Identity crisis and the Nigerian
Sir: “Which is your state of origin” I asked Amarachi. “Rivers” she replied. “That makes you an Igbo” I quipped. “Certainly not” she countered. I couldn’t help but wonder. These exchanges are common around me. Most people of my acquaintance from Rivers State speak the Igbo language, bear the names and yet say they aren’t Igbo. Remember China and the transliteration policy of the late 1970s? Why not stop bearing the names and coin names meant for the Rivers people?
At a training session I facilitated, one of the attendees introduced himself as Ojo-Ajogwu meaning “God fights our battle.” (literal translation in Igala language, my stock) Surprisingly, he said he is Igbo and a native of Enugu State. Since when have the Igala people suddenly become Igbo? Can Ojo-Ajogwu aspire to be governor of Enugu State?
Recently, in Port Harcourt, a young lady near me spoke pristine Hausa. I was surprised at the fluidity and had to ask her, where she learnt the language. “Learnt?” she queried. “I am Hausa.” “Really?” “From which state?” I inquired. “I am from Plateau State” she said gaily. I couldn’t help but snigger. “You aren’t a Hausa. You have your mother tongue in Plateau. And even though you understand and speak the Hausa language, you are no Hausa.”
One of the challenges we still suffer as a people is a crisis of identity. Who are we? My friends from the Kaduna South axis of Kaduna State, just like many in the north for whom Hausa is only a second language, abandon their languages and speak Hausa. The same way many Kanuri people I have met hardly speak Kanuri to their children. They speak Hausa or Arab.
Even though Latin isn’t exported globally any more, at least it is spoken in the church in Rome. Greeks were once known for Grecian Triumphalism yet their history and roots today have not been abandoned.
My north-central brothers identify with ‘one north’ today and ‘middle-belt’ tomorrow, for good reasons. When political bazaars are to be shared for “one north” the northwest, especially, bandies a “core north” theory to deprive the community of the whole of the bazaar for all. Pseudo-community thrives so much in the north.
Bassey was the driver to my late boss. He drove me and recently in his taxi and busied himself preaching to me about irrendentism and why Rivers State is “our land.” “Your land?” “Whatever happened to your Akwa Ibom State land, especially in a Nigeria where settler status is a novelty?” I love the Ogoni. Almost all of the Ogoni I have met speak the language and are proud of being Ogon.
Have you noticed that no medical condition ever kills a Nigerian nowadays? When people suddenly suffer a massive heart attack and die with no history of medical problems, fetishists were responsible. There is so much work for the national orientation agency to do, especially in the area of cultural revolution in Nigeria!
• Simon Abah, Port Harcourt.