Not yet Uhuru: Nigerians and a journey towards national identity (2)
CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY
Once the mental framework is developed and built, and everyone is aware of the indispensable need to learn languages of other cultural nationals, and the basic communication in the white’s language is established, then a move-away from the culture of mediocrity and irresponsibility which makes Nigerians shy away from identifying with their country becomes a reality. The variables that fragment us become clear because there are no efforts to bring together the ethnic nationalities that come together as a people. The voice of the youths must prevail in this regard.
Regrettably, too, we are in a regime where the character of our strength, productivity of our potentials and efficiency of our skills are largely determined by and dependent upon the fluency of our English accent, proficiency in the written and spoken linguistic scheme of the Englishman, and excellence in English language examination. The immediate consequence of this attitude is the degree of disunity and abysmal level of development we are witnessing. Yes, possessing basics of the English syntax, vocabulary and grammar is good but using it as yardstick to, say, gaining admission into post-secondary education is not only evil but also self-colonising. It is interestingly instructive that the power of language is such that man thinks within the framework of the language in which he speaks or is forced to speak. Language influences man’s rational and thinking capacity.
The fast extinction of our various indigenous languages is alarming to the extent that we are comfortable with a system of language developed by a people and relegating the tongue into which we are born. The educational sector and the academia in Nigeria must be put on trial here. They both must be subject to rigorous questions, such as why should the Yoruba (Hausa or Igbo) man not be evaluated based on the tongue into which he is born other than the white man’s language? After been introduced into the basic communication pattern of the colonialist, should the WAEC/NECO candidate not mandatorily asked to engage his mother tongue vigorously in the examination to make him eligible to gain admission for university education? Creating a true national identity requires that the languages and culture of the three major tribes (to start with) in Nigeria be introduced from the elementary education such that the child is aware of the culture and history that birth other ethnic groups that make up his country.
Consequently, he develops a sense of national consciousness, an idea that he is a citizen of Nigeria, whether he lives in the East, West, North or South. The ethnic suspicion that troubled and polarized the first republic Nigeria was due largely in part to lack of national consciousness. The Igbo man did not feel safe in the hands of the Hausa man because the latter could not understand the language of the former, even if the former could speak and communicate in the language of the latter. There was lack of mutual linguistic understanding. This snag may linger for a longer-than-expected period if a national identity that is beyond mere reciting the patriotic anthem, veiled ignorantly in national anthem, is not addressed.
It is absurd and indeed a product of this lack of national identity that after over fifty years of independence, the learning of the three major languages of Nigeria is still left in the hands of occupational and geographical mobility contraption. More worrisome is the fact that through this number of years, the education sector has not designed a scientific process of bringing the Igbo man closer to the Yoruba man, the Yoruba closer to the Hausa, and so forth. Many educationalists and scholars have with high-level incoherence lopsidedly argued that Nigeria is not ripe enough to develop her own national linguistic framework, a language that all Nigerians will learn, speak, write and understand. If this argument is allowed to persist, then Nigeria is doomed for a more disintegrated future. Lessons must be learnt and cue taken from Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Lesotho, Rwanda, Somalia, and a host of other African countries with indigenous national languages, on the procedure to develop a unifying language. It appears that the so-called official language is partitioning Nigeria rather than uniting it.
Given, and admittedly so, that this is the first time a Nigerian government will define and embrace a collective vision, a vision driven by determination, altruism, and strong political will, it is important to bring these suggestions to bear in the ministries, departments and agencies concerned to ensure that Nigeria truly becomes a nation, united in spirit and in truth.
• Alabi a poet, author and public affairs commentator and political analyst, works in Legal Blitz Limited.