Igbo Ndioma Africa Network and Television, a programme dedicated to promoting Igbo language and culture, recently gathered prominent Igbo sons and daughters to open its office in Lagos.
Ndioma Africa has vowed to revitalise Igbo language and culture. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Advisory Committee on Language Pluralism and Multi-language Education had warned that the language might be heading for extinction and subsumed by other stronger Nigerian languages by 2025, unless the Igbo encourage its teaching in schools and use as the official language of communications among its people.
Prince Obinna Orji, managing director/CEO, Ndioma Africa, said the opening of the office, located in Ojuelegba, Lagos, was a first step towards not only revitalising the language and culture but also taking it all round the world.
He said: “Many Igbo families today find it difficult to speak the language. So, we want to use the programme to teach the children and future generations the Igbo language. We want to put an end to this habit of people who can’t speak fluent Igbo, people who will mix the Igbo language with English language. The late Oliver De Coque called it speaking Engligbo and we don’t want that. Since the death of late Chris Obinna Anokwuru of AIT RayPower, Igbo language programmes are hardly aired on radio and televisions anymore. So, Igbo Ndioma Africa is here to promote the speaking of Igbo language. It is our heritage and we have to promote our cultural heritage because it is what distinguishes us as a people.”
The event attracted many dignitaries, among them Nollywood actor, Mr John Okafor, popularly called Mr Ibu, who added humour to the occasion with his intermittent jokes.
Okafor described the opening of the office as a welcome development and added that he has never been any other thing but an Igbo man and will continue to associate with everything Igbo.
He said: “I am very happy to be here. I must thank Igbo Ndioma Africa for this project. I feel very strongly about this project because it is about promoting Igbo language and culture. I don’t joke with anything concerning Igbo language and culture. I was not born in a foreign land. I was born in Igboland, raised in Igboland and educated from primary to tertiary level in Igboland. I am grateful that you decided you won’t let Igbo language and culture die and go extinct. God almighty will sustain you.”
Okafor said that Igbo language and culture is like a house built on a solid foundation, but regretted that over time, it appeared as if the language and culture is being threatened with extinction. “If we for any reason allow our language and culture go into extinction, we will be in very terribly trouble,” Okafor warned.
He thanked Igbo Ndioma Africa for championing the battle to keep Igbo language and culture relevant and promised that he would, on his part, do his best to ensure that the language and culture remain relevant.
“You are doing your very best to keep our language and culture alive. On my own part, I promise to contribute my quota to keep our language and culture alive. All Igbo sons and daughters should also play their part to keep our language and culture alive by speaking the language,” he added.
Okafor described the Igbo who think the language irritates the ears as uninformed people who do not know what they are doing.
“You must find your language and culture appealing. If you look around Nigeria, when the northerners speak Hausa, they don’t mix English into it. The Yoruba bring in some English into their language while speaking, but to a large extent, they speak Yoruba. We as Igbo should be proud of and speak our language. We should not fall into the temptation of abandoning our language and heritage. It is what makes us the Igbo. God created us and gave us our heritage, we should hold unto it.”
He advised the Igbo against involvement in any form of conspiracy against themselves or others, saying such acts are evil and contrary to the will of God.
In his remarks, Chief Sunday Ude, President, Igbo-Speaking Community, Lagos said leaders must see themselves as chief servants if they hope to succeed.
“We went to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Abuja to register the Igbo speaking community as part of the efforts to make sure Igbo language does not go extinct. Our language is threatened by extinction and we must all play our role to make sure it does not happen. We have secured a secretariat and we will employ Igbo language teachers at the office so that parents whose children can’t speak the language can come and engage these teachers for home-teaching of their children. That is our plan in Lagos,” he said.
Ude prayed that God will increase the coast of Igbo Ndioma Africa and give them the resources to move from the Ojuelegba office to a bigger place. He noted that the first step already taken by Igbo Ndioma Africa would eventually be rewarded with comfort.
Some dignitaries at the occasion include Samuel Ubah, President General, Amamgbo community in Ezagu Local Government area of Enugu State. He said that as part of efforts to propagate Igbo language and culture, the Igbo in Abuja have formed the Igbo Good Governance Forum to promote the Igbo language.
He dispelled the rumours that the Igbo don’t love themselves. “Igbo are the only people that will go to a village and take a boy and bring him to the city for apprenticeship in business, and, after five to seven years, the boy will be set up in business and given take-off capital. That boy will go ahead to succeed in business, build a house and buy a car for his mother. There are no other people among the black race like the Igbo,” he noted.