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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dying Nigerian languages


*How the cookey is crumbling
*Many 10yr olds can't speak their mother tongue, especially Igbo

He is tall and handsome.  His flawless diction and baritone voice easily gives him away as a broadcaster. His elocution shows mastery of the spoken word. He is indeed   the delight of many a radio listener who take a cue from him in pronunciation and, perhaps choice of words. At twenty-seven he has a regret, now gradually turning into an embarrassment. 
He can hardly speak ten correct words of his mother tongue. For obvious reasons his identity will be kept out of print.   His is the extreme case of a burgeoning league of young Nigerians whose mother tongue has become a nightmare.

In a term paper by a student of Nigerian Languages, the student found that of one hundred and twenty under ten kids she sampled outside their geographical area, only eight could speak their mother tongue with varied degrees of fluency.
'I found that these kids who are growing up outside their home states have little or no grasp of their mother tongue. Some do but they can hardly speak well' said Nkeiru Iwgilo   who confessed that her research was an eye opener.
' I was amazed at what I saw. Some ten year olds do not even understand their mother tongue let alone speak it. Some of them felt bad about it, some saw nothing wrong with it" she said  
They are increasing the chances of a natural demise for their language, a latent danger looming over some Nigerian languages.
There are two sides of the divide. Some people hold that languages pass away naturally, others say speakers make or mar their language; the younger members of the language community no longer actively speak many languages. They may still be able to understand the language, but they prefer to speak English, Hausa or some other language of wider communication among themselves and to their children.

 The consequence is that these languages will become extinct in the next generation. In fact there are some Nigerian languages that are nearly extinct (e.g. Holma, a Chadic language spoken in Adamawa State) or have already ceased to exist (e.g. Auyokawa and Tecn, two Chadic languages formerly spoken in Jigawa State). Those languages may be the immediate casualties of the unstoppable invasion, as it were, of the Hausa Language as the dominant Lingua franca in the North. The dominant Language is gradually consuming some languages in the Northern parts.
 In 2006 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation aided a study by Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRS] that sought to unearth dying Languages in Nigeria and the Cameroons.  Dr David Zeitlyn from the Anthropology Department, University of Kent, directed the project and it brought the Canadian linguist Bruce Connell to Kent. Dr Connell is an acknowledged expert in endangered languages, especially in Africa, and an authority on the languages of the Nigeria-Cameroon borderland project.
The project showed that fire was high on the mountain. It became evident that  some languages are being chipped away gradually. But the one that faced danger of death on account of declining speech level among the major languages in Nigeria is the Igbo language. Its decline stems from continued inability of children from the zone especially those living outside to speak their mother tongue. One clear sign of the language as an endangered specie  manifests in the entertainment industry where a popular cable television company has dedicated channels for providing content in local languages. While they have channels for Hausa and Yoruba there is non for Igbo.
'it is not a deliberate action' said s spokes person for the firm' the problem is that we do not have enough content of materials produced in Igbo language to fill such a dedicated channel on air for 24 hours. If we find content we shall readily get a dedicated channel' Daily Sun learnt that the firm has already put an additional channel meant to service the Igbo speaking viewers yet the movies aired there are done in English. It is a clear sigh that the language cannot provide content. 

Some reasons for the decline
The dirt of this growing menace has been swept to the doorstep of parents who have shied away from speaking to their children in their mother tongue. The rot is literally home grown. Expectations are that children begin to hear their language from their homes. But the glaring absence of such developments has compounded a scary problem.
'I blame mothers for this problem. They are closer to the children especially when they are younger. They ought to speak the language to them' said Ike Ezeugwu a businessman who also confesses that his children cannot speak their mother tongue. Several respondents lent credence to his submission. They blame mothers for the impending rot. But a mother who would rather her name be removed from print said her children may be embarrassed in school if they resume there and are ignorant of the prevalent language of communication which is English.

