BY CHINENYEH OZOR
Enugu — The umbrella association of all Igbo cultural unions, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has given reasons for Igbo language not being spoken at Igbo gatherings by Ndigbo.
Former National Secretary of Ohanaeze, Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, who spoke, lamented that Ndigbo do not speak the Igbo language to themselves because most of them were promoting their various dialects instead of speaking the central Igbo. There are as many Igbo dialects as there are communities.
Nwabueze, who spoke at an Igbo language programme organized by the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, for secondary school students in Enugu, said that Ohanaeze Ndigbo once decided that its meetings and activities would be conducted in Igbo, but this did not work because there were several Igbo dialects spoken in various parts of Igbo nation unlike Hausa or Yoruba which had acceptable central language.
“We once said at an Ohanaeze meeting that all our meetings would be conducted in Igbo because we realized that our language was dying, but this did not work. The first day we decided that we must speak Igbo in our meetings, the late governor of Anambra State, Chief C. C. Onoh spoke his own brand of WAWA Igbo.
“Onoh spoke at length and most people did not understand what he was saying. Every other person spoke his own dialect and at the end, nobody spoke Igbo again at Ohanaeze because none of us understood one another’s dialect,” he said.
Also contributing, the former Registrar of the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, and now traditional ruler, Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, blamed the inability of Ndigbo to speak Igbo on the missionaries who established schools in Igbo land.
Ike said that when he went to the then Government College, Umuahia in the present Abia State, it was an offence to speak Igbo in the school premises.
“When I went to Government College, it was an offence to speak Igbo in the school then. When I left the college, I travelled overseas for further studies. Writers should publish their books in both English and Igbo languages …,” he added. Also speaking, the former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, said that Igbo language should not be allowed to die.
On why Ndigbo do not speak their language, Ekwueme said that this was because, “English language is a predator to Igbo,” just as Hausa is the predator to Angas, spoken by the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon’s people.
“Gowon’s father was the leader of his people in the Anglican Church. The Bible was first translated to Angas language, but nobody read it because Hausa is predator to Angas. Igbo Bible is not read because English is the predator to Igbo.
“The Hausa Bible which was translated after the Angas Bible is widely read, but that of the Angas did not sell,” he said. John Okafor, aka Ibu, an actor, also lamented that the average “Igbo child cannot tell you where he comes from. He will tell you that his/her father has not told him the name of his village. This is not good. We must speak our language,” Ibu said.