Thursday, 21 February 2013

Mother Tongue

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
—from the United Nations International Mother Language Day

For all of us that have looked down on people as being unsophisticated for daring to speak their mother tongue in private or public, there is a day for us; it is called International Mother Language Day. Announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999 and marked every year since 2000 February, is observed annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and multilingualism.

If there is a nation that needs to “promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism”, it is Nigeria. This country is blessed with over 500 languages and 250 ethnic groups. Unfortunately, we have found a way to relegate them to the background while we celebrate other languages.  
When you see a person speaking their mother tongue with the correct phonological pronunciations, what initially comes to you mind? “See this local person”. Abi? Many people have this similar feeling, yet most of us cannot speak English that well, yet the one we should really know how to, we stigmatize and ridicule.
If you think I am making this up, look at how many Super Eagles players come back, speaking “phoné”, irrespective of where they play or their educational background. How can you explain Ahmed Musa when no too sabi oyinbo for Naija and playing in Ukraine where them no dey speak English, speaking “phoné”? It comes from the notion that speaking like this shows your sophistication and achievement.
It is so bad that there are homes where children are banned from speaking their mother tongue in favor of English, they want to look posh and polished and at times they succeed in creating this façade; only for a short while though. It usually comes back to bite them hard when the children need to be accepted by their ethnic or tribal groups and they end up being outsiders or partial members because of their inability to communicate properly with other members in the mother tongue.
Very few families teach their children their mother tongue; even if you exist in an inter-ethnic marriage the effort should still be made to teach the young ones any of the languages.
The mother tongue is the primary way through which we transmit our culture, heritage, and identity to the next generation; tossing this away reduces our ability to aptly do this. I shudder to think what will become of my children’s cultural identity if they grow up without being able to speak my mother tongue.
Moreover, there are jokes and stories that lose their spunk the moment there are translated to English. I do not think Psy’s Gangnam Style would have garnered over 1.3 Million views on YouTube if it was in English. You feel me? I knew you would.
Let’s celebrate our mother tongues. It is our identity, it makes us unique. It is our own! Celebrate the day, turn to you neighbor now and say a word in your mother tongue, even if you are not understood.
Ágbá. Nágo!!! (Igala for you).
God bless Nigeria.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


The quality of graduates from Nigerian higher institutions has been in a downward spiral for quite some time now and many people have come out with many reasons why this is happening. Most at times, the blame lands at the feet of the government and how it is not providing enough funding or support for schools under it.  
I beg to disagree with this line of argument. Most of the fault actually lies at the school level. Some of you may not agree, but I will still attempt to make my case all the same with this three part series titled EDUNAIJA which is my take on some of the reasons for the quality of graduates that we have, so far.

  Part 1

“Hmmmmmmm that’s a good question, class take that as your assignment and submit it before the next class”. That was a lecturer punishing us for daring to ask him a question during a writing class in school. Everybody was mad, and angry, not at the lecturer for not answering the question or treating it the way he did, but at the student for asking and adding to our work load.

In Nigeria, one of the greatest mistakes you can make is asking a question that challenges what the lecturer is teaching. Argue? No even try am. Tell a lecturer that you recently came across an article that relegates his teaching to the background, at the risk of elongating your years in school and becoming persona non grata in class with the possibility of the status seeping into the whole school. Na to beg lecturer after lectures o, “I am sorry for what happened in class sir”, it would not happen again”. This “apology” does not necessarily guarantee that you will be forgiven; it may just reduce the severity of the punishment initially planned if one is lucky.

 The lecturer is seen as the benevolent dictator that has decided to come for his lectures as such the students should be grateful and treat him/her with utmost reverence and respect. Speak when spoken to, if you have any issues with the lectures; keep it to yourself, especially if you have not bought his lecture notes or refined lecture notes (text book). His/her marks are based on different criteria, among which academic performance is not always paramount. Students tend to be more dedicated to being on the lecturer’s good side than getting value for their academic time in school. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? There is hardly a student that went to a Nigerian tertiary institution in the past 20 years that this does not resonate with.

It’s natural that lectures and exams can be based on the lecture notes, but must the answers too? Any answer that is not linked to the lecture notes exposes the student as not haven purchased it in the first place; no matter how correct it may be and this has consequences.  More so where those that purchase it are already guaranteed a mark or grade just for the purchase. No phone a friend, ask the audience or 50-50 needed, guaranteed! As one of our lecturers on many occasions would tell us then, “I have the yam, and I also have the knife. It is what I cut and give you that you take”. Gbam!!!!!!!!!!!