'This thing is not a blame game. It is something both parents must consciously do. We do not need to push the blame to anybody. We must work at it as parents and try to teach our children their mother tongue' said Reverend Chudi Obi who teaches Igbo Language at the Seminary.
Children living outside their zones are hampered by the cosmopolitan nature of their abode given that the language of communication in their environment cannot be restricted to their mother tongue. Mrs Omolara Ige a school teacher says it would be wrong for her to communicate with her pupils in vernacular since they do not all came from her language area insisting that those pointing accusing fingers at Teachers should direct their anger elsewhere.
Children from cross bread marriages have generally lagged behind in what ought to be a natural advantage of communicating in two languages. One parent told this reporter that his family is guilty stating that they prefer communicating with their children in English.
'It has served us well so far. We use English in our family and to be honest with you I have not considered that we should consciously teach our various languages. I assume that they will learn it naturally as they grow older' he said admitting that  it is an error of judgment he would begin to amend.  He agrees that multiple language ability ought to be the natural advantage of children whose parents have different languages.

Southwest zone least affected
Mrs ige agrees that the Yoruba language may be the least affected but says such assertion can only be fully made when Yoruba kids living outside their homestead are examined. She however admits that the feelers she gets from relatives in London and America show that their kids still have very strong cultural affinity strongly reflected in the propensity to speak fluently in their language. She confesses that the language of communication in her family is her local language, which is why her children are not deficient in their mother tongue.
She says in spite of the general admission that the Yoruba language is not under any threat, there are silent but worrisome trends gradually evolving.
'There are different dialects of the Yoruba language, but our children are speaking what I call general Yoruba and thus losing their dialect. We as parents will do well to teach them their dialect so that the language will be retained in its entirety ' she said. Her submission is that Yoruba people should not rest on their oars on the assumption that the language is under no threat. But as things stand Yoruba may well be the least affected by the threat of imminent extinction. 

Igbo renaissance 
While that Igbo language appear to be the most threatened of the major ethnic languages some optimists hold that the threat is more imagined that real. Reverend Chudi Obi holds this view. He says his children who born in Lagos were deficient in speaking the Igbo language,
'But when I took them to the village and we stayed for about three weeks and they interacted with people who spoke the language to them regularly they picked the language so fast and I was happy  knowing that all I needed to do was to take them home periodically for them to be very fluent in the language. So I am not scared that the language will die or is dying' he told students in his class in the seminary. 
His optimism is buoyed by the practical steps now taken by some governments in the south east zone to save the language. In Imo state for instance, traditional rulers must not address their subjects or any public gathering in any other language other than Igbo. Some of the state Houses of Assembly have dedicated some days for total deliberation in Igbo. In Anambra state governor Peter Obi has taken  deliberate steps to halt decline of the Igbo language. He was recently reported to have rolled out a comprehensive measure to save the language when he launched what was called 'Suwakwa Igbo' [keep speaking Igbo language] in the state.
Speaking at the launch of Suwakwa Igbo at the Women Development Centre, Awka, he called on the Igbos to love themselves, their culture and language for their sustenance as a people.
During the ceremony, Obi announced, among others, annual award of N200,000, N250,000, and N100,000 to the three  best Igbo students in Secondary Schools in Nigeria.  He also gave cash donations and scholarships (University) to the two best Igbo students in WAEC - Mr. Kevin Anozie of Holy Child Secondary School, Isuofia and Mr. Chika Echeta of Bishop Onyemelukwe Secondary School Onitsha.
The Governor also, during the ceremony,  signed into law, a Bill to Enforce the Speaking and Writing of Igbo and Wide spread Usage of Igbo Language among Ndigbo in Anambra and Diaspora. He explained that the law would be enforced and announced the stoppage of giving corporal punishment to students who speak Igbo in schools in the State. 
 He also announced that Igbo Language would henceforth be compulsory in all the categories of educational institution in the State just as English and Mathematics are.  He revealed he will send a bill that will make it mandatory for Igbo people to be employed in the State, as a matter of law, pass Igbo Language.
Governor Obi also announced the building of Chief  Ogbalu Igbo Language School at the cost of the N50.5 Million Naira, for specialized and holiday programmes in Igbo. He named professor Pita Ejiofo to chair a five-man committee to work out modalities that will guide the measures to revive the Igbo language.
The leader of Suwakwa Igbo, Prof. Pita Ejiofor thanked the Governor for his interest in Igbo cause.  Using statistics, he proved that Igbo Language is retrogressing and insisted that only Igbos will stop the retrogression.
The President of Ohaneze Worldwide, Amb.  Ralph. Uwachue, represented by Dr. Atamuo thanked the Governor for his commitment to Igbo cause  and asked him to appeal to his brother Governors as the Chairman of South East Governors' Forum to follow his footstep.
The occasion was chaired by Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe.  Over 70 traditional rulers attended among others from different walks of life.
The former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Pita Ejiofor, has almost devoted his entire life to the promotion and survival of Igbo language. Ejiofor said he began the crusade when it became a shame that most children of Igbo extraction could neither speak, nor write their language. This is coupled with warnings from the United Nations and a study by the Oxford University which revealed that if no extra effort is made, Igbo language will go into extinction.
Thereafter, Ejiofor championed the cause for the revival and sustenance of Igbo language among Igbo people in Nigeria. This led to the formation of 'Otu Subakwa Igbo' (a group that champions speaking of Igbo language)  on February 14, 2006.  As his campaign spread throughout Igbo land, Subakwa Igbo soon changed to Suwakwa Igbo, which Ejiofor explained is the central Igbo spoken across the entire Igbo land and he has devoted his time and resources to the course ever since. Ejiofor has a fore-runner though, in late Chief Chidozie Ogbalu who was one of the foremost promoters of Igbo language and culture through writing of several text books in Igbo language. Also before now, the State House of Assembly passed a resolution entrenching the conduct of the House business in Igbo language on Wednesdays.
Among other measures Obi  when two or more Igbo people are discussing their language of communication should be Igbo and not even an admixture of Igbo and English. Parents should use Igbo to communicate to their children at home and should at all times avoid such sayings as "say hello to uncle", or "Junior does not understand Igbo", as that is an insult to Igbo language.
The various towns and villages should write and present their address to government officials in Igbo. They should also write programme of events, orations, citations all in Igbo in ceremonies. He asked state owned radio and television stations to emulate their counterparts in the North and in the West in promoting the use of local languages
Obi has announced immediate offer of employment for all holders of Bachelor's degrees, Higher National Diploma and National Diplomas of Igbo language 
Expectedly Prof. Ejiofor could not hold his joy that his dream of attracting enough attention and assistance in his struggle to keep Igbo language alive has come true. He thanked Obi for his interest in Igbo cause.  Using statistics, he sought to prove that Igbo Language is retrogressing and that only Igbo people will stop the retrogression.
 Time awaits the  implementation of the foregoing to halt extinction of the language.

