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Awake: The Igbo’s Language, Image And Freedom

By Ogadimma Mbadiwe

Nigeria harbor three dominant tribes: the Hausas, Yorubas and the Igbos. As a British colony, English was adopted as her official language. After her independence, series of events led to the killing of Igbos, which at a time turned genocide. That spurred their cry for safety and freedom under the umbrella – Biafra. It turned to a fight for survival which ended in their defeat. So, the short lived Biafra remained a dream.

Before the war, Igbos were known for their unity, versatility and flexibility; they were known to be proud of their language. Sadly, after they lost the war, bearing an Igbo identity predictably deprived one’s privileges. Igbos were systematically conditioned to fault and denounce their identity; many buried their native names and adopted English names in bid to curb barricades to their dreams.

Their vanquished situation summarily spurred various self- destructive acts for survival which greatly affected the Igbos’ unity. Today, unlike other tribes, it is common to meet a class of Igbos who are proud of other Nigerian languages but ashamed to speak theirs. Many attach much importance to things that matter less, like taking time mimicking and criticizing English and its phonetics at the expense of communication or indebt understanding. It is good and an exciting feature if one masters foreign languages, but at what expense?

It is irritating to know that some Igbos who have not even crossed the borders of their land cannot effortlessly speak their mother-tongue. Oddly, it is now taken by some as a thing of pride. The humiliating thing is that most of them are now groundless, poor in both Igbo and the foreign languages they claim to speak fluently. If they are dumping their tribe language to avoid mother- tongue interference with their supposed more professional borrowed tongue, then they need a reminder that when a Hausa man, Venezuelan, Russian or other nations of the world speaks English or any foreign language, mother- tongue interference is enthusiastically anticipated.

Additionally, a growing nauseating trend amongst Igbos is the adoption of ‘I b o’ in place of ‘I gb o’. Note — most Europeans due to their interfering mother tongue, found it difficult pronouncing the ‘ gb ’ sound in I gb o. And because they do not see need to perfect an uneasy trivial thing— foreign phonetics, they adopted ‘ Ibo ’. Like various incomprehensible Africans concerned about sneezing and laughing like their colonial masters, Igbos dishing I gb o for I b o (an error) is an immense toxic situation.

Their Biafra clampdown appear not to have only crushed lives, it equally massacred their stability, image, beliefs and tribe bond spirit. Now the Igbo nation is gradually turning to a polyglot region that might end up adopting an artificial native tongue. Some defend their language absurdity with “…being civilized”. But such numb civilization ended at a remote time in colonial era when being able to speak English automatically makes one an associate to the whites, working as their mouth-piece.

Poor English speakers were regarded by locals as civilized (able to communicate with the whites). That was a great feature but Igbos ought to have outgrown that sort of development where people match English fluency with being civilized, intelligent or well educated; Igbos’ should be in an era of self-rediscovery and establishments… …Take it easy with the deluded Igbos?

We really should, I realized they are not to be blamed. Their new poor beliefs was not their choice, it was systematically imposed; though they are thoughtlessly ignorant of its origin. It is understandable, the root of their present language situation was born out of their survival instincts, a repercussion of their Biafra loss; but they can fight it. To succeed, Igbos need re-conditioning via noble history programs about their accustomed self-hurting negativities.

Now, unlike other tribes who sensibly conceal their tribe flaws while boosting their strengths to the world, numerous Igbos are inconceivably quick to help promote and exaggerate their errors, but shy away from their noble sides. Consequently, there are now lots of negative conceptions about Igbos in Nigeria, virtually all are exaggerated or false.

A popular instance is that they are the most mean in money matters, growing prevalent example is their alleged demand of extortionate cash as bride price “… requesting up to ₦50,000”, It is much. But If not for some northern women who broke their cultural concealment zone, worried that girls in IDP camps are threatening their marriage chances, we might not have known the concealed despicably exorbitant bride prices required in other tribes.

They made it clear they will not crash their bride price from the usual ₦150,000 on the average to the ₦10,000 being paid for IDPs. According to Falmata Bashir, IDPs are a threat because most men want low-cost marriages, adding, “A guy proposing to marry my childhood friend abandoned her for an IDP bride, just because he could not afford her ₦ 500,000 to ₦1-million bride price...” (Daily Trust, Sep.19 2015) Even though some northern parts demand ₦ 500,000 to ₦1000000 as bride price excluding other customary items, it cannot be applicable to average citizens but only the rich. In same way, even if some parts of Igbos demand up to ₦50,000, it cannot be general and usually not a barrier in Igbo marriage when there is understanding between both families.

