SAY ‘NO’ TO IGBO EXTINCTION by IZUNNA I. OKAFOR
The rate at which some Igbos deny dump and denounce their ‘Igboship’ is seriously growing out of hand, and thus calling for action. Like nature made us to know, every tribe has its own culture, origin and tradition which fundamentally make up the ‘heritage’ of that tribe. Igbo as I believe is never an exception to that; fully we have our own heritages just like other tribes. Each aspect of these heritages – tradition, culture and origin has its own components, which generally include food type, rites, dressing, house style, norms, values, antiquities, procedures, belief, language and history among others. These are the things that differentiate one tribe from the other, with each tribe working harder to uphold, sustain and preserve her own by practicing, propagating and promoting it. Among all these, LANGUAGE is the most important aspect of it – the key element. It is the way without which other ways cannot be followed and the phenomenon without which the mouths can never liaise. Language is a natural gift from God, and every tribe has its own, unless the tribe was not created by God. In similar vein, every tribe loves her own language, speaks, promotes, propagates, values and cares for it. It is a thing of value, worthy of sustenance and preservation. However, to us, my fellow Igbos, it's clear and obvious, that our own Language, IGBO which is our heritage is drastically dying off and diametrically sinking into abyss. In the lost days of our fore fathers, they loved, valued, used, cherished and sustained the language. And they were so proud of it, fully understanding that it was theirs, only theirs and theirs alone. They never played with it nor dialogued without it. But today my fellow Igbos, reverse is the case. We no longer value the language, let alone speaking nor sustaining it. The love is no more there and the passion is no more there. Everybody now speak English. Now is the time when you will hardly see an Igbo 'man' who would ever accept to speak Igbo with you, to the extent that some even deny being Igbo nor being brought up in Igbo land. What a piffle! I write this out of my experiences and encounter so far with my fellow Igbos I approached a youth who I am sure is a pure Igbo guy, spoke Igbo to him, and he started replying in English. I went to a shop to buy something, spoke Igbo to the seller who I know is an Igbo woman, and she started speaking English. I entered an office of an Igbo 'man', a lecturer to be precise, spoke Igbo to him; he warned me that I should not try that nonsense again or else I should get out of his office. I tried it next time; he disgraced me and walked me out of his office (in front of my fellow students). I spoke Igbo language to fellow Igbo student; she told me and I quote 'My friend I can't hear Igbo, if you can't speak English you left me alone' claiming she’s big girl (with erroneous English). I asked her why, she says and I quote 'I'm not brought up in Igbo land; I was a Lagos brought up’ (Dropping another dangerous grammar) I spoke Igbo to her again; she insulted you, hissed and walked out of me. I our Igbo GS class then, I asked my Igbo teacher question in Igbo; she started speaking English. I mean an Igbo Teacher. I spoke Igbo to an Igbo child, her mother told me 'No no no, never you try that nonsense next time; Don’t you know that I doesn’t speak Igbo to her? ‘Am training her in English. ‘So don’t you ever try that again’ I asked her why; she carried her baby and walked away. I freely gave one of my Igbo books to an ‘Igbo’ student to read; he proudly told me 'I can't read Igbo'. I brought an English and he fluently read it to the end. I spoke my language (Igbo) in the public and the people there (including my fellow Igbos) started seeing you as Illiterate. Igbos why? Who bewitched us like this? And where are we heading to? Why do we hate our own and cherish that of others? Where is that love that our fore fathers had for our dear language? It’s a thing of pity! Today, you hardly see an Igbo who can speak Igbo Language for up to five minutes without any addition English. But that same can fluently speak other languages from day to day without a single mix up. Why? Where are we heading to? Is that your father’s language? Is it high time we understood that our own is our own, developed love for our own, valued our own and upheld our own? It has been confirmed that Igbo is the sweetest language in the world, good to speak and perfect in all. So why do we abhor it, abandon it and embrace that of others, thereby suppressing our own, crucifying it and sending it to its earliest grave? Our fore fathers gave us this language; they did not kill it. But we, in our own time now, how are we trying harder to sustain it and pass it over to our next generation? What do you think will be the state of Igbo language in next few years to come? The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had in 2012 predicted that Igbo language will die – go extinct in less than four decades to come. How hard are you trying to say ‘NO’ to that, as Igbo patriotic that we are? Parents why don't you give your children Igbo names anymore but English and sometimes meaningless names? Why are you not speaking Igbo to them anymore but English? Or do you think he cannot learn English when he grows up? Why are we all ashamed of our dear language our heritage while others are seriously speaking and upholding their own, even the highly educated people among them? Does speaking Igbo make one illiterate at all? Why do you want the fire that our fore fathers gave to us fade in our own time and die in our own hand? Would that not be a shameful thing to our tribe? How often do you speak Igbo in a day? Why don't you preserve and value your own, constantly make it a daily practice and become an Igbo ambassador wherever you find yourself? How would you feel when you wake up one day and hear that Igbo language is no more there (as predicted)? How do you think that would affect you; detrimentally or beneficially? My dear people, I wish we would all consider and understand this the way I do. I wish we could all foresee the impending dooms it may cause us if we still continue to neglect it. Dear Igbo parents, I plead you should start speaking Igbo to your children, give them Igbo names, teach them Igbo Language and always make them appreciate the values of our Igbo culture. Language is part of our culture. Governments (at all level), help to save our Igbo language, invest much in sustaining our heritage; instigate or financially help to sponsor significant Igbo programmes and project which will go a long way in promoting our indigenous Language; and also Initiate essential policies that will help buttress this. It should be made ‘a must’ that every Igbo child, youth or adult who wishes to be registered or accepted in any school in Igbo land must have an Igbo name, be a fluent Igbo speaker and can write in Igbo (if grown up), with strict consideration. The same condition and criterion should apply to all Igbo persons who wish to be given a job, appointment or receive any other significant benefits from any government of Igbo land. Furthermore, there should be an Igbo speaking day in all the offices and institutions within the Igbo land. The language should be made compulsory in all the schools across the Igbo land, both public and private. Our Indigenous teachers should always teach with Igbo language and ensure that anybody freedom to speak Igbo in the class and in the school any time. This one should be taken more serious because in virtually all the primary and secondary schools in Igbo land today, they do not speak Igbo language anymore, except during the Igbo class. And if a student dares speak it (mistakenly or intentionally), he would get a real flog of his life. Our teachers are making things worse. Also, we should cultivate the habit of reading Igbo books and listening to Igbo programmes on radios and televisions. Igbo language should be the principal language in our church services. My dear people, these the various possible solutions for reviving our ailing language. There are some other possible efficacious panaceas and way-outs, which you as an individual can initiate, agglutinate and put into practices to save our dear language. Play your own part in saving our dear language from shame. The future and the survival of it lie in our hand. Be an IGBO AMBASSADOR wherever you are and develop a strong love for it. Be an IGBO PATRIOTIC and let others know the importance of what we have. Speak it, defend it, uphold it, sustain it, and always be proud of it. IGBO BỤ NKE ANYị IGBO Dị ANYị MMA IGBO Ọ GA-ADịRị ANYị MMA RUO MGBE EBIGHI EBI... Iseeee. SUBAKWA IGBO. Izunna I. Okafor is Award-Wining Young Nigerian Writer who hails from Anmbra state. He has authored and published so many books and articles. He is a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. He is the winner SYNW/Pita Nwana Prize for Igbo Literature 2015, NWA/ Indigenous Writer of The Year 2015/2016 among other awards.