Tuesday, 16 September 2014


It was a sunny day, going towards the end of its third quarter. Segun or shexzy Baba for short (actually for long) was returning from the Island. He had gone to make some important enquiries in a company, and need be that he looked smart and fly. From Obalende Park, he entered a bus en route for Bariga.
He buried his head into his phone, immediately he entered, browsing and surfing the net, not minding all that went on in the bus. The pilot (as the driver of a danfo bus is called) commenced movement when every sitting space in the bus was filled with passengers. As they journeyed, Segun looked up to see where they've reached, to his surprise he saw a very beautiful young lady seated by his side. To him, she was the most beautiful of them all that he has seen. He had been doing girls in his area, but this looked international. Not wanting to lose her, he began to put strategies in his head on how to get acquainted with her and get her phone number before they got to their destination. As a sharp guy, after some minutes, he got a plan. But his joy was cut short when he realized he had to relate with her in English; there and then, his happy mood changed. He could actually communicate in the language, but he wasn't fluent. So in other not to 'fall his hand', he was mute all through the journey.

Blessing, six years old, moved in with her parents from a self-contained apartment to a face-me-face-wahala house; as they say, "Na condition make crayfish bend". A day after they parked in, she went out of their room to look around. She got to the frontage only to see some children, about six of them, playing suwé. Seeing how happy they were as they played, she moved closer and asked saying, "Hello, can I play with you?" They looked at her but gave no response. She asked again, even more politely, saying, "Please, can I join you to play the game?” This time, Shukurat, one of the children replied in Yoruba saying, "E wo eleyi o, ki lo ni o se owun?" (Meaning, "See this one, what did she say happened to her?); the other children busted into laughter. Blessing immediately wore a sad countenance and left them. 

My country people have had one long standing problem; no, not corruption or other issues that are talked about on a daily basis. The problem is, in my words, the discrimination of languages. My people believe that to express one's self, it is done well and better in the language of the whites; thereby, pushing our over 500 indigenous languages to second place. So peers stigmatize other who aren't fluent in speak it, as in Segun's case which made him silent too avoid being disgraced; also Blessing whose parents, like many other, didn't allow her learn Yoruba, her mother's tongue, but English which to them would make her more acceptable in places she finds herself; but that wasn't the case when she had to communicate with those 'local' children. She was made inferior because she couldn't speak her language. Even in primary and secondary schools, it is a crime to speak our indigenous languages, which is termed as vernacular. In fact, when I was in those two stages of school, I risked paying a fine, or getting spanked in front of the class, or both, if caught speaking any of the banned languages. 

But despite the respect given to this foreign language, I am yet to see its expressiveness as compared to our own. In my observation, there are feelings one would want to express in words that comes out well in languages like Yoruba, Igbo and others, but words won't be found for same in English. Let's take for example the Suwé game which Blessing wanted to play with those kids. It's a game in which a big rectangular shape, with smaller rectangles inside, is drawn on the ground. One of the ways to play: a pebble is thrown into one of the small shapes and the player hops in and out of each shapes and retrieves the pebble after going round. For those that know the game, how better can one express joy when a 'house' is bought in the game and other interesting feats if not in indigenous languages? Or Segun, who as mentioned earlier does girls in his area very well, expressing himself in his language, thereby gaining their hearts and the celebrated title of the local champion. Also, for those that are conversant with the Yoruba language, there are greetings for every activity whether it's eating, walking, sleeping, bathing, urinating, excreting and a whole lot more; but same doesn't exist in the first class language. 

Therefore, our mentality as regards our language choices should follow a major change. The nonsense relegation of our indigenous languages should stop. The ban of our languages in schools should be lifted. Parents should encourage children to understand and speak their mother's tongue (fathers' tongue too) alongside English language. The society shouldn't make those that can't speak the language well, inferior, they should be helped out. 

No matter how well we keep, cherish and respect a foreign thing, what isn't ours isn't ours. We must note that expression is in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and all other languages of ours. But then, fluency in any language (whether foreign or indigenous) doesn't tell how wise a person is, how easily adaptable to change he is, it doesn't tell how well a person knows anything, it doesn't also tell the behaviour and character a person exhibit. So we should be free to 'fire bullets' when we speak (it's left for the listener to dodge), make mistakes in placing words to communicate, all without risking our reputation and without fear of mockery. Let's change our societal mentality, only then can we start to build a new reality.

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