Nigeria

March 26th, 2004 by Ogo Ogbata

Watch Your Tongue!

I have a confession to make. I love the Igbo language and I do have an ear for it, but sometimes I do get stuck in the course of a conversation. I usually know what it is I want to say but the delivery of the content becomes amateurish from time to time. My accent is flawed; I don’t have that Igbo drawl that separates the wheat from the tares. And to make matters worse I don’t have a vocabulary that covers some of the words. I have to smear my own mother tongue with words from a foreign vocabulary. Disgusting!

To those who can speak their local dialect with the fluid ease that makes the rest of us cower in disgrace, I say “please don’t weep for me yet. I am concerned enough to work on this deficiency.” And no, I am not about to blame my parents. I also do not regret not spending more of my formative years in eastern Nigeria. If anything, I am about to make a hullabaloo about this vernacular thing, if only for the sake of posterity: the countless Nigerians yet unborn.

Imagine it’s the year 2082. Nigeria is still in one piece (hopefully), but we find that there is an even bigger problem. Nigerians are speaking Queen’s English, French and hard core Pidgin in their homes and workplaces. In the high society weddings we find black men in tuxedos and large hipped beauties in spaghetti strap dresses and ball gowns. There are no ‘aso-ebis’, no caftans, no cliques rattling on excitably in Igbo, Yoruba and the likes. All we find are Hollywood clones: people who are trying to be the best at what they cannot even do. (more…)

March 26th, 2004 by Ogo Ogbata

Dearth of Wisdom – The Age-Long Practice of Seeking Counsel From Elders in Nigeria is under Threat

In the beginning, all the wisdom in the world belonged to the clumsiest and slowest of all animals. The Tortoise. But this favored animal was so unwilling to share his wisdom with mankind that he decided to hide all the wisdom he possessed away. ‘I will find a gourd and put all the wisdom inside and keep it in a place where no one knows, except myself,’ he thought. So, he got the gourd, put all his wisdom inside, sealed the opening and proceeded to look for the tallest tree around.

On his way, he met several animals that noticed the unusually large gourd the tortoise was struggling with and offered to help him. But the tortoise ignored all of them and continued on his mission. When he finally found the tree most suited for his plans, he un-slung the gourd and proceeded to climb the tree. But he had a problem; he found out that he was unable to climb up the tree with his gourd. Just then an old goat came ambling by and noticed the fumbling tortoise, and also inquired what was going on but the insolent tortoise rudely told him to mind his own business.

After several attempts, he finally hit on the right method to get himself and the gourd up the tree. He succeeded until he got halfway up when he lost his grip and fell. All the tortoise got for his troubles was a broken neck. The gourd was smashed to a thousand pieces on the ground and all the wisdom inside were scattered to the four winds of the earth. (more…)

January 21st, 2004 by Funso Ogunnowo

The Journey

I was nine years old when she sold me into slavery. Not slavery as the world knows it, but an exile that is no less painful. It was the year nineteen eighty-nine. I thrust my scant possessions into an old nylon bag: one chewing stick, one Ankara cloth, a pocket bible and rosary beads that shone like stars when it was dark. I wore my only dress, a colourful frock with short sleeves and kissing pleats that made me trip when I rushed. I put on my lime green slippers, slung the plastic bag across my shoulder and followed my mother on an endless journey.

The soil was drenched with dew. We walked past familiar strangers, past a post office with walls made of cherry mud and rowdy markets where green-bellied flies danced to the rhythm of rottenness. We ran past the church with life-size statues of saints in it and the massive school gates I had stroked longingly but never crossed. We ran. Or rather Mother ran and pulled me roughly after her. When we reached the motor park we stopped so that Mother could tie her scarf tautly across her head and fasten her lappa tight about her portly waist. I watched her, eyes swimming with questions that I dared not ask, wishes that could not be spoken. When she grabbed my hand again I shed my first tear. When we boarded the bus, I shed the next.

“Don’t cry,” Mother said, although her voice lacked maternal warmth and her eyes were like riverine pebbles. “You’ll be alright, you hear? They will feed you. They will send you to school…” (more…)

January 13th, 2004 by Ogo Ogbata