Sunday, December 25, 2016

IGBO CHILDREN'S INABILITY TO SPEAK THE MOTHER TONGUE

Two weeks ago, I attended the end of year party of my village union in Lagos, and as usual members came with their families, even friends. The party started as in the afternoon with prayers, I came in to meet a member praying the kind of firebrand prayers that you'd often see with Pentecostals, you know, the type that's quite physical and hysterical, with shouting and gesturing, and even though I was seated in front because of my position in the union alongside other members of the executive, I wasn't intimidated by looks from those compliant with prayer directives to put my hand on my head or elsewhere, or raise my hands to make one prayer point or another, in response to this pastor-member who said "finally" more than four times before bringing the prayer session to an end. As if the chairman felt that the prayer may not be received in some parts of heaven, he asked another pastor member to summarize the prayers, who this time with a low voice and calm mien, helped the plane to touch down.


Prayers made by pastors was quickly followed by the breaking of Kola, by the chairman, secretary and another member of the high table, who took turns to pray for the health of all those present, as well as members who couldn't make it, to which we all responded with "Ìseeeeee", on the various occasions. In previous years, we didn't have a compere take charge of the end of year party, so when this young man came up to handle the "mic" while food and drinks made their way to the tables, I joined others present to see what he had up his sleeves. He was totally uninspiring, had dry jokes, made no effort to endear himself to the "strong men" present, even if with the intention to milk some "change" off them by massaging their easy to rouse egos, rather he went about disrespecting them at the slightest opportunity he got. So much so that they turned to the DJ to cut him off, and continue to play just music, and that state of affairs prevailed for a while.


But the MC wasn't going to take that lying low, he picked up the mic again, got the DJ to cut the music, and after the high table people extracted a promise from him to be courteous he was once again allowed to do his job. This time he wanted kids to come play games for prizes which he had packed in a bag. The game was such that the kid who had mastery of Igbo will go home with the prize. I began to sense trouble here, seeing that been born and bred in Lagos I couldn't until a few years back, speak the Igbo language and still not even fluently at that, and I'm edging closer to my fourth decade on earth. I learnt to speak Yoruba and English before Igbo and I know that it's even worse with today's Igbo kids born and bred in Lagos.


The kids of course didn't disappoint, many of them couldn't say their names in a sentence in Igbo language. They were certainly worse than I was at their age. They didn't know the name of their village, neither could the majority make a simple sentence in the Igbo language, the only girl who did, and knew the name of her village amongst other sundry, wasn't even from our village but was on holidays with the family that had brought her to our end of year party. Now, this was the last straw that broke the camel's back for the MC, as he started berating the children who couldn't speak the mother tongue, even directly casting aspersions on their parents. I'd excused myself to go take a leak at a nearby gutter away from the location of the party, in order to relieve my bladder of the stout that was about to burst it, which seemed apart from the semovita and bitter leaf soup, the best things that was happening to me at the party, only to find the MC been hassled out of the venue by some of the men at the gathering on my return. Apparently, the parents must've had enough of his shenanigans and would rather see the back of his head than continue to stomach the shit he was spewing at them.


I couldn't care less, I'd thought he was a mistake right from onset, especially when he failed to use the opportunity provided him to kiss arses and make himself some cool dough, but he went totally in the opposite direction, even to the extreme at that and he deservedly got what was coming to him. So the party continued without him, wining, dining, feasting and dancing. Kids were organized to dance and
each of them got a prize, then the adults danced, drank (so much alcohol), then packed excess food home in takeaway packs afterwards, thus we ended the year on a somewhat happy note, post-the crazy compere.


On my way home however, I reflected on what had happened, and was deeply saddened by the fact that our children couldn't speak our language. I was self taught, which is why I don't speak my exact Igbo dialect but what you might term "Lagos Igbo", the only time I appear to speak a better Igbo is when I read it, and I do write less excellently though, because of my deep understanding of the Yoruba which isn't too different from the Igbo both in reading and writing (I have a good WAEC result in Yoruba, in the days when "expo" or "orijo" wasn't a thing, to back that up). It was painful to see Igbo parents who had better Igbo upbringing than I did, make the same mistakes my parents made in this day and age of identity seeking and promotion. I even noticed some parents expressing their displeasure when the DJ played strictly traditional "Egwu Ékpílí", because they considered it pagan, preferring their children danced to Igbo church music, or the explicit lyrics of "Phyno", the Nigerian hip-hop act that raps in the Igbo language.


The only tribe in Nigeria that seems to be doing very little in promoting the mother tongue, even in the homelands, are the Igbo. When I travel back home, which is almost frequently for several engagements, I see kids there trying to impress me with the English they learnt at "Nt'akala" classes, wanting to be like their Lagos-Igbo counterparts. Unfortunately, I do not know what we should do, besides bringing this to the attention of Igbos, so we begin to think of how to address this anomaly. I hope that when we have our first village meeting next year, that attention will be drawn away from the events surrounding the MC-ing at the end of year party, which I'm sure will be raised, and apportioning blame to whoever thought him a good idea howbeit for the first time in the history of such parties; to looking at the salient issue the MC raised and exposed, though in a rather tactless and uncouth manner, in a bid to redressing the shame. Ìgbò, E Kène Mu Únù!


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- https://www.iheanyiigboko.wordpress.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

OSHIOMHOLE'S CROSS

No one could've predicted that the All Progressives' Congress, APC would fall this deep into chaos after former Edo State Governor...