Last week, as we mused on this topic, we established that it behoves on us, Africans to carve for ourselves the best images for our continent, our corporate nationalities and unique individuals as global citizens. It is a project we must embrace patriotically. Today, we will round off the discussion by highlighting some commendable efforts of our people and palpable hiccups encountered as we strive to actualize this project.
Notable among these were two institutions in Anambra state — Anambra state House of Assembly and Management/Staff and Students of Bubendorff Memorial Grammar School, Adazi-Nnukwu. The former enacted a law demanding that Igbo Language (and costume) be made compulsory in Schools within the state; while the latter took the bold step in pioneering its implementation.
The 2009 law stipulating Igbo language and attire for Anambra State schools is, so far, the loudest demonstration of concern for indigenous tongues in Nigeria, which experts classify as being on the verge of extinction. My Dad was an avid news listener, and information freak, and his best non-human companion in his retirement home, even in this digital age, remained his analogue radio. I could recollect vividly, his disgust in 1995, at BBC AfricaNews programme, in the shortwave frequency, which predicted that by the year 2005 (i.e ten years thence), Nigeria would lose one of its native languages; and it will be Igbo.
Surprisingly, it was not out of place to make that unsavoury prediction, since as at the time of their prognostic forecast, the first sentence you read/hear as a first year student on the notice boards/class room blackboards respectively, in all secondary schools in South East was “Igbo-speaking is not allowed.” Some claiming to be experts in English linguistics paraphrase it thus: “Igbo-speaking is strictly prohibited,” in senior classes, you will read “vernacular speaking is a punishable offence.”
By this, Igbo scholars considered their tribal language as “vernacular.”Many ironically considered fluency in English language a measure of pristine intelligence.
In my community’s secondary school, which I attended, it was so rampart that it caught the attention of our then Igbo Language Teacher. He launched a counter crusade against such cultural conflict. But we had preferred according English undue prominence over our prized native lingo. It was so bad, most advocates for the sustenance of Igbo culture lost hope and agreed with that BBC projections on Igbo Language phasing off in less than a decade from 1995. .So you could see why some of us were elated to see a state assembly in the East enact law enabling Igbo Language and attire in schools across the zone. Upon resumption for the current academic session, Bubendorff Memorial Grammar School kitted her students in Isi Agu traditional wears and communicated gleefully in Igbo through out the week. The news threw all apostles of cultural reinvigoration into high heaven.
At least the campaign is permeating the ranks of our future generation.
This has never been the case up north or down west. A typical Hausa or Fulani man would rather die than communicate in English against his Hausa or Fulfude language while discussing with his local compatriot anywhere. Yorubas mirror similar cultural bias and strict preference for own language. Simply put, of the three major tribes, it is only the language (and by extension, culture) of Ndigbo that has for ages been under threat of extinction. It was so endemic it cut across all ages and social strata. Both the elites and the commoners are culprits and/or victims.
For instance, on the morning of May 25, 2020, on the street of Abuja, (Apo Legislative Quarters specifically) I came across an Honourable member of the House of Representatives from my neighbouring community. Though he didn’t know me personally, I was excited and went over to greet him in our dialect. And he replied all my greetings in classical Queen’s English. Hausas or Yorubas in his place wouldn’t act that way.
You can imagine when highly placed figure who ought be promoter of his people’s culture became apathetic. You
In a response to a debate on how to promote our indigenous languages, Okoli C.M wrote: “You see, if you look at the prospering nations, you will agree with me that most, if not all of them speak and teach with their mother tongue – China, Germany, Sweden, France, USA etc. How far do you think we can go without a language? I strongly believe we can teach sciences, and any other subject for that matter (including English nd French languages) with Igbo! But come to think of it, the white men pushed for the translation of the bible to different local languages to aid understanding and to be able to get more faithfuls. I challenge Moslems to get Koran in Hausa language. If it is ever done, we will have less religion-induced violence in the north, and with growth of the understanding of what is therein, there will be cordiality and harmony, among them. Most moslems blindly follow what they do not understand.They recite what they do not comprehend – a foreign language. Coming to the question of what sodium, for instance, will be in Igbo, let me tell you that so many words in the bible had no Igbo equivalence priorto translation. That is why there is a department called Linguistics in the University. New words can be generated.Words can be modified while others can be borrowed. For example: verse = ama okwu; snow = aku mmiri igwe; gold = ola edo, frankinsense = frankinsensi. Remember handset = ekwenti etc. If China did it, why cant we? Is achinese more intelligent than an igbo man or is our language inferior to theirs?”.
To those who argue that in order to enslave us, the English man translated the bible to Igbo but doesn’t translate science text books, may they know that Igbo Bible translation was product of inculturation and the ingenuity of early indigenous Fathers in-faith. Nobody has ever barred our indigenous Scientists from translating Physics, Chemistry and Biology into native tongues..Let us stop the blame game and look inwards and develop the local contents of our sociocultural milieu. Till today, Nigeria has no lingua franca. Even to perfect pidgin English became a failed venture. Our Policemen who speak it don’t use it in official statements. Our National Assembly members cannot hold plenaries in local language for lack of harmonized lingua franca. Is Mandarin which Chinese parliament use, sweeter or more eloquent than Igbo or Yoruba or Hausa, Itsekiri, Gbagyi, Jukun, Tiv, Idoma, or even pidgin?.
Catholic church in Africa for years now makes her priests’ liturgical vestments like the chasubles, from local Ankara fabric materials. But still you hear many Pentecostal pastors preach to a congregation of homogenous community, through an Interpreter translating Yoruba (for instance) into English. And you would wonder, for who in particular is the translation working?.
How many state legislatures emulated Anambra since 2009 to give legal backing to the campaign for the renaissance of the essential elements of our culture? None! And since 2009, which conscious effort has Anambra state executive and judiciary made to enforce and interpret this law into the consciousness of the people?.
By and large, the task of reawakening the authentic African sociocultural values rests on our palms..
May daylight spare us..
Ogechukwu writes via.
.08062494912. [email protected]