Igbo people please appreciate your language – Odenigbo lecturer pleads
– Emeka Ani
Activities marking this year’s Owerri Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo Lecture were rounded off on Saturday, May 1, 2018 at the Obiri-Odenigbo, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri. The occasion kicked-off the previous day (“Odenigbo Eve”) Friday August 31 with a variety of cultural entertainment including, wrestling, drama and cultural dances.
The next day, Saturday September 1, the grand finale began with a thanksgiving Mass at Maria Assumpta Cathedral. It was presided over by Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri. He was assisted by Most Rev. John Okoye, Catholic Bishop of Awgu Diocese, Enugu State and over 40 priests drawn from various dioceses.
The Thanksgiving Mass was followed by fund-raising for Archdiocesan projects; recognition of 2018 Odenigbo supporters and presentation of souvenirs to those who supported the project in 2017.
After the Mass, other activities shifted to the Obiri-Odenigbo which festive mood was dampened by a torrential downpour which began shortly after the Mass. Though the rain disrupted some activities like formal Odenigbo procession, it did not dampen the enthusiasm of lovers of Odenigbo Lecture who shunned the rain and stayed behind to listen to the lecture.
The ceremony began with the arrival of the lecturer, Dr. Mrs. Patricia Uloaku Okoye who was led into the arena by the Catholic Women Organization cultural dance from Enugu Diocese, followed by another cultural group led by titled people from Ogidi, Idemili LGA, Anambra State and relations from her maiden community, Amanato, Ideato South LGA, Imo State.
Other formalities, included opening prayer, Mbem Odenigbo (Odenigbo Anthem), presentation of kolanuts and a beautiful citation on the lecturer by Dr. Lucy Akpakama.
As soon as Dr. Mrs. Okoye climbed the rostrum, there was no dull moment as she held the audience spellbound in her captivating lecture titled: “ISUZI, IDEZI NA IGUZI IGBO: Mmasi Na Akamgba Di na ha.” (Speaking, Writing and Reading Igbo Correctly: The Joy and Challenge in the Matter.)
As a renowned teacher and educationist, Dr. Okoye started with the singing of her Audio CD song, “Asusu Igbo na-anwukwa Anwu” (Igbo Language is dying). This served as a “set induction,” to get the audience in a mental state of readiness and induce them into the right mind-set. It served the desired purpose as the audience joyfully joined in the Singing, admitting that Igbo Language is in grave danger.
Analyzing the theme, Dr. Okoye said Isuzi Igbo means speaking Igbo Language steadily without mixing it with English or another language; Idezi Igbo means writing standard Igbo, respecting all the rules of Igbo grammer, while Iguzi Igbo stands for reading Igbo correctly so that your audience will understand exactly what you are saying without any ambiguity.
“Only Igbo people speak NgliIgbo, (EnglishIgbo). We don’t have Ngiliawusa or Ngiliyoruba. If you don’t respect your language how can you expect someone else to do so?”
She noted that, “Listening to Igbo Language is less difficult, Speaking Igbo is difficult, Writing Igbo is more difficult and Reading Igbo is most difficult.”
Dr. Okoye traced the origin of neglect and lack of respect for Igbo Language to the European colonialists and missionaries who brought education, their religion, their system of government and their culture; and made English Language the official language for communication, both in state and church. “So, English became the language for everything – teaching, learning, civil service, church service, evangelization while Igbo Language was totally neglected.”
She said some major benefits derivable from Speaking, Writing and Reading Igbo correctly include: “It will make students show interest in Igbo; improve our understanding of Igbo tradition and culture and help put on record Igbo folklores, proverbs, music thereby strengthening our cherished values and history.
The lecturer listed some challenges facing Igbo Language. They include;
– Majority of the Igbo can speak Igbo Language but cannot read or write in Igbo
– Many modern parents don’t encourage their children to speak Igbo.
– Some are ashamed of speaking Igbo.
– Those who speak Igbo are looked down upon and seen as illiterates.
– Students don’t show interest in the language because of derogatory comments.
– Some Igbo government officials take delight in speaking English and addressing their people in English unlike their Hausa and Yoruba counterparts.
– Igbo teachers are looked down on by their fellow teachers even though they have the same academic qualifications.
– Igbo is optional instead of compulsory in secondary school examinations in Igboland.
– Ndigbo, especially those who live in the North and West tend to speak Hausa and Yoruba languages more than their native tongue. They also like to dress like the Hausas and Yorubas and enjoy the titles, “Alhaji” or “Babao.”
To arrest the situation, Dr. Mrs. Okoye gave the following recommendations:
· Igbo teachers need to update their knowledge and embrace new methods of teaching the language
· Government should make Igbo language compulsory from primary to secondary school
· Parents should communicate with their children in Igbo language and encourage them to speak Igbo.
· Association of Igbo teachers should meet periodically to discuss issues affecting Igbo language
· There is need for Igbo dialects and standard Igbo to work in synergy, enriching each other – Mmiri atala, azu anwula
· Parents who live outside Igboland should try to bring their children home at least once a year, especially during Christmas or community festivals
· NdiIgbo should dress more in Igbo attires than the English or any other foreign dress and encourage their children to do so.
· Teachers should stop punishing pupils who speak Igbo in class
· Igbo language should get the same respect and recognition as English language; same with Igbo teachers.
· Igbo native foods should be encouraged
· There should be prices for Igbo students as in English and Maths
· Any student who fails Igbo language should repeat the class
· Government and Organizations should offer scholarship up to University level to students who excel in Igbo Language, etc.
Dr. Okoye received a standing ovation for her excellent delivery of the lecture which was noted among the best since the lecture started in 1996.
Lovers of Odenigbo Lecture will be similarly thrilled next year when a renowned Igbo scholar, Rev. Fr. Dr. Longinus Chinagorom of IMSU joins the elite “Odee” club as he delivers the 2019 lecture titled: “OMENACHUKWU: Mgbazi Omenala Igbo.”
The 2018 Odenigbo Lecture was attended by important dignitaries, including the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ekpeazu, the former Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, and a powerful delegation sent by Igwe of Ogidi, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alex Uzo Onyido led by Chief Sir Rex Ezegbo, (Ike-Ogidi.). Other included Knights and Ladies of the church, governorship aspirants in Imo State, including Barr. Humphrey Anumudu, Barr. Uche Onyeagocha etc.
The Chairman of the Odenigbo Committee, Barr. Anthony Emeana expressed satisfaction with the outcome of this year’s celebration and hoped that next year’s will be even better.