UNESCO and endangered Igbo language (2)
By Chuma Uwechia
But don’t Igbo parents know that being bilingual is an educational asset and that it will bode well for their children to be fluent in both Igbo and English? Studies have shown that speaking more than just your native tongue is a great way to exercise your brain and keep it in tiptop condition, especially if you consistently switch between the languages throughout your entire life. People who are bilingual have higher level of cognitive brain function.
As a matter of fact, it cannot be questioned whether Igbos understand the importance of being bilingual or multilingual, after all, a good number of Igbos took French and Latin languages as electives in secondary school. And some majored in French or classics and modern languages (i.e. Latin/Greek) at university level. But somehow, a red line seems to be drawn when it comes to Igbo language or some other local Nigerian languages, and this is due to the debilitating effects of colonization. While the French colonizers were known for their controversial policy of assimilation of Africans, little did Igbos realize that the British system of colonization would in the long run eventually end up in assimilation of Ndigbo.
Affluent Igbos must have a second home in London to announce their arrival to the wealthy club. Their children must school in England or US. They shop at Oxford Street in London; wear English designers; import their furniture from London; spend their vacations in London or US; go for preventive healthcare in London where they have their family doctor; and eat British food. Because a good number of the current generation of Igbo children were raised outside of, and without any knowledge of their culture; they are raised to be English and foreigners to their culture. Successively, over the years, these kids brought up in the new norm cannot pronounce their surnames correctly and do not know the meaning of their Igbo name. The bitter truth is that these kids are neither English nor Igbo. They have lost their true identity and are stranded somewhere between the black and white world, a no man’s land. And to most parents, that is supposed to be a sign of progress and advancement. Obviously, the new generation of Igbos has been culturally impoverished, lost their language and their identity as a people and have no cultural legacy or identity to eventually hand down to their own children – a dreadful and dead end.
Igbos who still live in Nigeria but outside of the eastern states are the worst case. Their children do not speak Igbo, have no knowledge of Igbo culture and rarely ever visit their hometowns. As deduced from a recent New York Times article by Farhad Manjoo, the modern day tools of cultural domination employed by the west to perpetuate this stereotype/black condition include but are not limited to the Internet, cable television and smartphone, which have turned the world into a global village. American companies like Facebook and Amazon are dominating Internet book sales; Youtube and Netflix are taking over television and movies; and the smartphone, the most important platform for entertainment, is controlled entirely by Apple and Google.
Between these big American firms and Microsoft, they dominate the world and promote only American values. They have given the west an unrivaled advantage or monopoly in the global culture war to vanquish other cultures. They enable the west to stream their western-type culture like Hollywood movies, European football league, and Hip hop music, all in English right into African homes unrestricted, to capture the heart and minds of the youth.
Where Africans have done nothing, European and Asian countries are fighting back to protect their culture. The European Commission is coming up with privacy regulations and antitrust investigations to limit the American companies’ reach. They are also considering rules that will require the companies to carry and even pay for local content in the markets they serve.
Recently, China shut down Apple iBooks and iTunes movies stores. Even India stopped Apple’s plan to sell refurbished iPhones in the country. India also shutdown Facebook’s free Internet plan, which was criticized as a kind of Trojan horse to take over India’s digital infrastructure. But Nigeria’s government (both federal and states) do not have the political or moral will to require the nation’s radio stations, TV and cable companies to carry more local content than foreign components to protect local culture.
The mere fact that there are still millions of Igbos living in their ancestral towns and villages who still communicate primarily in Igbo language and are still in tune with their culture is not a saving grace. This is because those poor villagers look up to the city dwellers and those in diaspora as their role models. They envy their kith and kin who speak English with British accent, but cannot speak Igbo. They dream of the day that they too will be like that. They deride their own heritage and culture as not good enough and believe that nothing good will come out of their own country when compared to other cultures. Their destiny, they now believe lies abroad in US, Europe and the rest of the world outside Africa, while Abuja and Lagos is their gate way. Such is the extent of their disillusionment.
But, if we blame the west, what are we to say about the misrule of our own governments? Between the federal, state to local government, they create the enabling environment for this cultural dominion by the west to succeed and persist through their entrenched corruption, mediocrity and mismanagement of national resources. They make the country volatile. The law abiding public having lost confidence and faith in the ability of their government to provide them with good government, security and good quality of life in their own country, are now turning their attention to the west for salvation through migration – exodus.
The pull to migrate out of the country is becoming overwhelming for the kids and so many are checking out to US, Europe and Asia for better life. Unlike in the past, those who have finished their studies abroad now stay back rather than return to Nigeria and to uncertainty. The poor and unemployed who cannot wangle their way to get visas in an attempt to escape insecurity, poverty and hopelessness at home have turned to the suicidal path of crossing to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea – now known as the world’s largest cemetery.
A good majority of the Igbo child victims, who have been deprived of the knowledge and ability to speak their God-given language through their parental fault, have conveyed strong victim impact statements regarding their hopeless situation.
*Uwechia is a New York-based
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