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Nigerian Languages Must Not Die

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Before me is a letter from a school in Enugu State, stating that for my nephew who intends to continue his seminary training in the state to be admitted into the Senior Seminary, he must have credit in Igbo language.
The letter further states that despite the boy’s brilliant results from a junior seminary in Rivers State, he must sit for an external examination in Igbo language and excel before he could be qualified to continue his training for the priesthood.
The poor boy has been sad and devastated since he got the information. He seems confused as to what next to do since he did not study Igbo or any Nigerian language both in primary and secondary schools.
He sees the seminary’s insistence on credit in Igbo language as unfair and a setback in his ambition of being a priest. I, however, consider the decision laudable. I see it as a measure that will promote the study of Nigeria’s indigenous languages which is fast going into extinction.
At an event, one Dr Victoria Okoronkwo, raised alarm over what she called an emerging trend, which might lead to loss of local languages and dialects, if urgent measures were not taken to check it. Okoronkwo disclosed how studies showed that 60% of most Nigerian profound dialect speakers are above 50.
Quoting a United Nations report, she said the percentage of children that speak local dialects is thinning down. “This may result in loss of our identity, our culture, our moral values and heritage. Hence, preserving our dialects is an important national challenge that requires our urgent and collective responsibility”.
Similarly, other experts had revealed that most Nigerian indigenous languages would be extinct in the next three decades, while about 90 per cent of them were projected to be replaced by dominant languages.
Observations show that many people no longer speak their dialects. Many parents, especially the educated ones, do not communicate with their children in their dialects and really don’t care if their children speak their language or not.
All they want is for their children to speak English and other foreign languages. Parents of different ethnic groups most times also decide to speak a neutral language, especially to their children, thereby denying them the identities of their parents.
Beyond this is the worrisome attitude of some people making a person who speaks his or her language feel inferior. A young woman recently narrated to me how her friends who are all of the same ethnic group with her, mock-her whenever she speaks her native language in their midst. For being proud of her language they nicknamed her, “bushmo” indicating that she is a primitive, local girl.
Language is defined as arbitrary oral symbols by which a social group interacts, communicates and self expressed. It enshrines the culture, customs and secrets of the people. So, instead of looking down on people who speak their language, and making them feel their language is something to be ashamed of, we should try to instil pride in them and emulate them.
The truth is that the English and other foreign languages we promote can never be our language. No matter how proficient you are in English and speak it with the English accent, you are not an English man or woman. You remain a Nigerian. Many of us spend thousands of naira to hire English and French teachers for our children, (which is not bad), how much do we spend to teach them their native languages which is their identity?
Countries like China, India, Brazil, and Japan have used their indigenous languages to excel; why can’t Nigeria do the same? A professor of Yoruba, Oluyemisi Adebowale of the Department of Linguistics and languages, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, at a public lecture said that for Nigeria to be relevant in the globalised world, it must emphasise the rejuvenation and sustenance of its indigenous languages.
The Federal Government’s National Policy on Culture emphasises the need for conscious and concerted efforts by all levels of government to promote the teaching of our languages and inclusion of the same in the school curriculum.
This policy, if fully implemented, will no doubt see to the revival and promotion of indigenous languages in Nigeria. Schools, particularly private schools, should be thoroughly monitored to see that they implement the policy as many of them are very good at promoting foreign languages, cultures and ideas at the expense of our own.
Universities and other higher institutions should tow the line of the Enugu State Seminary and obtaining of the credit in a Nigerian language a prerequisite for admission into the institutions. National dialect essay competitions should be organized regularly to promote the use of our dialects in the best grammatical way possible. This will ensure sustenance and preservation of the dialects.
Some time ago, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) commenced a one-month intensive indigenous language programme in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Fulfulde, Gbagyi, Izon, Nupe and Tiv.
According to the then Executive Secretary of the Institute, Dr Barclays Ayakoroma, the programme tagged, “Nigerian Indigenous Language Programme”, was initiated by the institute in response to the disheartening state of indigenous languages in Nigeria. This move is most commendable and should be imitated by other relevant government agencies.
We all have to promote and preserve our indigenous languages as that is our identity and pride. Until we start speaking our languages, particularly the small dialects, we may not be able to make an impact.

 

Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Hitting At Serial Killers 

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Lately, there have been unpleasant happenings in Rivers State. Young girls have become victims of serial killings in hotels in Port Harcourt. This is happening at an alarming rate.
Reports had it that three women were killed in three different hotels. Two among them died by strangulation with a piece of cloth hanging around their necks. Investigations revealed that the ladies were drugged and killed using the same techniques.
This is an indication that women are not safe anymore in Port Harcourt. Their killings have brought panic amongst people in the state. It is now the talk of the town. There is a saying that the product which is consumed is known to be the agent that is imbued with risk.
In prostitution, it is the women who are being consumed just as a commodity is at great risk.  Although prostitution is sometimes described as sex between consenting adults, other times it occurs under duress, sometimes to avoid being harmed or even killed outrightly.
Women who prostitute are mostly single. I think rather than go into prostitution, ladies should look for better things to do to avoid the risk they are exposed to daily. As a prostitute, a woman deals with someone she knows little or nothing about. They may just be meeting for the first time. That may be dangerous given current developments.
In prostitution, men can remove women’s humanity. Buying or paying a woman gives men the power to turn such women into a breathing, living or lifeless beings. He can strip her and those qualities that define her as an individual.
Women, from time, have always been victims of sexual violence and physical assaults. This act against the women occurs anywhere including hotels. But the truth is not all women found in hotel rooms are prostitutes. That is why drastic measures have to be taken to curb this menace.
Recently, the deputy commissioner of police in the state, Chucks Enwonwu, while addressing a group of protesting women at the police headquarters in Port Harcourt said, “The police received complaints about the serial killings of women in the state. Women need to be educated and advised against prostitution because they are targets”. But the truth is that there are still several killings which are not even reported. Even if these persons were sex workers their lives matter because they are humans too.
The police should not be quiet about these recent killings in the state. They should carry out proper investigations into the heinous crime which has gone viral. The hotels where the incidents occur must be interrogated. Questions must be asked in order to arrest those who have committed these terrible acts in the state. I am happy with the arrests made so far. But more need to be made.
I admonish young women to be involved in productive ventures rather than sell their bodies to people whose medical history they don’t know anything about. They have to do this in order not to be victims of sexually transmitted diseases and be killed. Learning skills could enable them to make clean money for themselves.
Also, women should be involved in businesses because whatever service they give will return to them by way of making money. Ladies should know the location, address, name and phone numbers of the persons they are going to visit. Such information shouldn’t be kept to themselves. Rather, they should disclose it to someone else to be traced easily should there be an eventuality.
The government needs to be committed to anything that will enhance the protection of women and other citizens. On the other hand, women should develop the mindset that they can do other legal and legitimate things which are considered right before God than hawking sex.
I am in support of the installation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in all hotels in the state. This shouldn’t just be a policy but has to be made a law. Any hotel that defaults should be closed down or penalized by the government. Photographs of customers who lodge in these hotels should be captured in order to identify who exactly rented the room, purpose and what the person would do in the hotel.
In all, laws should be enacted to protect women from discrimination and violence including rape, killings, abuse of all kinds, torture, etc. The authorities should strengthen women’s ability to earn money to enable them to support their households by providing skill training for them and money to help them start a business.
Harry is a freelance journalist.

 

Favour Harry

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Opinion

Patriotic Persons And Criminality

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“All’s not offence that indiscretion finds And dotage terms so.” King Lear; II: iv (200).

Professional journalists enjoy immunity from being compelled to disclose their sources of information, largely because of the risks which informants take. Audacious journalists are not immune from similar risks also, as we saw many years ago in the case of late Dele Giwa. Despite such risks, patriotic human beings are not lacking in every society who, out of higher perspectives of love and ethics, take some risks for the good of humanity.
What is known as information management in journalism is largely the skill and strategy of being mindful of what to publish even when it is true and factual, for the sake of security and stability in society. There are many issues of which a few people who know the details would rather stay their pens and let a sleeping dog lie, rather than plunge the society into chaos by being audacious.
Unfortunately, those who manage the affairs of the larger society often regard discretion as docility and silence of the masses for stupidity. Thus in politics, information management becomes a process of disinformation or bamboozlement of the masses through the use of various strategies. Sometimes this may be done for good reasons, but those who know the antics of power politics would tell us that treachery and deceit are all part and parcel of the art of staying in power.
Criminality and the prosecution of criminal cases place emphasis on intention behind the act, making it necessary to separate criminality from acts committed without “mens-rea”. We are told that children below the age of 7 do not have mens-rea and therefore cannot be prosecuted for crimes, same as adults certified to be of unsound mind. Similarly, we can add here that patriotism and love in order to save humanity from serious perils.
We live in a world where ill-disposed persons prey upon their fellow human beings, especially the weak and helpless ones they can subdue. The situation becomes worse where the preying ones lure unsuspecting victims through various clever means, including abuse of the Name of God. We have had cases where drug producers, during the testing stage, use helpless and unsuspecting persons as guinea pigs. One example is the Trovan controversy, involving litigation.
There had been cases where patriotic insiders in gangsterist conspiracies became whistle blowers, alerting relevant authorities about proposed crimes against humanity. Such cases had been quite common, even though many were never reported. In view of the dangers and risks involved in exposing crimes against humanity from quarters that enjoy some immunity, some patriotic people commit crimes in secret in order to subvert criminality.
Expectedly, people of goodwill and patriotism who commit crimes in order to forestall greater perils for humanity would not stick out their neck to be hanged. Neither would obtuse humanity understand their deeper motives or intentions. They would not enjoy any immunity from prosecution or the sympathy and understanding of the masses for whose sake they took to crime. In the past such people were called martyrs.
However, martyrdom arising from fanaticism and religious obduracy is a different thing from crimes committed with noble intentions for the sake of saving a wider populace from perils. We cannot rule out the possibility of noble Nigerians losing their lives, limbs or liberty in the course of duty, in their efforts to save the lives of others. Some of such personal sacrifices come by accidents rather than design, where as there are some who make such sacrifices voluntarily and with patriotism. Such are rare patriots.
In the university community where one is more familiar with, there are innumerable but unknown cases of unsung heroes and patriots. Old and poor office cleaners have been known to save the lives of Vice-Chancellors and others engaged in battles of leadership and supremacy. There have been cases where fetish charms and other sordid rituals had featured in mean, petty and deadly politics in the university system.
Some years of service in the Nigeria Police afforded one great opportunities to know how seekers of power and positions can hire some willing hands to plant weapons, prohibited drugs and other things to bring down opponents. Women had featured shamelessly in many of such sordid exploits, including those that would raise allegations of being raped. One is aware of many honest and perhaps naïve persons who had lost their jobs as a result of gossip peddling. Envy and jealousy have been at the root of many acts to use non-orthodox means to get even in personal combats.
Activities of the military and governments in Nigeria have been such that it becomes difficult to tell who our great patriots are, from influence, rumour and gossip peddlers. Many have been called “great men” via the instrumentality of long knives, treachery and deceit; but the really great ones via patriotic criminality would hardly be known. It is to such silent and unsung heroes and patriots that this article is dedicated. Especially in the security and intelligence services there are unbelievable examples of patriotic criminality, just as there are those who serve dark purposes.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Between BPP And N26.86bn

