A Professor of Igbo Studies at the University of Lagos, Iwu Remigius Obi Ikwubuzo has pleaded that mother tongues and literary traditions in Nigeria must not be allowed to die.
He made this plea while delivering the 12th Inaugural Lecture of the 2021/2022 Academic Session, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, at the J. F. Ade. Ajayi Auditorium.
Professor Iwu Remigius Obi Ikwubuzo, in the very convincing tradition of dons of the University of Lagos, presented an insightful lecture titled, “Ofe Nnē Ka Ù̩̀to̩ (A Mother’s Soup is more Delicious): Our Mother-Tongue and Literary Tradition Must Not Die”.
Against the backdrop of the Igbo saying that “Ofe Nnē Kà Ụ̀tọ” (A Mother’s Soup is more Delicious), Prof. Iwu Ikwubuzo emphasized the value of the mother-tongue, literary tradition, as well as the necessity of their sustenance.
He revealed that his research has been devoted to the area of Igbo Literature as an expressive medium of the language.
The Inaugural Lecturer’s investigation of Igbo literature has also been directed at both the exposition of the applicability of the literature and the literary artists’ commitment to the issues of ethnic integration and national unity.
The Inaugural Lecturer addressed the various challenges facing the mother-tongue language and literary tradition, with particular reference to the Igbo language. He looked at the impact of western culture and modernity on the Igbo language; Igbo migration with its concomitant acculturation of the Igbo children within their host communities, especially the heavy toll it has taken on them, and the threat of extinction of the language arising from the lethargic attitude of the Igbo towards their language both in their homeland and the diaspora.
The Lecturer advocated using literary works to ensure the language’s long-term viability as well as address the challenges of national unity by emphasizing the commonalities in traditions across Nigeria.
According to him, “the Igbo language should, as a matter of necessity, be a medium of everyday communication in both the Igbo homeland and the diaspora. Making diasporic Igbo children speak their language is critical to the language’s survival and their identity’s preservation. In this regard, parental commitment and involvement in speaking the language to their children is key to the success of the enculturation process.”
While recommending that local languages (mother tongues) – Igbo, Yoruba and others are made compulsory as admission requirement for all courses in Nigerian tertiary institutions, Prof. Ikwubuzo also called for the inclusion of Igbo and Yoruba languages in the GST programme in University of Lagos, arguing that indigenous languages deserve to be prioritised ahead of foreign languages.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, FAS, presided over the lecture which was well attended by colleagues, students, former students, mentees, friends and family of the Inaugural Lecturer.
Born on January 18, 1961 at Ebenato-Ekwe in Isu Local Government Area of Imo State, Professor Iwu Remigius Obi Ikwubuzo is an all-round alumnus of the University who obtained his B.A. (Hons.) degree in Igbo Language, Masters and Doctorate degrees in Igbo Literature in 1988, 1990 and 1998 respectively.
He joined the services of the University of Lagos in 1988 as a National Youth Service Corps member at the Department of African Languages and Literatures, when his Department recalled him from Port Harcourt where he had originally been posted to for his National Youth Service. Afterwards he was appointed Graduate Assistant and rose to become a Professor in 2015.