Other languages have been affected
In determining whether Esan as a language is endangered or not, professor Matthew Ogbeide Omo-Ojugo applied  some of Unesco's (2003) "Major Evaluative Factors of Language Vitality" .  The nine major factors identified are: 
1) Intergenerational Language Transmission; 
2) Absolute Number of Speakers; 
3) Proportion of Speakers within the Total Population; 
4) Trends in Existing Language Domains; 
5) Response to New Domains and Media; and 
6) Materials for Language Education and Literacy. 
7) Governmental and Institutional Language Attitudes and Policies Including Official Status and Use. 
8) Community Members' Attitudes Towards Their Own Language. 
9) Amount and Quality of Documentation. 
 According to Omo-Ojugo   Nigeria alone has 23 languages listed which are already extinct.  Many of these extinct languages are in Northern States of Nigeria primarily due to language shift, which usually reflects the rise of a dominant culture.  
Thus, Hausa, Arabic, Mandika, Bambara, Fulfulde and Kanuri, have all been associated with aggressive expansionism and the forcible conversion of enslaved peoples.
The above phenomenon is true of Akoko-Edo region of Edo Sate where a lingua-franca status is accorded to the Yoruba language, although the various mother-tongues have not been totally rendered out of use.  
The younger generation of Akoko-Edo indigenes, notes Omo-Ojugo (1989) have become conscious of a cultural lag as a result of what the tremendous influence of the Yoruba language and culture have had on the lives of their people.  As a result of this the "Akoko-Edo Club" made up of enlightened youths, has embarked on a mass cultural-identity campaign for Akoko-Edo indigenes to use their mother-tongues for personal and place names.  
Continuing, Omo-Ojugo (1989) noted that:    
The Language Committee of the Okpamheri Descendants' Union, 
has been commissioned to carry out research into the language 
and produce books and literature texts in Okpamheri language.  
The professor stated that esan language in Edo state is also endangered going by the United Nation's yard stick of measuring threatened languages. His conclusion is apt;
 If you don't breathe, 
 There is no air. 
 If you don't walk,  
 There is no earth. 
If you don't speak, 
 There is no world. 