So the student comes out of school, shackled to the teachings of his lecturer and his/her notes, which is not much to go on since a greater part of it is lifted from lectures and materials gotten from the lecturers own time in school, sprinkled with whatever little research he/she has managed to do. Regrettably, most of this knowledge has been “relegated to the dungeons of antiquity” in developed countries, and are at best an earlier version which has given birth to children, grand children and in some case even great grand children, yet these are the things that hold sway in our classrooms.

 So all the student succeeds in doing academically throughout the time in school, is passing the assignments, tests, and exams and doing whatever is necessary in order to come out with a work ready grade. An understanding or personal interpretation of what is studied is absent. Laziness is the order of the day. Of what benefit is Google, what is Google sef?  Why waste the time when all that is needed to pass is in the lecture notes or not academically related at all? For those of you that are parents and have kids that can use the Internet, ask them when last they got materials for school through research from the Internet, your findings may shock you. 

 I may seem harsh, but I have met graduates of computer science that cannot write programs, I even met one during my NYSC days that did not know what a mouse was. I lie not.  How can one blame her, if e no dey wetin them teach her, how she wan take know?  When my younger sister was an undergrad, she once ran away from the computer because I said it may have a virus. Seriously! She did not want to get infected.

The school administrators know these things are happening and yet they do nothing to stop it. Students are at the receiving end, because while those charged with preparing them for the future do not, the students have nowhere to run to. Those in authority that should take action, will simply align themselves with their colleagues, probably pointing out complain, and complainant to the culprit. 

I am not saying all the lecturers fall into this category, or are like this. There are still a few that recognize their place and purpose in the lives of their students and treat it with the utmost sense of responsibility and seriousness, they will never compromise this (Mr kaza Kaza, Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Management Science, University of Abuja. You are appreciated sir. God bless you for what you are doing for your students. I don’t know you, but your good reputation precedes you). But they are the exception and not the norm. If at all, it should be the other way round. 

The place of discourse in school can never be over stated or emphasized. You are there to learn and gain knowledge, and the flow of this knowledge is not one way. There is a need for interaction between and amongst students, and between the lecturer and his/her students. These interactions must not always accede to what the lecturer is teaching in class, especially in this age where the shelf life of knowledge is short; very, very short. The culture of didactic interaction has to be encouraged in our schools; the understanding of what is taught is the key to learning, and its application.

We have not even seen the worst yet, employers and stakeholders are just complaining about the quality; wait till they realize that these graduates will form the pool from which the next generation of Nigerians who will run the affairs of this country will be drawn. Then they will blow a gasket.

Change must come, and it must start now. The teacher, lecturers, school administrators must return to the primary reason for their profession: teach and educate, etc. The wealth you create in and through your students outweigh anything you could possible make off them. The future is not a destination, it’s a place we create in the present, and if we continue like this it is certainly going to be unpalatable for all of us and our loved ones. 

We can do this, and we will.

God bless Nigeria.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Kim Kardashian and Our Love like a Movie Concert

Kim Kardashian was at Darey’s “Love like a movie” concert and ever since there has been a lot of talk going back and forth about if her presence was necessary. Some of the comments I have read are quite amusing. 

Whether we want to accept it or not, the lady is an internationally recognized celebrity, even if she rose to it through notoriety and a wave(s) of negative publicity. We may not accept how she got there, but there is nothing we can do about it now. Haba! A lot of other people have gotten even more publicity on worse things. At least she did not kill anyone to get there, like some people. This is not to say I support her vehicle to rise, but there really is nothing anyone can do about it now. 

The lady has found a way to turn a really bad situation into something lucrative, some people have even tried to imitate her path to fame, with little or no success. The queen of reality TV has over 17.3 million followers on twitter, and over 12.5 million likes on Face book who tune in to stories and issues concerning her as fast as they happen. With such a following, she is a market on her own.

I have heard comments asking why Darey involved her. She is a brand with a large following, the publicity surrounding her and any event she is linked to obviously answer that question. Some even said she is not a good role model, how many entertainers are? I however do not believe that we should ever entrust the modelling of our children’s or ward’s character to individuals that do not have any vested and or selfless interest in their well being. It is not their responsibility. If you dey wait make Kim Kardashian show you or your ward how to behave, then you are on a very long thing!