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No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves or if Police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. – Barack Obama during a visit to Ghana, 2009.

It was a glad news, as reported in The Tide newspaper, Monday, September 9, 2019, that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) saved the Federal Government of Nigeria more than N26.86 billion in 2018 alone, by revising down inflated contract sums by government contractors. It was reported that the highest saving of N22.22 billion was recorded from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. From the Ministry of Petroleum Resources the sum of N271 million was saved and other ministries included Transportation N1.37 bn, Water Resources N521m, Finance N143.72m, etc.
From the Central Bank of Nigeria’s initial request of N1.47 billion, the sum of N33.65 million was saved; from military contracts about N494.96 million was saved. What is vital about the afore-mentioned pruning down of inflated contract values for 2018 alone, is that the exercise is a credit to the federal government, via the BPP. If such pruning exercises and searchlight could continue and be extended to other years and other public sectors, the results would be quite salutary for Nigeria.
In 2009 during the visit of Mrs Hillary Clinton to Nigeria, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) presented her with a letter of requests, which she was to mention to President Umaru Yar’adua in their meeting. The issues included the following: Explain to Nigerians how the government spent recovered stolen public funds, since 1999; Ensure full compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention against corruption; Demonstrate the required political will to fight corruption in a meaningful, consistent and effective way; Monitor and track the spending of recovered stolen funds and publish the purposes the finds were used; Establish a trust fund from the recovered stolen funds, and use such funds to address urgent developmental needs, etc.
One Adetokumbo Mumuni who conveyed SERAP’s letter to Mrs. Clinton emphasized that the spending of recovered loots was characterized by secrecy and absence of transparency and accountability. As at that time, 1.9 billion dollars was said to have been recovered from a former Head of State, late Gen. Sani Abacha, N10 billion from a former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun and 1.9 million dollars from late Diepreye Alamieseigha.
SERAP’s grouse was that there were no transparency and openness in the spending of recovered stolen public funds estimated at N600 billion then, and that such funds were relooted or mismanaged. As a human rights non-governmental organization whose mandate include the promotion and protection of socio-economic rights of Nigerians, SERAP’s insistence on transparency and accountability in public and private sectors is quite commendable.
That there are public agencies such as the Bureau of Public Procurement, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) would mean that there are determined efforts to save the government from financial abuses. But the fact that government contractors can deliberately inflate contract values would also mean that such malpractices fall within the category of financial crimes.
That there are non-governmental organizations such as SERAP and other pressure groups, including the Ethnic Nationalities Movement, means that there are provisions for the protection of helpless segments of people in the society. What SERAP did in 2009 by demanding that recovered looted public funds should be accounted for properly, was commendable.
Like SERAP, the Ethnic Nationalities Movement in 2008 raised a voice of protest against statements of some highly placed Nigerians in laundering the image of late Abacha. Such advocacy and image laundering activities are nothing short of corruption as well as attempts to discourage honest Nigerians who, in spite of prevailing temptations, try to remain up-right.
It was particularly disturbing to a large number of Nigerians that three Military Generals and former Military Heads of State, Generals Buhari, Babangida and Abubakar, tried to portray their late colleague as a patriot and hero rather than a treasury looter. Such statements like: rather than malign Abacha, the later ruler deserves to be praised …”; “It is quite unfortunate and unfair to accuse the family of late Sani Abacha of looting public funds” etc, are attempts to make foul fair and fair foul.
If massive looting of public funds by highly-placed Nigerians can be defended and glossed over by friends and loyalists, then why do we demonise petty thieves? The issues of recovery of looted public funds, transparency in accounting for such recovered loots and ensuring that such lootings in various clever ways are blocked, are issues that must not be addressed by rhetoric or sanctimony, but by penalizing the culprits. Image laundering of looters is nothing short of corruption. The BPP should neither slumber nor sleep now that it is waking up to its responsibility.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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