No comments:


I am an Igbo, I was born an Igbo, I live the life of an Igbo, I come from Igbo, I speak Igbo, I like to be Igbo, I like to dress in Igbo, I eat Igbo food, my heritage, culture and tradition is Igbo, my parents are Igbo.

Am sorry I cannot help it if you hate my lineage. Am sorry I cannot help it if you detest Igbo, am sorry I cannot help it if you hate me because am Igbo. Igbo is who I am, my name is Igbo and I must die an Igbo.

You see Igbo as a threat, why? You call Igbo rapist, criminals, ritualist, prostitutes, kidnappers. You attribute all negative vices to represent Igbo? Why do you do that? You do because you feel threatened that Igbo might outrun the rest of the tribes. Why do you hate Igbo and despise us? You do that because we are creative, enlightened, hardworking, industrious, genius, intelligent, smart, rich, beautiful and amazing. But its difficult for you to admit it because you feel jealous of my race.

Igbo do not own politics, Igbo do not control the economy neither do we control the natural resources and the common wealth of the nation. You do, we don't and yet, despite the fact that you own everything, we still remain one indispensable race that has outshined the other race in all ramifications.

You fear us because you want to exterminate and annihilate our race, you deny us many things and yet we are stronger, richer and mightier. You fear us because we are everywhere. You fear us because no matter how rural a place might be, when Igbo steps in, they turn it into a Paradise. We have our own resources, which lies in resourcefulness, we do not bother you and your control over the polity, but yet when we cough you and the other race begin to shiver.

Am proud being an Igbo, am proud of my heritage and culture. Igbo means high class, Igbo means independence, Igbo means hard work and strength, Igbo means riches, Igbo means resourcefulness, Igbo means self belonging, Igbo means self esteem, Igbo means pride, Igbo means swag.

Udo diri unu umunnem.
# IgboAmaka
# AnyiBuNdiMmeri

Michael Ezeaka

This is beautiful poetry ...

In response to Alaba Ajibola, the Babcock Lecturer Hate Speech against Igbos.


In Igboland women live apart from their husbands and neither cook for them nor enter their husband's quarters when they are in their period. They are seen as unclean. Even up till today such practice is still applicable in some parts of Igboland especially by the traditionalists. Before a woman can enter the palace of Obi of Onitsha, she will be asked if she is in her period, if yes, she will be asked to stay out.

Leviticus 15: 19-20
When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean, anyone who touches her or anything she has sat on becomes unclean.

An Igbo man's ancestral heritage, called “Ana Obi” is not sellable, elders will not permit this. If this is somehow done due to the influence of the West the person is considered a fool and is ostracized by the community.

1 Kings 21:3
I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors, and the Lord forbid that I should sell it, said Naboth.

Igbos have practiced the taking of a late brother's wife into marriage after she had been widowed until the white men came. Now it is rarely done but except in very rural villages.

Deuteronomy 25:5
A widow of a dead man is not to be married outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man's brother to marry her.

In Igboland, there is a unique form of apprenticeship in which either a male family member or a community member will spend six (6) years (usually in their teens to their adulthood) working for another family. And on the seventh year, the head of the host household, who is usually the older man who brought the apprentice into his household, will establish (Igbo: idu uno) the apprentice
by either setting up a business for him or giving money or tools by which to make a living.

Exodus 21:2
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you for six years. In the seventh year he is to be set free without having to pay you anything.

In Igboland , the yam is very important as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival (Igbo: Iri Ji) which are held for the harvesting of the yam. New Yam festival (Igbo: Iri ji) is celebrated annually to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. In the olden days it is an abomination for one to eat a new harvest before the festival. It's a tradition that you give the gods of the land first as a thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Count 7 weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the crops, and celebrate the harvest festival to honor the lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. Celebrate in the Lord's presence together with your children, servants, foreigners. Be sure that you obey my command, said the Lord.

In Igboland it's a tradition that the male children are circumcised on the 8th day. This tradition is still practiced till date.

