One problem with some Igbo people of Nigeria

October 10, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Louis Kreusel photo

 

By

John Chizoba Vincent

 

 

One evening, I was on a bus returning home from Lekki, and there was this man sat next to me. He was an Igbo man, something I knew from the way he spoke to the woman sat next to him and in the way he talked with someone on the phone. At first we were discussing about Nigerian politics and some problems of Nigeria and then we moved to some of the reasons why Lagos was too congested. He told me that since there are Ports in Calabar, Port Harcourt and Warri, he thought that the government would make those ports functional so that people can leave Lagos and do their businesses in other cities because the seaport is one of the reasons why many people are in Lagos. When I learnt that he was from my zone, Abia state, I switched from English to Igbo language to make our conversation more homely and enjoyable but he never replied to me in Igbo, rather he used English language in response. When I spoke Igbo to him again, he replied to me in English. I then got tired of him replying in English and ended the conversation.

 

“In many parts of the world, languages are in danger of going extinct. It might be tempting to believe that English has become the lingua franca of global business and the Internet, but when languages die, the loss has repercussions far beyond simply the loss of a lexicon. Individuals lose out on the ability to contribute to the marketplace of ideas, businesses stand to lose a customer base, and an important connection to culture is lost” – Missi Smith.

 

Igbo people need to learn the act of being proud of their roots and appreciate their culture just as the Yoruba and the Hausa. If you are ignorant and are not proud of where you come from, or the language, I think there is something wrong with you somewhere. I wonder why you would not be proud of where you come from. You didn’t choose your tribe yourself, God did. This also happens when you find yourself in Alaba International market or Idumota market in Lagos to buy things, once you speak Igbo to a fellow Igbo man, he won’t reply or answer you with Igbo because he may likely think that once he does, you will beat down the price of the commodity you intended buying. Or rather, that he would not sell the goods the way he planned to sell them. And these are full-fledged Igbo men who ought to be the ones to uphold this language and culture that is going into extinction.

 

In my village Nkporo, once it is Christmas season and you happen to be in the village, you will assume that English and Yoruba are the official languages there. Those Igbo children born in Ghana, Benin Republic and Lagos can’t speak Igbo language. Even the majority of children born in Lagos cannot speak Igbo language but can speak Yoruba and English fluently. It hurts me a great deal to see the parents of these young ones commending and appreciating them on how fluent they are in English and Yoruba language against their own language. Hence, we talk about unity amongst our people of the Eastern Coast. We talk about upholding our relationship with one another while those things that bring us together are no longer of value to our people.

 

The most bitter part of this is that our parents also take part in this. I have seen an Igbo father communicating with his son in Yoruba language while this so called boy cannot even say a word or speak Igbo but the father can; then why is he communicating in a strange language with his son?

 

However, there are many reasons why languages die. The reasons are often political, economic or cultural in nature. Speakers of a minority language may, for example, decide that it is better for their children’s future to teach them a language that is tied to economic success. But we shouldn’t allow ours to die.

 

I stopped going to my town meeting because of this. I won’t be in a meeting where we are supposed to use the Igbo language to deliberate on our issues and someone is communicating with us in a strange language. It is disgusting! Shame on us! Shame on those parents that prefer English to Igbo. Shame on you fathers that your children are all grown up but cannot speak Igbo! I know it means nothing to you, yes, some people have said that to me. But I think it is necessary we tackle this issue now before it gets out of hand. It is very annoying when you see your brother on the way and you speak Igbo to him and he behaves like you are speaking Chinese. And sometimes, he won’t even reply to you. Remember, this language is our freedom. It is the only thing that can unite us as one body. A language that can keep us safe from our foes, would you allow this language to go into extinction? Would you not pass it to the next generation? Won’t you keep this culture blossoming day in day out? We now have modern Igbo language, a fusion of 80% of English and 20% of the Igbo language together.

 

This is not common with the Yoruba and Hausa people let alone the other minor tribes in Nigeria. In Yoruba land, the first language most Yoruba children learn from their parents is the Yoruba language. It is same with their culture but this is not what we see among those parents living abroad. An Igbo mother in Lagos State prefers teaching her son how to speak English rather than the Igbo language. The other one, in the U.S., prefers teaching her daughter western culture to that of Igbo. It doesn’t matter where the children were born or raised. Asa, one of the finest artistes I have grown to know was born in Paris and although she relocated with her parents and grew up in her state, Ogun, she went back to France to kickstart her music career in the 2000s. Despite this, she is one of the best Yoruba singers. The likes of Brymo, Beautiful Nubia among others are doing great things lifting their culture home and abroad. Today, contemporary writers like Tomi Adeyemi, and the rest are writing adventurous stories with Yoruba myths serving as their materials. All over universities in the U.S. and UK, the Yoruba culture and Ifa mythology are being studied. I once watched a video, about eleven years ago, of some Cuban guys living in Cuba who practiced the Yoruba religion. It is that widespread because the Yoruba value their roots.

 

In Igbo land, we still prohibit our children from speaking Igbo in school, we say it is vernacular and these students graduate without learning how to speak or write the Igbo language. What will happen to this language in the next fifty years? Some Igbo children born and bred in Port Harcourt cannot even speak Igbo, and many more know anything about their roots. And those ones born and bred in Lagos have made Yoruba language their language. Over 40% of Agbero in Lagos State are Igbos who have served and nationalized themselves as Yoruba. Igbo people need to learn and be educated on how to preserve their language and culture from other tribes in Nigeria especially the Yoruba and Hausa People. I don’t know why the Igbo language is not made compulsory for all students in the Eastern zone. I don’t know why a mature boy that graduated from a college in Enugu, Onitsha, Aba, Eboyi and Owerri cannot write Igbo language. Why? Can someone please explain why?

 

 

 

 

John Chizoba Vincent

John Chizoba Vincent is a cinematographer, filmmaker, music video director, poet and a writer. A graduate of mass communication, he believes in life and the substances that life is made of. He has three books published to his credit which includes Hard Times, Good Mama, Letter from Home. For boys of tomorrow is his first offering to poetry. He lives in Lagos.

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