Let us learn the language of NYSC, By Kunle Awosiyan

One thing that the National Youth Service Corps has not reviewed since its creation is the Nigerian languages handbook, instead it has kept on improving on it.

It is one of the handbooks it gives to corps members at the orientation camp that has helped to integrate our youths to learn about other people’s culture.

It was in Awgu NYSC orientation camp, Enugu State that I spoke my first Igbo language using my manual to guide my tongue. It was interesting as it gave me the power to date beautiful Igbo ladies. I nearly married one from Abia State.

I was deployed for my primary assignment in Umuoghara Community, Ezza Local Government of Enugu before the creation of Ebonyi State where I had to learn their local language again.

I chose to live with a herbalist simply referred to as Obaji at a community called Ntesi-Aba, near Abakaliki. In his compound, I learnt more about the traditions of Igbo. My indiscriminate life with them earned me more than NYSC certificate but Enugu State commendation letter.

In that village, they don’t speak central Igbo and they are referred to as “Wawa” people. I learnt that some Igbo are also called the Ijekebe. Do you know that some Igbo do not see the Abakaliki people as real Igbo. Story of another day.

In Yoruba land, including Lagos, the NYSC gives handbook that contains Yoruba language. At Iyana Ipaja NYSC orientation camp Lagos, all corps members are taught how to speak Yoruba. Lagos is so recognised by NYSC as Yoruba city.

It is one thing that the NYSC has got right among other things. Language is power and the commission must be commended for this, even though some of our youth are so insensitive to this.

However, the National Orientation Agency is not doing enough to sensitise our youth about where they live and why it is always a plus to speak the language of your hosts.

Our constitution only emphasises “State of Origin” and not State of Residence in every documentation, which makes it so difficult for any tribe in Nigeria to easily claim the native of a town even if he was born and raised there. I’m yet to see an Igbo whose state of origin is Lagos or a Yoruba man whose state of origin is Imo.

I have had cause to challenge some non-Yoruba in Lagos for asking me to speak English or Pidgin because they could not understand my Yoruba language.

For me, I will always like to speak Igbo in Owerri, Obowo, Okpala and Afikpo because it will make the natives to love me the more instead of asking my hosts to speak English so that I can understand. I will politely say, what does the Igbo language mean in Pidgin if I could not comprehend.

It sounds insulting for a non-Yoruba to ask me to speak English or Pidgin in Lagos, a Yoruba land because you do not want to associate with my culture. Yoruba and Igbo are intermarried but there are those who have now developed hatred just because a race is set to keep its culture and language as a factor to reckon with whosoever that will love to lead in its land.

They say, “We are not Yoruba”. they told me even when I heard them speak their own language,”. One is a food vendor and the other a commercial tricycle operator.

For God’s sake, it is you, the non-Yoruba that must learn how to speak and hear Yoruba in Lagos not me and this is where the NOA will have to come in.

The agency is not doing enough in this regard and it should begin where the NYSC has stopped by educating other ethnic nationalities on why they should learn the languages of their hosts.

It is not enough for the Lagos State House of Assembly to use Yoruba once in a week as his legislative language but it must come up with a law for all residents to respect this heritage or else it will be relegated and illegitimised by those who are always disturbed to hear the Yoruba language.

No matter how good your English is as a Nigerian student, you will be forced to sit for TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language and pass to qualify for foreign education. It is not because the British does not believe in Nigeria’s type of English, it is because the British is jealously protecting its heritage, English Language.

If English is so respect, why not our indigenous languages?

On this Yoruba language, I do not have apologies for whose ox is gored that I will choose any man who can speak it fluently over any man who will not respect it.

If choosing a Yoruba man because he can speak Yoruba fluently over another one who claimed to be Yoruba but cannot speak the language is ethnicity, please call me a tribalist. I will gladly hug you and say thank you.

I won’t even respect an Igbo man who detests his culture and language for political gain as I will do to a Yoruba man or Fulani Man.

British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak is Indian but the position and where and who is leading does not stop him from observing prayer in Hinduism. He did it without contravening the culture of the natives and because he is Indian does not change England to Indiland. Our language, our heritage.

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