Leviticus 12:3
On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

In Igboland, there is a practice known as "ile omugwo ". After a woman has given birth to a child, a very close and experienced relative of hers, in most cases her mother is required by tradition to come spend time with her and her husband. During which she is to do all the work of the wife, while the new mom's only assignment to the baby will be to breastfeed. This goes on for a month or more. In the Igbo old tradition, at this time, the new mom lives apart from her husband, would not cook or enter his quarters.

Leviticus 12:1-4
For seven days after a woman gives birth, she is ritually unclean as she is during her monthly period. It will be 33 days until she is ritually clean from the loss of blood; she is not to touch anything that is holy.


The Igbo tribe is in a serious problem and danger of extinction for the following reasons:

50% of Igbos are born outside Igbo land. Meaning that those children are not likely to live and work in Igbo land and cannot speak Igbo language but foreign language (Yoruba, Hausa, French, English).

40% of Igbos girls between the age of 25 & 45 are single with no hope of marriage because 35% of Igbo boys live overseas and they have all married white ladies.

75% of Igbo youths leave Igbo land every year in search of opportunities in Yoruba, Hausa land or overseas.

85 % of Igbos have family houses and own investments outside Igbo land. They strongly believe in one Nigeria but failed to know that NO Yoruba or Hausa man has a family house or investment in Igbo land.

Igbos are the only people who believe that living outside their land is an achievement.

Igbos are the only tribe that celebrate their tradition outside their land e.g. Eze Ndi Igbo, Igbo Village in America and this is because they have family homes in foreign lands.

Igbos have failed to know that the children you have outside Igbo land especially overseas will never think of living in Igbo land. So what happens to the properties you are building for them when you are gone?

Igbos are the only tribe who see their land as a place to visit or a tourist site than a place to work and live.

Igbos are the only tribe who instead of promoting and appreciating their culture through movies and documentaries they have sought to ridicule it by portraying rituals, killings, wickedness, love for money and other social vices which were not originally inherent in our culture thereby cursing more harm than actually promoting their culture.

Igbos are the only people who without hesitation believe their history and description when it is told or written by an enemy or a foreigner. E.g. that you do not love yourselves or that you love money.

Igbos are the ONLY largest tribe on earth who fought for their independence and failed to achieve their freedom after 40 years.

Igbos are the only tribe who fails to honour their brave heroes and heroines especially the innocent children starved to death during the Biafran war.

Igbos are the only tribe who embraced their enemy after a bloody civil war and subsequently become slaves.

Igbos do not find it necessary to teach their own version of history to their children.

Igbos fight for marginalisation in Nigeria but has no collective strength or teeth to bite.

Igbos how long are you going to fight for your relevance in Nigeria?

How long are you going to fight for a functional airport, rail networks and other structural establishments that underpin sustainable development?

How long are you prepared to wait for your enemy to guide you to your destiny?

Oh Igbos!
Where are your leaders?

Unfortunately, none of them live and work in Igbo land. If you wish to save the future of your children, your identity, your generation and your race then you need freedom and that freedom is Biafra.

Ukpana Okpoko gburu bu nti chiri ya!

By Chime Eze

The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities

Written by Emeka Maduewesi

~on fb. 28th September, 2016.

The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.

The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.

In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.

Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.

In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.

The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.

Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.

The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.

The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.

The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.

This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.


"My boy, may you live to your full potential, ascend to a dizzy height as is possible for anyone of your political description in your era to rise. May you be acknowledged world-wide as you rise as an eagle atop trees, float among the clouds, preside over the affairs of fellow men.... as leaders of all countries pour into Nigeria to breathe into her ear.

But then, Chuba, if it is not the tradition of our people that elders are roundly insulted by young men of the world, as you have unjustly done to me, may your reign come to an abrupt and shattering close. As you look ahead, Chuba, as you see the horizon, dedicating a great marble palace that is the envy of the world, toasted by the most powerful men in the land, may the great big hand snatch it away from you. Just as you look forward to hosting the world’s most powerful leader and shaking his hands, as you begin to smell the recognition and leadership of the Igbo people, may the crown fall off your head and your political head fall off your shoulders.

None of my words will come to pass, Chuba, until you have risen to the very height of your power and glory and health, but then you will be hounded and humiliated and disgraced out of office, your credibility and your name in tatters forever...”


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