I was privileged to read the research of scholars and UNESCO’s report on the endangered Igbo language and had since then been in deep sorrow about the state of our great language, Igbo.
According to the report,the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) Advisory Committee on Language Pluralism and Multi-Language Education predicted that by 2015,Igbo language and by implication, culture may be headed for extinction or subsume by other stronger Nigerian languages if nothing drastic is done by its speakers to ensure it’s not only taught in schools but also used as language of official communication within government and business circles in the five Igbo speaking states which are Abia,Anambra,Ebonyi,Enugu and Imo States.
How terrible it is today,very few children,teenagers and youths of Igbo origin can speak a word in Igbo;some understand but can’t speak where as majority neither speak nor understand.
I could remember visiting an uncle of mine some thirteen months ago and observed that the language of discussion between him and his little children was the English language and none of these children could pronounce a word properly in Igbo.Without mincing words, I adviced him to reverse this ugly trend before it got out of hand.
Meanwhile,I made him understand that it was more sensible to teach children their mother tongue as the first language and English or French as the second language because at any rate,they would still be adept in English as the official school language was English.My position was not glaring to him but few months later,he had me to thank for it.
The Igbo are perhaps the most widely travelled and industrious black race today but it seems this trait is about to do more harm than good. In my discussion with lecturer, he told me that the modern educated Igbo man would prefer to respond to all conversation in English even when his other colleagues are speaking in Igbo. This indeed is an ugly trend that has to be corrected as a matter of urgency before we become a forgotten people even in Nigeria because a people without language is a people without identity.
In my research,I was able to find out that a typical Igbo man especially the widely travelled one would proudly communicate freely and even fluently in Yoruba, Hausa and other languages in public but hardly in Igbo.This is clearly seen in the entertainment industry as many sons and daughters of Igbo extraction have become Yoruba film actors while their counterparts(fellow Igbo) in the music industries sing better in Yoruba tones than their original language. We often tend to be more native than our native hosts and hostile to our own native identity.
I guess the Bible saw this coming when it warned parents to train up their children the way they should grow so that when they are old it would be part and parcel of them. It sucks when you see people speaking English in community meetings. Why are we more English than the ‘Oyinbos’ than sold it to us? I respect the Yorubas in this regard because they know the value of their language and would do anything to preserve it despite being the most advanced and enlightened tribe in the country.
I therefore, urge every Igbo man to be proud of his/her language because it’s a very important aspect of his/her culture which in turn is the totality of man. Speaking our language doesn’t make us less than anything we are as intellectuals as it will be a great tragedy if we allow this great language die off. If this eventually happens, we would be a people without identity.
I would like to bring this to an end with this shocking but true story.Following the incessant killings of Ndigbo in Northern Nigeria,some aggrieved youths made reprisal attacks on the Hausas at Nkpor junction in Onitsha.They mounted road blocks and screened vehicles for the Hausas.The basis for the screening was the ability to understand and speak Igbo language but it turned a disaster as few Igbo youths were needlessly killed because they could neither speak nor understand Igbo language and were mistaken for ‘ndi Hausa’ .This was an eye opener!
History will never forgive us if we let this language go into extinction.
God bless Nigeria!God bless Ndigbo!!
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