By Abdulwasiu Hassan
A different language is a different vision of life. So said the Italian master of the language of cinema, Federico Fellini.
This is what Adedeji Odulesi is promoting. He is a Nigerian polyglot and social media star whose love of the spoken word matches his felicity for languages – be it the intricate intonations of Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Pidgin English or the nuanced sweep of Spanish, French and German.
In a country of two hundred million-odd people who speak over 500 languages, you would expect communication to be as varied and colourful as Nigeria's cultural kaleidoscope.
Adedeji brings all this and more to his Facebook page, which at last count, had 86k followers.
A native of Ogun State in the South West, Adedeji calls himself "a trending polyglot who celebrates other polyglots", besides being a sought-after MC.
He uses interviews with his subjects – ranging from a soldier who can speak seven languages and several dialects to a woman from the Nupe ethnic group fluent in five Nigerian tongues – to promote better understanding among the different ethnic groups that comprise the country.
Language as glue
Most of Adedeji's episodes are shot in an informal atmosphere, allowing the interviewee to switch between languages as he reels off questions in multiple tongues to give his viewers an insight into the art of the polyglot.
"I discovered soon after starting out that most of my guests have one thing in common: they are what one would call 'tribe blind'. They see all people as their brothers and sisters," he tells TRT Afrika.
Among his highly engaging interviews is with Ibrahim Isau, a Nigerian soldier. The interview received 7.3k likes, 1.7k comments and 1,73,000-odd views.
An episode involving another polyglot, Rabiu Safiyanu Liman, now has over half a million views.
So, how did Adedeji develop a passion for languages that later translated into a career?
"While growing up, I didn't like identifying as Ijebu. The most painful of my experiences was when a lady quickly walked away from me on learning I was Ijebu," he writes on his Facebook page.
"Then came 2019; I was of age, transformed and full of life. I anchored the Deeper Life Valedictory Service and Prize Giving Day. I boldly told the world that I was Ijebu...The video went viral, and I became sought after as an MC."
As a polyglot, Adedeji said his innate appreciation of people who can speak several languages prompted him to start interviewing them.
"Thus, my mission altered from just showcasing people with talent in languages to including a push for peaceful coexistence and tolerance," he tells TRT Afrika.
The underlying message in all his shows is that learning languages makes people more tolerant, especially towards diversity.
"While learning a language, one also learns a new culture associated with it and thus tends to become accommodating," he says.
In Nigeria, Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are the three most widely spoken native languages, complemented by English as a link language.
Adedeji believes his best interviews feature people proud of their ethnicity yet proficient in other native languages and dialects.
"Bolanle Wasiu is one of them. She hails from Ibadan, with conspicuous tribal marks. She is fluent in Yoruba and Igbo," he tells TRT Afrika. "Then there is Safiyanu Liman, a Hausa man from Kano who was born in Ekiti and speaks Hausa, Yoruba, Ekiti and English fluently. He is another awesome personality."
Of all the polyglots he has met and featured on his FB page, he finds Ibrahim Isau from Kogi State "the most amazing". Isau speaks Hausa, Igbo, Ibibio, Yoruba, Isoko, Igbira, Pidgin English, and many local dialects.
Creating a chain
Many of Adedeji's followers tell him that his videos have motivated them to be more serious about learning other languages.
"I was surprised when a Hausa man wrote to me that inspired by my interviews, he and some others created a group on Facebook to learn Yoruba," he recounts.
"They have teachers volunteering in the group. When I last heard from them, the group had about 1,000 members drawn from different ethnicities and united in their quest to learn Yoruba."
As Adedeji often exclaims at the end of each episode, "One Nigeria!"