Three books, Folktales from Igboland Vol One, Ilu Na Gwa m Gwa m Gwa m Ka Ha Di Nfe, Nke Mbu; and Akuko Ifo Si Nala Igbo, Nke Mbu, authored by Dame May Ikokwu were launched to protect the Igbo language, culture and tradition from extinction. The books were reviewed by a former federal permanent secretary and Pioneer Commissioner for Nigeria to ECOWAS, Adaoha Okuosa in 2014.
The muse was the slide of Igbo culture, traditions and language into extinction.
The author urged Igbo people to speak their language and borrow vocabularies from other cultures and spell them in their Igbo way. She voiced concern that universities have started dropping Igbo because of a lack of teachers while people don’t care about studying Igbo because they feel there will be no jobs for them after graduation.
Early 2021, the United States Agency for States Department (USAID), announced that it has taken a bold step towards saving Igbo and other indigenous Nigerian languages from going into extinction.
The Executive Director, National Institute for Nigerian Languages, Professor Emejulu Obiajulu, in a meeting with a USAID delegation to hand over copies of Igbo Early Grade Reading Materials to the Abia Government, noted with concern that though Igbo language might not die completely, it could be compromised, mutilated and reduced to mere pidgin if no conscious efforts were made to promote the use of the language among the younger Igbo generation.
UNESCO has classified Igbo as an endangered language that risks possible extinction by the end of the 21st century. It says that many Igbo speakers are shifting to languages like English because it’s the international language of business, diplomacy, and technology.
Also in 2021, the Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Charles Esimone, has urged stakeholders in the South-east to rally support to revive the dying Igbo language.
Esimone decried the trend in the Igbo society where speaking English language has become a status symbol, noting that the trend was harmful to the culture and tradition of the Igbo race.
Prof. Chinyere Stella Okunna of the Mass Communication Department of UNIZIK, advocated reintroduction of Igbo cultural festivals and carnivals in primary and secondary schools, as well as correction of all the anglicised Igbo towns to their proper names.
At the tail end of 2021, Igbo group, Imechi Afo, pledged to continue to work towards the promotion of Igbo language and culture.
In an occasion to announce the intending efforts, Chief Iyke Ezeh said, “all we aim at is to keep our language alive. We noticed that the language is dying and our culture is diminishing.”
If you are a tourist and visited Igbo towns across Southeast Nigeria, you will notice a decline in several aspects of the Igbo culture – assuming you knew more than you now see. The Igbo language is hardly spoken without frequent code-mixing, and there is sometimes preference for pidgin English. It may bring up your BP levels knowing that the Igbo language is the culture’s most important feature, and both cannot exist without the other.
Beliefs, customs, morals, history, values of a society represents it’s culture. The art, myths, stories, folklores, songs are an embodiment of culture. Language is the only tool used to preserve these. If the language goes, all these information goes with it. I mean, it’s already happening. What aspects of the Igbo culture can millennials and Gen Z claim to know and pass on to the next generation?
Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò – apologies if spelt wrongly – the conversation should be bringing back what has already been lost. There have been calls to use indigenous languages for textbooks on Mathematics, Agriculture, Biology, Literature, etc, so as to preserve the language, but have been thrown out for the most basic political reasons.
We can have Nwanyi Ocha – now a Nigerian by marriage – promote Igbo cultural aspects using her social channels and appreciate her efforts. With over 54,000 followers on Instagram and 190,000 on Facebook, people look out to read her new posts on social media.
Ijemma Onwuzulike, founded an Igbo API – the first African Language API focused on making the Igbo language accessible to the world. Nkọwa okwu, built on top of the API, is an online, open-source Igbo-English dictionary app and learning platform that allows users to search for words in Igbo and English.
Sugabelly, real name Lotanna Igwe Odunze, invented the Ndebe writing system – a formulaic syllabic writing system for Igbo that looks the same to everyone, but sounds completely different when read by Igbo people of different dialects. Sugabelly, on her blog, says, “it is my contribution to the cultural progress of my people, and an intangible cultural inheritance help our language blossom for posterity.”
Focus please. Let’s preserve the culture first, then eradicate tribalism, and racism in the process.
Omoleye Omoruyi… an apprentice web/game developer, novelist, sensitive to happenings in the world. Meet him @Lord_rickie on Twitter/Instagram