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Before Our Local Languages Go Extinct…

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Language has been the primary element that supports
culture as the identity of a people. It is obvious that without language, there is no culture and without culture, there is no identity.
The preservation of language is a collective responsibility of its owners and it requires constant usage, else it is prone to death and then extinction.
In an attempt to preserve languages in Nigeria, the Federal Government enacted the 1977 Declaration of National Policy on Education (NPE) that gives primary and secondary school children an opportunity to study two languages; one of which is their mother’s tongue or the indigenous language of wider communication. The other is the English Language.
The declaration also gives secondary school students, the opportunity to study three languages one of which is the mother’s tongue or an indigenous language that is generally accepted in the area. The others are English language and any among the country’s three major languages (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba).
It is quite unfortunate, however, that in our country today same government schools prohibit the speaking of indigenous or local languages. This dissuades students from learning it.
Instead of encouraging indigenous languages in schools, teachers see it as an act of indiscipline for a student to speak in his local language which is branded vernacular. In some schools, “vernacular is prohibited” is conspicuously written in classes. Sanctions are even meted out to violators of this rule.
Our preference for a foreign language (English Language) which was one of the instruments of colonialisation shows we are still entangled in the nets of our colonial masters. In a country of over 170 million peoples, how many languages are being taught in our schools apart from Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo language? Your guess is as good as mine.
I am not against English language as a mode of communication but prominence given to it over our own languages is embarrassing and devastating to our culture such that today only an insignificant percentage of children can speak their mother’s tongue.
A student who fails English Language but passes his indigenous language in an examination is considered a failure and asked to resit, but one who fails his indigenous language but passes English Language is celebrated as success. This is inferiority complex of the highest order, or what the late Afro-music icon, Fela Anikulapo kuti called ‘colo mentality’.
It is even shocking that some parents and guardians send their children and wards to private schools just because of the unfounded fear that those children in the public schools would not be able to speak good English Language. Some parents consider it embarrassing to communicate with their children in local languages at home, unknown to them that indigenous language is an identity that adds beauty to culture.
The effect of relegating our indigenous languages to the background can be seen in the insignificant number of secondary school leavers who apply to study indigenous languages in our universities. Virtually all the private schools in the country do not have local languages in their syllabus.
My fear, therefore, is that unless government compels schools to include local languages in their syllabus, the country may be left with future generation who will be unable to speak their local languages. If that happens, our indigenous languages will be as good as been dead.
It is, therefore, incumbent on the government, particularly the Federal Ministry of Education to re-enforce the 1977 Declaration of National Policy on Education.
Parents, guardians and teachers are also expected to encourage the usage of indigenous languages as an acceptable medium of communication among children, either at home or in the school.
Meanwhile, competitions that will attract awards and scholarships on indigenous languages should be encouraged by the government and private sector.
It will be disastrous if generations to come do not meet their mother tongues just because of our blind preference for foreign language.
Perharps, I should remind us that the likes of our only Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and late literary giant, Chinua Achebe excelled in their literary works because of their versatility and deep understanding of their local languages which they translated into English Language to win awards. If these two literary icons could go far in life through the use of their mother tongue, why can’t we follow their footsteps?
Akpan is of the Federal University, Otuoke

 

