups such as providing pipe-borne water, cottage hospitals and road construction.

Ivory horns and long brass

  • They are found useful in communicating long messages and to herald important events. The long brass horn is common in northern Nigeria while ivory horns are predominant in the Southeast of Nigeria, where they are also used as a status symbol indicating royalty and class among titled men and women. The long brass is called Kaakaki (trumpet) in northern Nigeria while the short trumpet is called Algaita. The long brass is symbolic of royalty and it is played at events at the palace of the emir or any title holder, during festive periods like sallah or durbar.

Smoke signals

  • A smoke signal is a form of visual communication used in Nigeria for long-distance communication. It is identified as one of the earliest means of communication patterns between distant communities and it is still used to communicate information based on agreed codes, for example to signal danger or to gather people to a common area.

The Open Market

  • The open market is one of the cornerstones of the Nigerian society. There is hardly any village/town that does not have a market in Nigeria. While the market is a space for economic activities, it has been identified as an avenue for communication activities. According to the study on Traditional Media Of Communication As Tools For Effective Rural Development published by it serves as a “natural infrastructure for multi-directional dissemination of news, opinions and rumours and is important for agitation.” It is also an avenue for the propagation of the faith and for politicians to solicit votes of the common people.

Palm frond

  • Palm fronds have diverse use among different ethnic groupings in Nigeria. In Yoruba traditional communication, the palm frond is considered an Aroko. It is symbolically used to communicate restriction, embargo or inhibition in Yoruba traditional communication. When one sees palm fronds tied to a pole or struck to the ground in a land that is being cultivated or built on, it is a symbol that there is conflict over the land. In Igbo land, it is called Omu, a sacred motif. It is placed on coffins to indicate that someone has died and it is also a common sight in many shrines and sacred places.

Colour schemes

  • Colour schemes are used to convey different meanings for diverse purposes. Some of the colours that have been found useful for communication include red, white, black, green, yellow, brown and turquoise. Red signifies danger; black is evil and white is love.