Opinion: A meandering Mandarin in Lagos

by Omoigbo

We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves – Goethe

I woke to the ‘momentous’ news earlier this week that the Lagos state government, through the ‘good’ office of its Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, intends to introduce Mandarin teaching –and speaking- into its public school curriculum.

When I read further that she has it in mind for this ‘most laudable’ of policies to commence next session, I whooped and executed a jig or two and then, headed to the fridge.

This magnificent ‘world-class’ achievement called for celebration. And it has been, honestly, a long time since I celebrated any government achievement.

Drinks were about being broken into when I had a double take: I read excerpts of the news release in English, even the news sound-bite that mentioned it was in English; I should have been enmeshed in Chinese culture and, done my reading in Mandarin!

To my mortified shame, I, heartily, deceived myself.

Just as the Lagos state government intends to deceive itself and its tax-paying citizens.

There should be a law against self-deception (I mean, how can a state con itself?). The macabre rush for Chinese Language and all expected windfalls is just a shameful pastime of a silliness-inebriated government.

A cautionary tale before we look this Mandarin madcap in the eyes.

Once upon a not so recent-distant past, one of Nigerian maximum rulers who had turned Nigeria into a pariah nation with his murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and other bestial acts that are unmentionable in decent setting desired a lasting counteract to Nigeria’s isolation.

Being of a marginal intellect –just a little above that of a hyena, he had his head turned by an opportunist European nation that was only after its self-enlightened economic interest.

It was the UK and US that led the isolationist bloc and it being a crook that was the leader of our opportunist European ally, it made political sense to our maximum ruler at that material time: the enemy of our enemy is our friend. (And Sir, you can hide some of your loot with our new friends) Or so it was whispered to him.

Pronto, he uttered the following “Nigeria is resolutely launching a programme of national language training that will in a short order, permit our country to become thoroughly bilingual.”

We knew he was stupid but not that stupid!

These infamous words were uttered in December, 1996 at the increasingly vexatious and criminals-loving Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. It’s 15-years and some months later, Nigerians know better.

I learnt the French language some years later but not because Dark-Goggles mandated it. ASUU was on strike and I needed some measurable experience to while away the time, meaningfully. Aside my smatterings of French, I can hold a meaningful converse in Igbo, Yoruba, Pidgin English and, English.

And so, I see no reason why anyone should not learn another language.

But for the invasive bilingual virus that addled national policy in the dark ‘90’s to grow a newer head and make a landfall in Lagos state is a no.

Given our maximum ruler’s reason for his bilingual conundrum, I wonder what informed the new pretention for cultural amputation by the Lagos state government. Perhaps, a bounteous Foreign Direct Investment by the Foreign Language’s home nation? Or a phantom-invite to the inauguration/swearing-in of the Chinese leadership slated for the last quarter of the year? Or should a blame for this wacky stance be nailed on the evils that politicians indulge in for cheap popularity?

I do not mince words when I state it is a terrible idea that should not see the light of day. It is culturally and socially inexpedient. A pronounced neo-colonialism with Africa’s largest trade partner stares Lagosians and, by extension, Nigerians, in the face with no alarm raised.

Our narrow interest, immediate and insatiable, often befuddles us and leads to ruin in the long run. If we are looking for a model to emulate, I would prefer the Nordic states. They almost always come top in the ranking of countries’ Human Development Index.

While we wait the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding/Note of Cooperation, some pertinent questions needs to be answered by those pushing for the adoption of Mandarin for Lagos.
In our hasty quest to curry favours –the mindless bilingual project of the Dark-Goggled ‘90’s- the government of Lagos state failed at taking stock of its new partners. Some startling samples: the worsening case of Zimbabwe; The Darfur Crisis, The Ogaden seizure, the dumping of inferior goods on our shores and, its unhelpful stance on Syria that makes Assad bold. Equally, it has a poor human rights record with the atrocities of Tiananmen Square still fresh in my memory.

Yet, Lagos state wants to jump into a cultural relationship with them? I mean what is the aim? Or is the thinking that Lagos would become an Asian Tiger? The smell of stupidity that oozes from such a thought should banish it from existence without let.

The Asian Tigers are where they are presently because their leaders are studious, self-respecting, more industrious and, less corrupt.

Lagos wants a language fulcrum to actualize its educational needs? Let’s go back to Professor Babatunde Aliu Fafunwa’s plank of the mother tongue.

Except Lagos tells us the Chinese would learn Egun, Fulfude, Hausa, Ibibio, Igbo,Tiv and, Yoruba, there is no for contemplating a Mandarin nonsense that might set the excellent citizens of Lagos on a meandering future.

As the Yoruba’s say ‘bi eyan ba yan ara re je, bi eni fo loju mejeeji ni’ loosely translated ‘he that swindles himself is like he that is blind in both eyes’!

A word is…..


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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