From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Language is a major component of culture. And this gives credence to a saying that to colonise a group of people, take away their language, culture and religion, then, colonising them will be done without any form of resistance.
It is in this light that Yoruba Language scholars and enthusiasts have been working to ensure that young ones are taught and encouraged to communicate in the language. Apart from that, speakers of different dialects are also encouraged to speak them, with the view of preserving the diversity in Yoruba Language.
Therefore, it was a gathering of who-is-who in Egba land during the grand finale of the maiden edition of the annual Egba Dialect Debate and Choral Competition, organised among secondary schools in Ogun Central Senatorial District.
The event, held at the main auditorium of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, witnessed a large turn-out of top government functionaries, scholars, educationists, students and traditional rulers from the six local government areas in the district. These are Ifo, Odeda, Obafemi-Owode, Abeokuta South, Abeokuta North and Ewekoro.
Powered by Senator Lanre Tejuoso, secondary schools locked horns in preliminary debate and choral competitions purely in Egba dialect for a whole week. This saw Egba-Owode Grammar School, Obafemi-Owode LG, Adenrele High School, Ifo LG, Adeoye Lambo Secondary School, Ewekoro LG, Asero High School, Abeokuta South LG, Nawairu-Deen High School, Obantoko, Odeda LG and African Church Grammar School, Abeokuta North LG, slugging it out in the finals.
In the debate competition, however, Kobape High School, Obafemi-Owode LG, Ifo High School, Ifo LG, Methodist High School, Ewekoro LG, Abeokuta Girls Grammar School, Abeokuta South LG, Orile Iporo High School, Odeda LG and African Church Grammar School, Abeokuta North LG, vied for the best in Egba dialect. The topic for debate was: “Who deserves better nutrition? Mother or baby?’
The Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egba land, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, said Egba dialect as part of Yoruba Language has its flavours and uniqueness, which have helped it to endure over centuries. He added that the dialect is well spoken not only among the rural dwellers in Egba land, but also among the elites.
Represented by the Ba’arohin of Egbaland, Chief Layi Labode, the monarch, commended Tejuoso for putting the programme together noting such step would enhance speaking and preserving of the Egba dialect among the youth, especially students. He tasked other individuals in Egbaland on the need to come up with ideas and programmes capable of promoting the cultural values of Egbaland.
Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, said the programme would go a long way in preserving the Egba dialect and further cement the relationship among the Egba people. The monarch, who is also the father of the senator, assured his audience that as traditional rulers who are custodians of culture and traditions, avenues would always be created to enhance the speaking and understanding of Egba dialect.
To add pep to the event, an Ewi rendition was performed by Ajobiewe Jnr., while Arofo Egba was done by Bunmi Ayelaagbe. Egba traditional dance was performed by the students of Oba High School.
A Nollywood actress, Dolapo Orisajobi, gave a pep talk to the students on their need to see Yoruba language and by extension, Egba dialect as not inferior to any foreign language. She charged them not to be mortified to speak the dialect anywhere as such would further showcase the beauty of the dialect.
Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Suraj Ishola Adekunbi, described the event as not just a competition, but a demonstration of efforts to preserve the culture of a people. He lauded Tejuoso for committing his resources to enhancing academic capacity of participants in the debate in indigenous dialect. He said the House would always support government as well as individual efforts towards lifting education up in the state.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun reiterated that education would always be at the forefront of his adminstration. Represented by the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Modupe Mujota, he described language as an integral part of culture, which must be preserved for the unborn generations.
She said Yoruba is more than a language but a unique culture whose values should be preserved and passed down by parents. She added that since Yoruba is a mother tongue, it will come naturally advocating that French should rather be made compulsory in schools in order for the students to have added advantage.
Tejuoso said the event was put together with a view to discovering showcasing talents in the public schools. He added it was also to bring to the fore, the knowledge and understanding of Egba dialect among secondary school students in Ogun Central.
At the end of the competition, Orile Iporo High School, Odeda, came out tops in the debate competition, while African Church Grammar School, Ita Eko and Abeokuta Girls Grammar School, Onikolobo, emerged first and second runners-up respectively. In the choral competition, Adeoye Lambo High School, Obada, was the winner, while Asero High School, Asero and Nawairu-Deen Grammar School, Obantoko, came second and third respectively.