IGBO is one of the four major languages of Nigeria and is said to be a member of the Volta-Niger branch of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It was also discovered that it is spoken by about 18 million people in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.
However, many people have raised the alarm that there is a gradual extinction of the language. The fear became more pronounced when in 2012, United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) predicted that “half of the 7000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of the century?” It predicted that Igbo language will become extinct by 2025 if nothing was done to save it.
It is against the afore-mentioned backdrop that the Nigerian Tribune went to town to seek views of Enugu residents and experts on the matter.
A public commentator/Lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Kindness Jonah, said, Igbo language extinction is relatively true as it is not quite easy for language to go into extinction except when parents abdicate the speak-ability of the language in their homes. Since language is a purveyor of culture, Igbo language is having problem of relegation from the mainstream of public speeches. At any event or occasion in Igbo town now, the medium of communication is English Language. The worst is our churches where clerics give their sermons in English Language rather than Igbo Language and nobody complains. Our school system is worst off as medium of communication from primaries one to six is English Language no mention is made of post-primary institutions. Against this backdrop, one can allude the extinction of Igbo Language.
But on the other way round, since language is a purveyor of culture and for the fact that every clan in Igbo still have its dialect spoken within their domain, we cannot agree to extinction saga even though there is gradual extinction process. Before any language goes extinct, the tribes men must reject the speakability of the language. In Igbo land, many dialects are not spoken publicly with boldness because some adherents feel ashamed to be identified with the dialect. To that extent. The dialect will go extinct if the trend is not reversed. So, presently in Igbo land, smaller dialects are gradually going into extinction.
The coordinator of Romkeep, a human right group, said that he, together with Professor Peter Ejiofor Foundation, conducted a historical survey of the reasons for the waning of Igbo Language in 2010 and found out that the following steps should be taken to make Igbo Language vibrant again.
One of them is that the system of child naming must reflect cleanish cultures and prevailing circumstance as obtainable in pre-history time of Igbo culture. Every Igbo person must speak his on her dialect boldly and publicly in Igbo land. There must be technical redraft of school curriculum for compulsory speaking of Igbo language in schools in Igbo land. Clerics should deliver their sermons in Igbo language in Igbo land,
For Mazi Frank Afu Kalu the Director of Southeast Operation, Centre for Victims of Extra-judicial Killing and Torture, Enugu, the said extinction is approaching as the alarm was raised about seven years ago when Igbo Language was removed by the London Archives of African Language and removed by Efiks. For instance, “Chiemrie” which means in Igbo Language “God has conquered” is now called “Chimerion”
“The southeast Igbo governors are not doing enough. They established Centre for Igbo Studies in Imo State University, Owerri but at the end of the day poor funding made laudable project to collapse,” Kalu noted.
To Chief Eke Omeje, Igbo Language will not go extinct soon as the language is spoken by individuals who live their entire lives in villages.
Most of the respondents agreed that the solution was for the Igbo governors to have a meeting with Commissioners for Education in the southeast zone and policy makers to make Igbo language compulsory in secondary schools in Igbo land.
“The governors in Igbo land should declare a state of emergency on Igbo Language. This is imperative because our people no longer bear correct Igbo names,” he opined.