Our rejected stone
Our rejected stone
By Bayo Fasunwon
Nigeria is a blessed country. I am of the candid opinion that the Garden of Eden was Nigeria. A country blessed with good weather, good and profitable natural resources, good people and wonderful culture. A diverse political system, whose strength and prosperity lay in the misused diversity of her peoples. Nigeria, that country, which treats with disdain her God given virtues, and embraces cancerous mode of living. A beautiful country, which “exports what she needs and imports what she does not need”. Nigeria, my country, our fatherland.
The internet was filled with the news. Facebook got a lot of likes, and shares, while the Whatsapp groups, got a lot of messages of the shared video. The streets were filled with discussions while people giggled with amusement at the news. BBC aired a video of some Americans (curious to see that they are blacks) who were sponsored by the American government to our University to study, learn and speak the Yoruba language. This was the practice of the American government every year, so we learnt. The ‘students’ spoke in Yoruba, adopted Yoruba names and some wore the Yoruba attires. Besides, they spoke of their love for the local dishes. Many Yorubas were happy at this, but yours truly was cautious and sad.
Cautious, for many reasons. America, is not a country that wastes her resources, neither do they invest without a profit in mind. Of all the languages in the world, and in Africa, why the interest in Yoruba and possibly other Nigerian languages? Could it be that they saw in the language and people what we have not seen. Nigerians travel to America on a daily basis. I want to possibly err on the side of caution that America’s interest in the Yoruba language could be for security reasons. Given the spate of terrorist attacks and other crimes, I think they would need their security personnel to be vast in certain languages such that when culprits or suspects are communicating with their accomplices in crime, they could decode their interactions and act in preventive and or comprehensive capacity to nip crime in the bud. Therefore, learning the language could be a sinister way of eavesdropping on discussions between two unsuspecting brothers in the presence of a ‘foreigner’. In international relations, the ability to understand foreign language also plays a major role in diplomatic negotiations, as secrets are laid bare.
In addition, my experience as a youth also makes me cautious. Then, Americans came to our little enclave, bought masquerade garbs, carved images and other fetish items, and exported them to Europe. They did not stop at that as one of them took a teenage girl along. The girl was taken so that she could translate the incantations, and eulogies of the images, garbs and objects from Yoruba to English. Are they interested in the Yorubas’ esoteric science? Given the way and manner Brazil and some other countries have researched and are involved in the use of ‘Juju’, one may not be too sure (with the Harry Potter, Merlin, The Seeker, and Lord of the Ring series), that America may not be interested in the relationship between Sango and Thor; and the efficacy and antidote to Thunderbolt (Magun). Think along with me, these are just the ruminations of a pondering mind.
My sadness however stems from the unhidden happiness that lit up the face of Nigerians over the fact that Americans could leave their country (where many Nigerians are dying to visit), and come to our fatherland, not to trade but to learn a language that we are discarding under the banner of modernization. It saddens the heart to realize that a foreign country could find any importance in what the possessors are willfully burying in the grave of misconceived enlightenment. Like bastards, our birthrights have been exchanged for a fleeting second of bliss.
Religion has corrupted the minds of Nigerians and made them to hate indigenous culture and language. The practice of Christianity and Islam has portrayed indigenous languages as being demonic. It is absurd to realize that every aspect of indigenous culture have been labeled idolatory. The Yorubas do not bear meaningful and prophetic names anymore. Every Yoruba name has a meaning, and carries a story. By their names, you could tell their profession, the events that birthed them, their future and most probably predict their behaviours. It irks me to hear Pastors shout on the pulpit that people have to change their names for breakthroughs to occur. Those who changed their names in the Bible did so by the hearing of the voice of God, not man, and few are they. Pastor Kumuyi did not change his name, did that affect his ministry? Now, Christian parents without Christian virtues would call their children names like Peculiar, Signs, Wonders, Testimony, Precious, Sugar and Honey. It turns my belly. These Americans adopted Yoruba names. Eebudola, Akinniyi, Orisagbemi, Titilope and Iremide are names of strength and prayers. Even in the Bible and Quran, the names were patterned according to the language, and culture of the people. On a lighter mood, you cannot pray effectively in another person’s language. Someone said that when your problem is little, you can pray in English.
The education curriculum of Nigeria is killing the Nigeria culture, and future. When at least one indigenous language was made compulsory, the Nigerian languages thrived and integration was easier. Now, the study of French and or Arabic has been made compulsory up to the University level, while our own indigenous languages are dying. Unfortunately, our children and leaders cannot even speak or write the English language correctly. Thus, we have produced a confused generation that are not versatile in the foreign languages and are also ignoramus with regards to their indigenous languages. How then can a nation develop? Communication is the key to development. When communication is faulty, development becomes a mirage. Have you ever wondered that large economies all over the world have promoted their indigenous languages? It is the key to self induced development.
Nigeria needs to give more honour to indigenous languages and the study of her history, lest we exist without existence. Beyond the general local ‘lingua franca’ of Yoruba, children should also be taught their local dialects, for that is where our secrecy and strength lies. We have thrown so many good things away. We cannot afford to lose our language. Language is our identity on earth and before God. Bring the languages back to our school curriculum, teach the language and let Nigerians imbibe their indigenous culture. Until the Nigeria music and film industry began to promote, grow and develop their local cultures, they were not celebrated in the international creative environment. Borrowed food, borrowed language, borrowed culture and borrowed thinking will only make us eternal slaves. The Yorubas would say: “Teni n teni, t’ekisa ni taatan”.