Someone even said “she only showed for about 45 seconds”. Wrong! She co-hosted the red carpet with Darey and kicked off the concert. Kim no come sing, or dance. She came to appear, that’s her major talent (no insult intended). That’s what she is usually paid for, to make appearances at events in order to attract attendance, and that’s what she did. A lot of people also came to see Kim, and also to confirm if na lie Darey dey lie say she go come (smirk).  Well, she was there
Kim being there gave Darey and the concert a boost in worldwide exposure and  publicity. She came, she saw, she don go back.

No worries Nne Kim. Wish you well: peace, love, joy and eventually heaven. 

God bless Naija.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Goldie: gone too soon

It’s hard to believe that Susan Oluwabimpe 'Goldie' Harvey is dead, reminds one of how transient life actually is. Wish she could have lived longer. Energetic, full of life, eccentric, beautiful, unique, her own person; just some of the words one could use to describe this lady.
 Its rear for people to differentiate themselves in a world full of so many wanabes and copycats, yet she was able to maintain her brand and remain true to it. Her trade mark puff of golden hair is what readily comes to mind when you hear that name, so prominent was that signature look that I struggled to remember her face when I heard the news.
The music industry and Nigeria has lost one of its most colorful stars, a family has lost a member, and friends a loved one. I fit into these categories from a distance yet it feels as if she was a close friend. Such is the impact she had I guess.
While we mourn our own original Naija diva, we solemnly pray for the repose of her soul, fortitude for her family, friends, and interested people to bear the loss; we also pray and wish that those responsible will have the sense of mind and responsibility to really find out what happened to her.
Rest in peace diva, you will be missed Goldie.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Much More Than Patriotism

Reading Victor Moses’ story was one of the most riveting and emotional moments for me in the African Nations Cup. While Nigeria’s victory brought much needed sunshine through the dark clouds that have enveloped this nation over a period of time owing to the various negative reports and happenings, Victor’s story gave me hope that something good can still come out of Nigeria.

Describing his decision to play for Nigeria after such a harrowing experience at such a tender age as being merely patriotic is at best putting the matter lightly. It is nothing short of the personification of the word “forgiveness”; and the exhibition in grand style of the resilient nature of the human spirit.

 Incidentally, Victor and I are namesakes and are equally forever inextricably linked through the sectarian violence of Kaduna, haven been living in that city at the time of the riots. My mother just happened to have escaped death by minutes as she was in the Central Market buying fruits for a supply she had to make that Monday morning. In fact, while driving from the market, she had already started seeing people being attacked. She got home safe by the grace of God.

People lost their lives, and those that were lucky: possessions. I saw and experienced firsthand smoke bellowing from houses, neighbours turning on each other, confusion, anguish, raw havoc, and burnt remains of what use to be a human being. Gruesome images forever indelible etched in the memories of people and causing psychological, social, and economic shock and trauma that naturally accompanies such. Forgive me for my attempt at being so graphic, yet my description cannot aptly describe the scene as only a personal experience (though not wished on anyone) can.

To come through all of these, and still decide to represent a country where such pain was fraught on you, through the inaction or delayed actions of the government, represent the very people that deprived one at such a young age of not only the presence of parents  but also the “condiments“ that accompany their presence is far above patriotism. It’s saintly!

Such a decision not only threatens to portray one as condoning what happened, but also runs the risk of being seen as a spite on the memory of the souls departed while also reeking of ingratitude to the country that accepted you, the society that catered to and for you, while the very one that owned you, and should have been responsible for your violently spewed you out.

While to some it is arguable(however erroneous), that his decision to play for Nigeria may have been borne out of the realization that the chances of playing for England were slim as is the case with many black players that have played for them at age grade level. Whatever the case, it is worthy of note and commendation. I like other soccer loving Nigerians, are happy he did and was in South Africa. More so when other players who have never had to deal with such an experience turned down the offer; or other sports men/women change nationalities later on: the person wey say you can’t change horses mid stream, never hear of Naija before be that: the land where anything can happen.

Victor’s action has taught us a valuable lesson in forgiveness and showed us that the exhibition of this spirit of forgiveness that resides in all of us is only hampered by our decision to exercise it. The moment we do decide, it not only sets us free of the pain and hurt but also enables us to build on that experience and produce beauty from ashes.

Forgiveness frees everyone tied to that experience to live again and eventually make right their lives and the relationship that existed prior to the event.
The fact that he even agreed to come back home and participate the way he did, is a good start. I pray that the joy and happiness that his massive contributions to the success of the Super Eagles has brought to a country that has been itching for some good news, any good news, especially as it concerns our football will stay with him and his family for a very long time to come.

God bless you and your family Victor Moses.