Like most families in Arondizuogu (Imo state) with a tradition of demanding ₦ 25 as bride price, we should note that bride price is indeed crucial in Igbo land, no matter how little. In short, an extensively objective study of bride price in Nigeria will likely reveal that Igbos demand little, compared to what is obtainable in other tribes. Selfishness, disagreements, corruption or evil exists in every tribe, although the levels differ, the key thing that molds a tribes’ image is management.

That is why ingenious Nigerian tribes or nations which inwardly are amongst the worse appear outwardly as amongst the best. Unity is power, but some drains power. Just like fire and water, some things are better separated. Even when things that should be fine together are united with force instead of love, disorder usually follows. A great percentage of the Igbos see need for freedom— Biafra. Agitators were united under an umbrella—MASSOB, backed by their late hero, Ojukwu.

After his death, a more radical faction headed by a charismatic but immoderate breed, inspired by anger and hate for Nigeria’s genocidal coldness towards Igbos sprung. It is understandable that lots of Igbos or those part of the short-lived Biafra have reasons to be angry; normally, both judicious and fanatic people would exist amongst them, but bigots should not head freedom struggle.

Agitation for freedom and being angry is not bad, but one should be concerned about its management. Accordingly, a head that insensibly voices hate should be shunned, for without sensibility, bravery becomes stupidity and suicide. Bold hostile statements does not always translate to bravery, it is usually a naïve audacity which translates to stupidity. Some Igbos now see their tribe as one which cannot be united, one that when freed, would be plunged with anarchy. Were they sensitive enough to foreknow the future?

Or insensitive to realize they have been conditioned to see abnormally in their tribe’s unity, and are unknowingly working against themselves? Igbos have long been destabilized; now, they primarily need a management that will focus on their re-unity and stability, waking their tribe bond and rediscovering their true nature—a solution to their toxic pride of self-defamation and denial.

A mindboggling instance of such denial is the disruptive situation where Igbo names of communities were officially altered to circumvent their Igbo roots. Just like a Nigerian tribe that have been cooperatively setting up standard organizations or firms like intercontinental T.V stations with screened goal of promoting their tribesmen and culture, Igbos need a management that will principally focus on restoring their people’s unity or bond and that will be wise enough to invest on setups that will equally focus on promoting their long subdued noble sides. On struggle for Biafra, Igbos need characters that will invest in a sagely radical but un-fanatical freedom path. People that can be angry, but wise enough to employ modesty and tolerance in their struggle.

Some government might care, while most will look for reasons to kill or pin you down, which is why the self-acclaimed Biafrans should invest more on intelligence. Historically, wars are primarily started to gain control of nations or areas with a wanted resource; but outside the involuntary Nigeria’s unity, I presume their might be a fair reason why Nigeria chose not to peacefully let Igbos have a sovereign state. Nonetheless, it is inexplicably thought-provoking knowing that Igbo-phobic Nigerians are the ones that tirelessly kick against Igbos freedom as a sovereign nation.

Over time, lots of energy have been put to actualize the Biafran dream. Presently, some elderly Igbos who had put in much energy now believe the dream is unattainable, having employed both diplomacy, plea and war to no avail. They now recognize that making fusses will only end up restraining ones career in Nigeria.

However, Biafrans want their autonomy, to be free from alleged diverse forms of masked marginalization and ethnic issues. But if Igbos must remain Nigerians, I hope, Instead of employing formalities to conceal Nigerian ethnic matters and the frustrations of the Igbos, then shouting down, prosecuting and killing peaceful freedom protesters, Nigeria should bravely address the root of the matter in a humane manner for unmasked stability, unity, peace and progress. Due to destabilization, Igbos have been a subject of ridicule, living with a miserable systematically imposed adverse image in Nigeria.

Some Igbos even believe their poor situation is not savable; their language, image, freedom and identity are now in a mess. As we are in a CHANGE mantra era, I hope Igbos will employ this time to rise above the imposed character of self-defamation to help restore their true personality and the glorious qualities they were known for before their civil war loss. Ignorant Igbos typically transmits a nonchalant attitude towards anything pertaining their good as a tribe, thus, I doubt their tribe bond spirit can still be woken. To clear all doubt, I earnestly ask, are you willing to help uncover the true identity and a sustainable CHANGE for the broken Igbos? If you can help, please share.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ogadimma Mbadiwe and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."