“Studies have shown that 25% of children below the age of 11 are unable to speak their mother tongue and if this trend continues it is believed that most Nigerian languages will be extinct in 2 to 3 generations…. Estimated to be about 50 to 75yrs from now“….. my thoughts on that? I’ll be damned. That’s the best piece of news I’ve heard all year, perhaps in those generations to come they will become less Yoruba, Urhobo, Igbo, Hausa and more Nigerian. A lot of us in the present lost generation must have heard this common advice from our relatives, telling us it is very important to speak our mother tongue, advising us to marry from our region so that our children will not be lost. I heard that so much that I had to believe it was of paramount importance. I started to learn my language, even considered relocating homewards. All my Uncles and Aunts shared the same opinion so it had to be right. No way so many grown people would share a common wrong opinion, that would be unheard of (GEJ 2015. …if you know what I mean). Anyways in my new found spirit of questioning everything I do and logically analyzing why we do what we do I decided to stop blankly accepting that notion, turn around and ask why? Uncle, why do u want me to speak my language? What exactly do I stand to gain from it? I started asking for the benefits, asked everyone and I couldn’t get anything concrete. People said stuff like “it’s to make you know your roots“, “make you feel like you are from somewhere“, others said “it’s to enable you say things in the presence of your visitors without having them understand“, others believe it’s to get a good deal from the brother trader in the market. All in all I got only one concrete reason, and that’s just to feel good, just to have this air of belonging.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally against culture/language and roots. I think it is pretty cool, it gives one a sense of belonging, keeping it gives some kind of pride or ego. It makes one look/feel very exotic, cultural practices and rights are truly a beauty to behold but does it serve any real purpose if critically looked at? Does it help put food on the table? Does it help put a roof over our heads? Will it pay your medical bills? Well fine if it doesn’t do any of that, a lot doesn’t do any of that but that doesn’t mean we stop doing those things. Dancing for example doesn’t put food on your table but that don’t mean we should quit doing the Rumba or Shoki. But why I have keen interest in language is because as it doesn’t do all that it happens to in a very subtle way take away a lot of those. In its own way it does, how do you feel the visitors feel when you switch from English to language all of a sudden, he already feels left out, feels separated, feels different, feels like you are plotting something no matter how small against him. How do you think it feels in a work place or casual gathering when the Igbos are preserving their heritage in the presence of 2 or 3 from other regions? They feel disconnected, feel like there might even be plotting their death or preparing to scam them. Language speaking tends to create a sense of division amongst us Nigerians, we have all become more Igbo, Tiv, Efik, Ibira, Itshekiri than Nigerian, which is great for the tribes and storage of heritage but not so good for the nation as a whole. It is very annoying when whites come here and watch/learn about our cultures, saying stuff like “awwww…you have such rich culture in Africa, try to preserve it, I am so envious of your strong roots” then climb on that airplane and return to good roads and security and health. I say to them “Sir , I am also envious of your roads and schools, I’ll trade roots for shelter thank you“. The Federal government recognized this sense of division at a point and bared vernacular in all federal institutions, however now that federalism has been replaced by tribalism and nepotism that system has been thrown out of the window.
Secondly the concept of I am Ibibio or I am Angas has stepped up the nepotism level to epic proportions, the people who merit admission don’t get it, the people who are capable of doing the jobs don’t get to do it. A man in a position of power is judged purely on how he helped his people while in office, no matter what you did, if you couldn’t give your brothers jobs or build a road in your village you are a shame and should never return home. In this kind of setting how can we do anything tangible. Someone said once that we are like a hundred different countries in one.
Now the debate of which I am not quite sure, is the real importance of this diversity, is it that relevant? Does it hold that much water? There are however many different languages around the world, that doesn’t mean those places aren’t working. The USA is extremely diverse, but it still works. In my spirit of rationalization I took a little look at these other languages and countries, and in my little understanding I found one thing striking , these countries that are trying to work all have one common tongue, or at least 80% have one common background or root. The French speak french, same as the Portuguese, Indians, Chinese, Italians, English. They all have a common root, same culture, they are somewhat one body. Countries founded on a common goal ,unlike the bulk of Africa founded on a common channel of resources. Even the United states has a common English root, all the diverse individuals welcomed in have to twist themselves into that system.
Now elections are upon us, and how do we plan to vote? On sentiment, the consensus is to vote your brother, if he isn’t contesting then next is your clans man, then your towns man, then local government brother, then states man. None? Then I’ll vote the person from my geopolitical zone, then maybe worst case scenario and I have no one contesting then I’ll use north Vs South or religious bias. Now this system of democracy is a sure failure and a big shame, even the educated ones somehow find a way to rationalize in favour of their brother. North tends to go for north and south for south at the national level at the very least.
On a final note to buttress the importance of language, the Christians amongst us have heard about the tower of Babel, a bunch of infidels were trying to build a tower to reach heaven, God was unhappy with that move so in order to stop them he made them speak different languages, what followed? Construction was unable to go on. So if the diversity was able to stop the construction in that tower it therefore makes perfect sense why Nigerians with our many languages have been unable to build anything as a nation.
You don’t agree with me Bah? It’s simply an opinion, I would love to hear yours.
P.S– I do not in anyway support the extinction of African tongue in favour of English, I just wish we had one common uniting factor. Perhaps we could all embrace Pidgin as our mother tongue and hold it with pride.
P.P.S – Love is the answer, don’t marry your tribesman, help curb the disunity through love and marriage. If you marry from your state I consider you an enemy of ONE NIGERIA.
Post P. P.S – Vote wisely
Image Credits: http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane.blogspot.com