Linus Akpan

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Opinion

Our Leaders And Darwin’s Doctrine

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Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82), English biologist, author of The Origin Of Species and an apostle of the theory of organic evolution by natural selection, was also a Thought Management Therapist. Not many people placed much value on his Doctrine on mental hygiene as everybody did on his theory of evolution. Hear him: “The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts”.
Mental hygiene or the management of thinking process is one area where Nigerians require some orientation and education. It may not be known to everybody that we can build or destroy ourselves by our thinking and mindset. Truly, the key to every man is his thought. Some Nigerians have this habit of talking carelessly which often depicts the mindset of the average Nigerian.
Some people toy with the illusion that thought is free and that they can get away with the consequences arising from what they think and say. There is, indeed, a world of thought forms whose energy and pressures represent various categories of the thoughts, emotions, utterances and mindset of human beings. They coalesce and form into magnetic centres of energy according to the nature of their contents.
Thus, several centres of thought energy, however around human environment, capable of making contacts with people whose thinking and striving are similar to the nature and contents of the various centres of thought forms. We pollute and degrade our psychic environment through the generation of sordid and nasty thoughts and emotions which contribute towards the worsening behaviours and activities of many people.
Darwin’s Doctrine is an explanation of the links and interactive process between visible human environment and a non-visible one that harbours all thoughts which humans generate daily. The Doctrine emphasizes the fact that human beings possess a far-reaching ability in the power of thought, because human volition creates energies that have independent existence. Such artificially created energy or thought centres influence, affect and infect humans in various ways.
This invisible world of thought-forms continues to grow and expand, with every human being contributing his or her own bit to sustain the various kinds. Humans are surrounded and affected by various electro-magnetic radiations and energies, including the artificially created thought centres. There are few positive ones which people have opportunity of mobilizing and using, to carry out works of grace.
However, human environment has been so polluted and degraded that unpleasant energy centres predominate. There are choking and deadly psychic pollutants whose influences are responsible for increasing acts of irresponsibility.
Therefore, while we are talking about clean physical environment and making legislations for the preservation of a healthy ecology, let us give some thought and attention to Darwin’s Doctrine on this matter. It is a doctrine of a sound mental hygiene and the cultivation of a positive attitude or frame of mind. Is it not obvious that what manifests physically is usually the result or by-product of a psychological process? Thoughts may be private, personal and non-visible, but their effects soon become public and visible in the behaviours of the masses.
The consequences of what we think and plan privately manifest sooner or later in the forms of what we say, do or experience. Degrading pollutants in our environment consist of thoughts of bitterness, greed, lust, envy, tension and other nasty emotions. Hardly can any law be made to regulate the thinking of individuals but everyone has a responsibility to control his thoughts, which would reflect in deeds and utterances.
Through the nature of the thoughts and ideas that we cultivate and harbor, we also attract similar thoughts and ideas, thereby building or destroying ourselves. We do much harm to ourselves and others when we engage in thoughts and ideas of evil nature. When a particular kind of mindset or aspiration predominates in a country this can determine the collective orientation of the people. The consequences come as shared experiences.
It was considered needful to bring up Darwin’s Doctrine which can also be called “Thought Management Therapy”, because of some recent utterances of Nigerian politicians. Being role models in the society, the political class should recognise the wide social impact of what they say and do, even in privacy. Nigerian masses are quite poor and hungry, living in squalid hovels.
For a former state governor and now a Chief Whip of the Senate, used to living in affluence, to lament about “Senators’ pay packet” is quite insensitive to the plight of the masses. How would a Nigerian civil servant begging for N30,000 monthly wage feel to hear that “when I was governor, the state was buying my food; the state paid everything, but as a senator, nobody does that”? With N13.5 million as running cost each month and N200 million as constituency allowance for each senator, why must a monthly pay of N750,000 be an issue of lamentation?
Nigerian politicians are advised to acquaint themselves with Charles Darwin’s Doctrine and what lesson it contains. Nigeria cannot be different from what its leaders, senators and the elite harbour as regular thoughts and aspirations.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt..

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Social Media Regulation And Free Speech

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, and adopted as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1981 is a milestone document in the history of human rights.
Accordingly, Nigeria as a member-nation domesticated it as Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Amongst them is the right to freedom of expressions and the press enshrined in Section 39 of the Constitution.
Section 39(1) provides, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”. Subsection 2 expansively provides, “Without prejudice to the generality of Subsection (1) of this section, every person shall be entitled to own, establish and operate any medium for the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions”.
On the other hand, the Criminal Code (Laws of the Federation – 1990) criminalized provoking breach of peace by offensive publication in Part 2. Section 88A (1)(b) provides, “Any person who publishes or circulates publications either in the form of newspapers, or leaflets, periodicals, pamphlets or posters, if such publications are likely to provoke or bring into disaffection any section of the country shall be guilty of an offence…” Similarly in subsection (1)(c).
Emphatically, the Criminal Code includes sedition as an offence under the law. Section 51(1) provides, “Any person who – (b) utters any seditious words; (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distribute or reproduce any seditious publication; shall be guilty of an offence ….., and any seditious publication shall be forfeited to the State”.
By the way, what is sedition? It simply means organized or deliberate incitement of rebellion or civil disorder against authority or the state, usually by speech or writing.
In R v Sullivan (1961) US 254, the word ‘sedition’ was described as, “a comprehensive term which embraces all practices, whether by word, deed or writing, which are calculated to disturb the tranquility of the State”. And in IGP v Anagbogu (1954) 21 NLR 26, it was held that the act of writing an article with a seditious intention is tantamount to the offence of sedition.
Now, the crux of the matter is whether the right to freedom of expression and press is an absolute or qualified right? Under permissible circumstances such as is necessarily expedient for public order and security, arguably, freedom of expression and the press cannot be absolute rights instead must be exercised with restraint subject to law.
Article 29 (2) of the UDHR 1948 provides, “In the exercise of these rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and general welfare in a democratic society”.
Synchronically, Section 45 (1) of the 1999 CFRN provides, “Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society (a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.
In the civil jurisprudence, the freedom of expressions and the press, interestingly, are constrained by libel and slander. Logically, freedom of speech is not an unconditional right.
The right to life, for example, can be encumbered by judicial death sentence; right to free movement can be hindered by lawful arrests and jail terms, and the right to own movable property cannot be exercised by theft or stealing. Ditto on others. In other words, human rights are fundamental but not absolute rights.
Suffice it to say that putting restraints on social media activities through regulations cannot fairly lead to brouhahas. Events, in recent times, have shown that such intervention is indispensable, and without regulations, social media will do more harm than good to the society in no distant time.
Overtime, sensitive information, including falsified national reports and private issues, had been disseminated only for people to subsequently discover they were fake news. This is condemnable.
If the established media industry; audio, visual and print-media outlets with trained journalists are regulated, why should there be uproars on regulations on social media with unskilled operators? Likewise, SIM cards must be compulsorily registered and intermittently updated to assist in the onerous battle.
Any society where people can freely fabricate falsehoods, including invasive information and disseminate to the public, is in decay and, therefore, must not be encouraged to stay. Nonetheless, citizens have unparalleled rights to fairly criticize their leaders and governments on policies at any time.
Instructively, the quality of criticisms determine if oppositions are actually in existence. There is a wide difference between criticisms and incitingly feeding the people with falsehoods. No doubt, civilization opened up the world of innovations but mustn’t be subjected to extreme abuse, otherwise, it will tear the nation in pieces.
In sum, a situation where disgruntled elements would fabricate fake stories or videos to mislead the public is dangerous. It’s a threat to national security, and sensibly, cannot be permissible under the guise of exercising right to free speech and press.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abuja.

