By Odimegwu Onwumere
When I was in the primary school in an Igbo community, many of us were bullied for speaking the Igbo Language in the classroom or around the school premises. The English Language was made superior to the Igbo Language. The teachers, who were our own, made us to feel ‘inferior’ about speaking Igbo, hence many of us wanted to identify and, we identified with not only the English Language, but everything the English people.
In the school, if you were found speaking the Igbo Language, you were regarded as a ‘bush’ person. If you were found speaking the English Language you were regarded as a ‘polished’ person. We had that mindset that the Igbo Language was a ‘bush’ language, just as those before and after us in the school were indoctrinated to believing same.
As a result of this, there were damages done on all the facets of the aboriginal Igbo belief-system. Our Igbo history was replaced with European and American histories or those of other lands. Our spirituality was debased, replaced with the spirituality of the English colonial masters. Our teachers damaged our spirituality, communalism, art, just name them. Although, not fault of theirs, because they were taught so by the linage of those who were there before them, taught by the colonial masters.
The crying shame today is that many of our people still hold on to the ways of Europeans to the peak, than the Igbo ways. And when you correct them, they call you a ‘bush’ person. Wonder why a child in Aba, Enugu, Owerri, Enugu no longer understand or speak the Igbo Language, but English? Wonder why hardly Igbo people are proud of their native spirituality, culture, tradition and what have you?
(Photo: culled from internet)
The Igbo here represents the fate of all the aboriginal peoples in our country. Those who understand my explanation would commend the Daily Sun editorial of May 13 2014. The immeasurable newspaper took time to remind the Nigerian Government that loathes its traditional ways of doing things that Christianity and Islam should not be held in utter esteem to the detriment of the beliefs of the native peoples of Nigeria and their traditional institutions.
In that editorial titled “Mandatory HIV tests before marriage”, amongst others, the paper wrote: “In a bid to check the spread of the Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) in the country, the Federal Government has approved the conduct of compulsory HIV tests on intending couples before the solemnization of Christian and Muslim marriages in the country.
“Under this initiative, no marriage can be conducted in Churches and Mosques unless religious leaders in the places of worship confirm that the intending bride and groom have taken HIV tests.
“The government’s position will help to ensure that no one gets married to an infected person out of ignorance. Ultimately, the health authorities should actively work towards encouraging all Nigerians to know their status.
“In this regard, efforts should be made to find a way to make testing compulsory for those planning to do traditional marriages, too.”
I must commend the paper for bringing this ‘neglected traditional’ aspect of our lives into the fore, especially now that majority sees anything that has to do with our traditional ways as “bush things”. Hence, the authorities continue to sell and handover the dummies handed over to us by the colonial masters’ and mistresses’ constitution to keep.
Hardly is the government ready to checkmate these outdated policies of foreign-ways of getting married and allow us marry in our traditional ways and make such ways formal. Lies, lies and lies everywhere in this country. And, I hate lies! I hate lies, because it is not in my diary. Some people would say that they tell lies in order to heal the tension of the moment that they needed to exonerate themselves from.
But I see any form of lies as betrayal, just as the government sees anything that has to do with tradition as informal; therefore it continues to operate foreign policies against ours. And those who are experts in the art of lying are always hatching something new to defend their lies of today, by tomorrow.
I do not have a soft spot in believing again, any person that I discovered had told me lies or, is good at using lies. There were certain ladies that our ways paddled as youths and today they are confiding in me that they are regretting all those lies they were good at telling boys and men mainly, which they hated me for, for always frowning at their unjustifiable skill of using lies, as if they wanted to make music out of lies.
The government is not original if it cannot go back to uphold our tradition both in words and in papers. I’m of the belief that if anyone wants to lie, it should be to him or herself. The government of Nigeria should stop making all the citizens Christians and Muslims with its ‘mandatory policies’ that support such religious activities. Lies make me want to throw up! The government has this imprint indoctrinated in the minds of the religionists. Remember that in the USA, there was this bias of Catholics becoming president. I think it was Kennedy who broke that jinx.
As a boy then, I remember Catholic families not giving their daughters out in marriage to Anglican families and do not marry from such families, vice versa. My people, the hatred that these alien religions – Christianity and Islam – have brewed in our communities is beyond mere ethnic mantra. There is undertone-laced bias and politics ingrained in these religions that affect the psyche of the adherents.
For example today, they have been told that once you are married and did not wed in either Church or Mosque, you have not married. It continues and our lackadaisical government continues to abet such corrupt notion just to impress its European and American overlords, not minding that Kenya today has addressed her marriage policies and make them to sooth her people’s belief-system and all that.
The indoctrinations being brewed in Nigeria by the alien religions are what make the Christian-south to see a Muslim-north as an unbeliever. Vice versa. Even, some of us that are Free Thinkers are seen as the biblical devil-incarnate. My people, there is more to hatred indoctrinated in these religions that divide father and children, wife and husbands…
When you are on the other divide, your once beloved one does not see your good character anymore, but that you are not of the same ‘faith’ with him or her and has nothing to do with you and, might even kill you if given the opportunity, because the government policies have made him or her to be feeling superior than you.
Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.