The recent plan by a culture revitalisation organisation, Otu Subakwa Igbo, to revive the teaching and learning of Igbo language and culture must be given the needed support by the governments of the South East states and other states where the language is spoken in Nigeria. The Otu Subakwa Igbo, led by the former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Professor Pita Ejiofor, will be organising a pan-Igbo conference to engender more interest in the writing, speaking and reading of the language.
According to Ejiofor, the forum would tackle the issue of ‘incompleteness’ of Igbo vocabularies among others. At the event, scholars and other stakeholders would brainstorm and find out why the reading of Igbo language is seemingly difficult to most people. The former university teacher believes that many Igbo people do not write Igbo language very well. He wants the conference to dwell more on how to solve the problem and tell the Otu Subakwa Igbo those things that they are not doing well in the promotion of Igbo language and culture.
The forum will equally deliberate on how to bring new words into the language to reflect recent developments. There is no doubt that the plan to revive the teaching and learning of Igbo language and culture is coming at a time when the neglect of the language is glaring. The conference is expedient, taking into consideration the UNESCO’s warning, some years ago, that “Igbo language may get into extinction unless drastic remedial steps are taken to save it.”
We commend Ejiofor and his group for their interest in the promotion of Igbo language and regret the reported disinterest shown by governments in the South East to fund the association in its earlier attempts to stimulate more interest in the use of the language. It is also pathetic that some Igbo parents do not show much interest in the use of the language. Instead, they prefer teaching their children and wards English and other foreign languages to the detriment of Igbo Language.
As a result of the unpatriotic attitude of some Igbo parents and guardians, the language has seemingly lost prestige. Unfortunately, many Igbo children born outside Igbo land cannot speak the language fluently. They cannot use the language productively as well. Therefore, there is urgent need for attitudinal change towards the language by young Igbo people, especially those born outside the Igbo-speaking states and those born overseas. However, it must be pointed out that there are Igbo children born in UK and US and other countries abroad who speak the language better than those born at home.
We urge the governments of the South East and governors of other Igbo-speaking states to lend enough support to Otu Subakwa Igbo in its renewed effort to develop the language. Teachers and scholars of Igbo language must show deep interest in the coming pan-Igbo conference. The promoters of the language must pay more attention to the introduction of new words and expressions into the language. They cannot run away from incorporating new loaned words into the language as well as ‘Igbonisation’ of some English and other foreign words which Igbo does not have the equivalents.
As every language is dynamic, Igbo language must be willing to accept and accommodate useful changes so that its ‘incompleteness’ can be holistically addressed. Therefore, Igbo language must be subjected to linguistic engineering and standardisation, like other languages, to be able to meet the needs of its users. Igbo scholars and teachers should borrow a leaf from their counterparts in Hausa and Yoruba languages in the development of Igbo language.
We call on the governors of the South East states to take more than a passing interest in the promotion of Igbo language by conducting some of their meetings in the language. There is need to set up institutes of Igbo language and culture in universities in the zone and other varsities where Igbo language is studied in the country. It behooves on Ndigbo to promote the use of Igbo language. It is important that they show much interest in the promotion of the language so that it will not die as being predicted.
We enjoin the South East governors to make the study of Igbo language compulsory in primary and secondary schools in the zone. Let scholarships be given to those studying the language in colleges of education and universities. There is need for the establishment of an Igbo language newspaper and even a magazine. Prizes to best students in Igbo language in WAEC and NECO exams should be introduced. It is time to translate into Igbo language classics such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and other literary works of note.