 

Carl Umegboro

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Opinion

Nigerian Ports Need Rehab

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Not a few can relate with the recent outburst of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, over the lack of federal projects and the pitiable condition of seaports in the state.
Speaking during the maiden delivery of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to downstream investor, Stockgap, by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Bonny, Tuesday, he reportedly asked why the state should undertake the dredging of Bonny channels while the Federal Government collects all the revenues and levies from marine operators, lamenting that “you (FG) are building a new port in Lagos, but those in Rivers you rendered idle, grounded with no development attention.”
Wike no doubt spoke the mind of many Nigerians who constantly wonder why many seaports in the country have been allowed to die. From Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri to Burutu the story is the same – collapsed infrastructure, unutilized ports. The resultant effect is little or no economic activities in the once busy areas that were sources of income for many. Many people who had business ventures around these ports have long closed shops as nothing was happening there.
One can recall the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Amode, at the twilight of his administration, appealing to the Federal Government to ensure that seaports in other parts of the country become functional as a way of decongesting Apapa Ports. He argued that besides helping government to save funds spent on managing the traffic and regular repair of roads damaged by articulated vehicles, this will end the gridlock caused by trucks and trailers on the Apapa-Oshodi route. Similarly, while leading a delegation of members of his kingdom to Abuja for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, recently the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwole, appealed to the federal government to hasten action on the rehabilitation of Warri and Koko ports in Delta State so as to minimize the incidence of restiveness and also rejuvenate economic activities in the area. He decried the deplorable state of the ports which he said had been abandoned by the government, noting that the ports were very good and solid ports left unused.
With the death of these ports, millions of Nigerians are left with only Apapa and Tin Can ports in Lagos State for their port related businesses. We all know the daunting problems associated with these ports said to be currently handling about 80 percent of all shipping traffic in the country. These ever busy ports are reputed for congestion which seems they have defied all solutions.  Almost daily, heavy duty trailers and other vehicles are stuck on the highway for several hours, thereby impeding free flow of traffic. The deplorable state of the roads does not help the situation at all. Recently, I was in a group going to Badagry for a conference. On getting to Oshodi/Apapa Road, we met a traffic jam that kept us on the road for almost ten hours. A sick man in an ambulance on emergency was reported to have died in the traffic not too long ago. Other road users, motorists and people who leave and do business in the ports axis have similar ugly stories to tell. These and other unfavorable conditions, some believe, have forced many importers and exporters to abandon Lagos ports for Cotonou in Benin Republic. Nigeria, therefore, losing billions in revenue while Benin Republic gains from our loss.
In view of all these embarrassing challenges, it is difficult to phantom why the government has not considered rejuvenation of other existing ports and probably opening up new ones as a permanent solution to the problem.  Why can’t Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri and other seaports in the Niger Delta be made functional so as to reduce the pressure on Lagos ports and also help the economy of these areas to grow?  Is it too much to make these ports functional and mop up a lot of idle youths from the streets and thereby minimize restiveness in the area as the Warri monarch suggested? If these ports are not so deep to accommodate big ships, why not dredge them, divert ships to them, reduce congestion in Lagos and stimulate the economy of these cities and the country in general?
You know it’s so worrisome that, oftentimes, our leaders and policy makers know the right things to do to move the nation forward but they will fail to do them due to some selfish, ethnic and greedy politics. Who among our leaders, both past and present, does not know that it is most unreasonable concentrating all imports and exports in one port and in one part of the country? What have they done about it? Sometime ago, we were told of plans to dredge waterways and reinforce riverbanks to increase the capacity of inland waterways in places like Onitsha and others. What has happened to such lofty plans? The fact still remains that we cannot continue to do things wrongly and expect a better result. We cannot continue to concentrate all imports in Lagos and expect less congestion and free roads. How can the roads be free as both the Federal and Lagos State Governments had severally “ordered”, if people from all parts of the country continue to throng to Apapa port to clear their goods?
It’s high time the right thing was done. Make the idle ports in the Niger Delta fully functional and save the situation. I once read about Ibaka deep sea port in Akwa Ibom State. This seaport if approved and completed it is said, can receive super-heavy vessels. It requires no dredging as it opens straight into the ocean and could double as Navy and commercial hub. Why can’t government consider the approval and opening of this and other ports in the South South and South East and save importers in these areas the trouble of constantly travelling to Lagos to transact their businesses?
With the proper will and drive this can be achieved and that will definitely benefit the nation more.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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