By: Toyinbo Olumide
Hello readers, it is another piece this week to voice out another voice, a voice of observation about something affecting our past, present and will definitely affect our future. Being left with a sustainable legacy which was cherished by your ancestors and served as a collective heritage while they were in this world- before their demise, then the sustainable legacy is being deliberately murdered by people of the newer generation, what do you feel about that? Of course, it is bitter! Our language is more than a sustainable legacy, in fact! It is us, our language is who we are, it simplifies where we belong.
It is no more news that our indigenous languages here is Nigeria are dying gradually but hopefully, they will not perish before our own eyes. I hear you say amen? Well, no matter the number of ‘amens’ you say, the ‘amens’ lie in your hand, and the answer to this prayer is before you. To face the reality, you cannot be as Europeanised as the Europeans, you can only try and your trial cannot make you one. Why not just uphold and accept what you are at all needed times. How will you be ‘osakala’ and ‘osakolo’ at the same time? Impossible! It is high time we rose up and upheld our heritage.
Well, it is now the argument of some people that realising the general speaking of our local languages in Nigeria is nothing but impossibility as a result of western education. As much as that is true, it is not worthy of a yardstick for such assertion at the expense of our own heritage. Going from home to home in cities in Nigeria, it is now so alarming that parents do not see any wisdom in communicating in local languages to their wards. How laughable? Parents who ought to be the promoters and custodians of this heritage are doing more harm than being sighted. They will be shouting ‘Junior, come here’ when Junior cannot even say ‘E kaaro’ as a Yoruba boy and even Junior still bears a Yoruba name.
There was this time I boarded a bus going to Dugbe from UI. It was an after-school hour. I can see mothers coming for their wards and wards running after their mothers to meet up with their steps. Luckily, that day as if being foreseen that I would need such experience later run, I sat beside a young woman in her prime lapping his child who was a boy who I believed was on his edge to the teen age category. Based on my brief rapport with the woman, I extended the gesture to her child. With pleasure, the woman told me his son’s name was Ibukun but sincerely, they did not look ‘Yorubaish’ at all. I said ‘wow! What a nice name for a nice-looking boy’, his mum blushed on his behalf as he smiled too. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I asked the boy some questions about school which he answered loudly and laudably in English Language. Then I asked him in English ‘You have a nice name, do you know the meaning of your name?’ Then, my new found friend who was talking laudably and loudly before went on silence and gazed at his mum. His mum, to console his disappointment said to him ‘Ibk, you don’t know the meaning of your name?’ I just smiled and we went into another discussion. I never even put so much consideration on that experience until now.
Certainly, it is more than obvious that there is fire on the mountain. Of all things, the boy could not even find meaning to his own name, yet he bears a Yoruba name. This seems to be the case in some homes in our country today. Children will speak English all through their stay in school every day, they will get home and still bend to that English-speaking based on their parent mighty and unchallengeable influence. Parents should not contribute to the degradation of our culture especially these languages. When they speak English language in school, speak their mother tongue to them when they get home. It will not stop their fluency in English Language. Even it is an asset to them both as knowing another language and also, it aids their learning capacity in their academic life. A child who understands his or her mother-tongue will find it easy to comprehend his books.
Well, home being discussed as being a cankerworm that kills slowly the beauty of our heritage, schools too contribute to this in their own bit. Despite the acclaimed notice that all students must learn at least one native language in school, it is still not reinforced as being acclaimed all around by the authorities in charge. In some schools that I know around this community especially some privately-owned schools, Yoruba language or the choice of a native language is now narrowed to only Art students, I cannot but wonder, is the preservation of our culture for only art students? Even in some school, there is nothing like local languages and it is quite alarming. A drastic step has to be taken as regarding that especially by the government, specifically the Ministry of Education. After home, the school also has a very high rate of socialisation especially on kids. Through the compulsive reinforcement of learning local languages as a subject in our school will enhance the knowledge of children especially to the tradition, values and other peculiarities of their culture as there are very many important values in our culture that cannot be expressed through any foreign language.
It is highly pertinent at this stage that all hands should be on deck to preserve especially, the language culture of our indigenous societies from extinction. It is the responsibility of all Nigerians. It is our responsibility. Speak it or you kill it!