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Los Angeles Igbo Heritage Festival 2018 Keynote Speech by Ichie Jones Okeke (Ogbuefi Ezeugo)

IGBO DIASPORA CULTURAL HERITAGE FESTIVAL (ATLANTA) &
UMUADA DI IGBO MMA (LA) @ the 2nd celebration of Igbo Heritage
August 18, 2018 @ the Proud Bird Conference Center (LAX)

KEYNOTE SPEECH:
PROMOTION OF IGBO LANGUAGE

Language is the distinctive mark of human beings. It is common knowledge that a people without language, is a people without voice. It is generally believed that after the gift of life, the next important gift that God gave man is language. Language pervades man’s entire psyche and determines to a large extent, his relationship with the world and people around him.
Of all the major indigenous languages in Nigeria, Igbo has suffered the most, because of the disrespect accorded to it by Ndigbo themselves.

Igbos seem to have embraced the English language, culture and values with much more eagerness than the other ethnic groups. Though the Yoruba are arguably the most westernized among other ethnic groups in Nigeria, their culture and value systems have remained the least influenced by European acculturation. Equally, remarkable is the fact that the Edo people were the first to establish contact with the Europeans, but their language and culture have remained relatively
adversely influenced by much of European cultural traits.

In terms of Western education, the Yoruba and the Igbo are rated as the most educated. However, among the Yoruba, they have the discerning ability to speak, read and write their language fluently, which is clearly evidenced in their dominance of national and local print, electronic media and films in Nigeria today. This fact also applies even to those of them in the Diaspora. We the Igbo, on the other hand, have no such commitment to our language and culture.

The Hausa/Fulani may not be literate enough in the English language or western modernism as the Yoruba or the Igbo, but in terms of literacy advancement, especially in their language, they are highly literate and well informed. Most of them are sufficiently literate and sophisticated in Arabic. This cultural trait fires up their propensity towards information acquisition and awareness of, especially radio news and information about themselves and their people.

According to Coleman (1985), the Igbo embraced Western education with great enthusiasm and differential determination. When western education was first introduced to our people, wealthy Igbo parents joyfully sent their children and wards to school in order for them to acquire the white man’s education/knowledge, which they saw as a sure gateway to material, than knowledge-based prosperity. Even to this day, the situation has not changed considerably.

Since the Igbo is known to be a highly emulative people, they consider the ability to speak English language with the white man’s accent, and from the American/European cultural context, as a badge of honor and as a sign of civilization and progress. Even the uneducated Igbo parents take pride in dissuading and discouraging their children from holding even familial conversations in Igbo language. This unwholesome attitude of our people has led to the eventual decline of the natural pride usually associated with speaking Igbo language among the younger generations.

Essentially, most educated and even the uneducated Igbos find it really difficult now to express themselves in their native (Igbo) language without often interspersing their speech with words and phrases in English language. Sadly, a greater percentage especially of the educated Igbo, today, find it hard to read and write in Igbo language. Today, most educated Igbo people are illiterate in their native language, and so are intellectually colonized quite unlike other ethnic groups in Nigeria. This situation, therefore, is a challenge of exponential proportions dogging the Igbo people today, at home and in the Diaspora.

WHAT COULD BE DONE
Research shows that a learner’s first (Igbo – L1) language plays a prominent role in the learning of any second (English – L2) language. In the education of a child, scholars are unified in their belief that the mother (Igbo –L1) tongue is clearly a vehicle of thought – that a child’s first language must be recognized because thinking, rethinking, planning and rehearsing are firstly conceived, articulated and stored in the child’s first language, which helps the child to build a huge repertoire of knowledge to be easily retrieved for complex thinking and work/activities in the future.

Researchers also agree that the home is the first place for educating the child. Most of all, our parents need to start speaking Igbo language to their children at home. Parents in Igboland and in the Diaspora need as a matter of urgency, to go back to using appropriate and meaningful Igbo proverbs when conversing at home with their children. We should begin to tell culturally-relevant jokes, folklores and character-forming stories in our households to our children. Ndi Igbo must start to work together to establish and sustain Igbo language classes and schools in places where we live and thrive. This will help our children to reconnect well with our language, culture and essence worldwide.

Odi oke mkpa ka ndi Igbo nile bido nwebe ezigbo mpako, an’uri puru iche, na kwa ngara toro ato, na ebe isu asusu Igbo, iri nri ndi Igbo, na ime omenala Igbo ndi ozo, ndi Igbo ji eme onu, ma ejikwa mara ha, di. Umu ihe ndia, na kwa otutu ndi ozo ga enye nnukwu aka itube asusu Igbo ugo di egwu, ma mee ka ya bu asusu di ka echi – makana echi adighi agwu agwu! Asi na onye hapuru asusu ya ka ofue, aburuna onyeee, efuru efu! Mana Igbo agagha efu nooo!!
M were na asi ka anyi bu ndi Igbo jisie ike, gbakoo aka, ma kwusie ike na ikwanite ma edemede, na asumasu Igbo, site na mbido na nkwado ulo akwukwo, na ebe, na ngwuru di iche iche, ebe aga na akuzili umuaka anyi ihe gbasara asusu, edemede nakwa omenala Igbo toro ato, ofuma.
Asi m na “agbakoo aka, umu Igbo eribeee uru”.
Ndi Igbo, onye anwuna ma ibeya efuna noo!
Unu anwuchula anwuchu ooo!!. Ma ya diri Igbo na mma ooo!!!
Abum,
Ichie Jones Okeke
Ogbuefi Ezeugo n’Ugbo.
Onye ndu – Ogbako ndi Nze, ndi Ozo na ndi Ichie, nke eji ikike were wube na ala America (ANOC USA, INC.)
Ya Gazienu.

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