John Chizoba Vincent is a poet, film maker and Cinematographer. His works have being published in many online magazines and journals. He has three books published to his credit. He lives in Lagos where he writes from.
ONE PROBLEM WITH SOME IGBO PEOPLE OF NIGERIA
One evening, I was in a bus returning home from Lekki, and there was this man seated next to me. He was an Igbo man and I knew that from the way he spoke to the woman seated 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, 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 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 me in Igbo, rather he used English language to reply me. When I spoke Igbo to him again, he replied me in English. Then I got tired of him replying with English language then I stopped 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 you 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 happens also 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 you or answer you with Igbo because he may likely think that once he does that, 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 it. And these men are full fledged Igbo men who ought to be the one 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 language are the official languages there. Those Igbo children born in Ghana, Benin Republic and Lagos can't speak Igbo language. Even majority of Children born in Lagos cannot speak Igbo Language but can speak Yoruba and English Language fluently. It hurts me alot 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 Eastern Coast. We talk about upholding our relationship with one another while those things that bring us together are no more 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 can not even say a word or speak Igbo but the father can, then why is he communicating in a strange language with his son?.
Although, 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 our to die.
I stopped going to my town meeting because of this. I won't be in a meeting where we are suppose to use 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 prefers English to Igbo Language? 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, very annoying when you see your brother on the way and you speak Igbo to him and he behaves like you are speaking Chinese to him. And sometimes, he won't even reply 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 langauge and 20% of Igbo language together.
This is not common with the Yoruba people 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 prefer teaching her son how to speak English than Igbo language. The other one in USA prefer teaching her daughter the 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 up to know was born in Paris and although she relocated with her parents and grew 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 lifting their cultures 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 US and UK, Yoruba culture and Ifa mythology are being studied. I have 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 igbo language. What will happen to this language in the next fifty years to come? Some Igbo children born and bred in Port Harcourt can not even speak Igbo how much 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 tribe in Nigeria especially the Yoruba and Hausa People! I don't know why Igbo language is not made compulsory for all the students in the Eastern zone! I don't know why a matured boy that graduated from a college in Enugu, Onitsha, Aba, Eboyi and Owerri can not write Igbo language! Why? Why? Please can someone explain why?