Why custodians of Ijaw tradition and culture must not allow Izon language go into extinction
By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board
The Ijaw (Izon) ethnic nationality is the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, with their ancestral homes in six states of the Federation (Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Ondo and Akwa-Ibom). As an ethnic group, there are so many factors working in its favour.
Topmost among these factors is the fact that the Ijaw nation enjoys a distinctive language laced in their very rich culture. The language has been used to translate most of the world’s serious minded books such as the christian holy book – the Bible and others currently sold in hard and soft copies in reputable book shops/platforms (both online and offline).
It is equally a statement of fact that some foreign authors, scholars, historians and development professionals have in the past, and presently developed deep interest in Ijaw language, culture and tradition.
Looking at this feat achieved, GbaramatuVoice considers it an ugly development, a state of affair where Ijaw sons and daughters deliberately for yet to be identified reason(s) take to English language as a preferred language and medium of communication in Ijaw gatherings – Ijaw traditional marriages, traditional worships, end of year parties, meetings of Ijaw socio-cultural organizations and peer groups as well as individual homes.
Without doubt, Ijaw (Izon) traditional rulers are doing a wonderful job to protect its culture and tradition–particularly its language. However, GbaramatuVoice is particularly observes with concern that presently, in some palaces, royal majesties, have become reputed for using English language as a medium of communication in the day-to -day administration of palaces, communities and kingdoms. Also devastating to GbarmatuVoice is the awareness that some traditional rulers, chiefs and religious leaders of Ijaw origin now promote the use of English language in their remote communities and hamlets to the consternation, surprise and disappointments of unschooled Ijaw elders living in such communities.
Some of these elders with no adequate understanding of English as a language are more often than not cut off from, or better still left at a loss when strategic decisions, and of urgent importance are taken within their domain.
More pathetically also, GbaramatuVoice has in the past witnessed situations where the use of English in Ijaw gathering resulted in situations where some innocent Ijaw indigenes with no full grasp of English language were persuaded to endorse and applaud policies that were harmful to their interest.
GbaramtuVoice considers this ugly development as unacceptable. In the newspaper’s estimation, it remains a sin that every Ijaw indigene must share in its guilt.
Viewed differently, the newspaper is tempted to ask: Why must Ijaw leaders (head of communities, religious leaders and head of social cultural groups) consistently use English language in an interior Ijaw community where everybody is from the same community, share common historical background and speaks the same language? Isn’t that a misguided priority? Of what use is it that a leader communicates to his/her followers in a language that they do not understand? If this trend continues, how is Ijaw language going to be preserved/transcends to Ijaw generations yet unborn? Who will save the Izon language from going into extinction?
Is there no way Ijaws can creatively promote the language in the various schools situated within the six (6) states in the Federation where Ijaw people currently domicile?
While answer(s) to the above questions are being awaited, GbaramatuVoice in the interim calls on traditional rulers, Ijaw Socio-cultural organizations, Ijaw peer and pressure groups and other custodians of Ijaw culture and tradition to at the very least imbibe the culture of using Ijaw language in their various gatherings/meetings irrespective of location-be it in the cities or Ijaw communities and hamlets. It is equally time to develop a sustainable roadmap for the teaching of the Ijaw language in all the schools in Ijaw villages, towns and states.
Again, while promotion of foreign language is important as we now live in a globalized world, the Ijaws must not at any point paint a picture that depicts Ijaw language as inferior/second class when juxtaposed with English Language. Ijaw Language must not be allowed to suffer from neo-colonialism.
To achieve this objective, we therefore call on Ijaw parents at home and abroad to start teaching/speaking Ijaw Language to their kids/wards.
GbaramatuVoice holds the opinion that if Igbo parents in Gbaramtu, Ekeremor, Kalabari, Okrika, Nembe, Arogbo, Ogulagha, Kolokuma, among others can safely and soundly teach their children Igbo language, and they speak it fluently, Ijaw parent in Warri, Lagos and the United States of America (USA) have no reason for not teaching his/her children the Ijaw language.
This is the best way to start.
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