Ndi Igbo: Cosmopolitan, But Averse To Their Own Culture- A Rejoinder To Osita Chidoka

By Dr. Vitus Ozoke July 11, 2020

Ndi Igbo: Cosmopolitan, But Averse To Their Own Culture- A Rejoinder To Osita Chidoka

I couldn’t have put it more elegantly. Thanks, Chief¬†Osita Chidoka!

Let me just add a couple of comments. Everything in this piece is 100 percent correct. The one sad regret that needs to be expressed is that while the Igbo are the most cosmopolitan linguistic group in Nigeria, perhaps Africa, embracing other languages, they have increasingly abandoned their own language. Ironically, Igbo’s external linguistic assimilation comes at a very steep cost to Igbo language itself.

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While other Nigerian languages, most notably Yoruba, followed by Hausa, continue to grow, thrive, and flourish, thanks to their embrace and use by the Igbo, the Igbo language is on the brink of extinction. The Igbo are Igbo averse. They shy away from their own language. They would rather speak English, even when their English is criminally atrocious, than speak Igbo language. Some even go to the ridiculous extent of forbidding their children to speak Igbo language even at home. Teachers, Igbo teachers, in Igbo states severely punish children for speaking Igbo at school.

To live in Lagos, and be Omo Ekoo, is to speak Yoruba, impeccable Yoruba. I have three cousins who live in the Mushin sector of Lagos. Japhet, Levi, and Victor speak better Yoruba than the Ijebus and the Aworis. They can hold the most intimate conversations with the most illiterate Yoruba in Yoruba, employing proverbs and idioms. But none of them, I bet, can speak undiluted Igbo for 30 seconds, without mixing it up with English, or, even more troubling, Yoruba.

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That is the costly tradeoff for the Igbo linguistic cosmopolitanism. As laudable as it is that the Igbo are the most truly linguistically invested Nigerian subset, I have always refused to celebrate that. I have always refused to celebrate the Igbo-Yorubas who are not Igbo first. Their embrace of other ethnic languages to the total neglect of Igbo language is a serious identity threat of existential proportions. So, I don’t see them as our heroes. As a matter of fact, I see any Igbo who has embraced, learned, and now speaks non-Igbo language(s), but whose Igbo language competency is not on fluency level, as a traitor. I am sorry.

A few months ago, Ossy Chidoka gave what he called Patty Obasi challenge. He challenged his friends on Facebook to choose any of Patty Obasi’s many legendary Igbo songs, make a video of themselves singing along, and post the video on Facebook. Many did, but how many Yorubas took that challenge? Hausas? Edo? What about our Asaba Delta neighbors? Ikwere? None! But give the challenge of making a video rendition of a Yoruba, Hausa, Kanuri song, offer a prize money, and the Igbo will clear the prize money even before folks from those language groups are done clearing their throat.

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Here is the challenge I want to throw. Chief Chidoka, you may use your platform to coordinate it. I’m offering N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira) to ten Yoruba or Hausa/Fulani Nigerians who can make a video recording of themselves clearly and fluently singing any popular and iconic Igbo song in the genres of Osita Osadebe, Nelly Uchendu, Morocco Maduka, Sir Warrior, The Oriental Brothers. Please note that Flavor, Tekno, PSquare, and their likes who, though Igbo, do not sing pure Igbo lyrics, do not make the cut.