Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Igbo Women Assembly, IWA, has initiated moves to save Igbo language from going into extinction.
The group which decried the growing apathy for communication with Igbo language among young Igbo generation, said it had embarked on aggressive crusade for the revival of Igbo language.
IWA expressed concern over the alleged plan to shut down Igbo Department in the University of Lagos for lack of students.
The pan Igbo women group announced free education for any Igbo student willing to study Igbo language at the university to avoid closing down the Department.
Addressing a press conference Wednesday in Umuahia Abia State, the National President of IWA, Lolo Nneka Chimezie, challenged Igbo youths and students to take advantage of the offer to help save their mother tongue from total extinction.
Lolo Chimezie said that IWA had already established seven primary schools in Lagos State where Igbo language is taught, as part of efforts to promote Igbo language.
She, however, identified lack of Igbo teachers as a major challenge of the schools.
Lolo Chimezie who gave her contact as 07034486824, urged anyone willing to study Igbo language at UNILAG to contact IWA for sponsorship.
The IWA President regretted that majority of young Igbo mothers do not like communicating with their children in Igbo language, a sad development, which she said posed existential threat to the language.
According to her, if no urgent measures were taken to promote the use of Igbo language in daily communications among the people, the language may go into total extinction in about 10 years time.
She said: “A recent research has shown that Igbo language is already at stage 8 of the 11 stages for any language to go into extinction.
“It’s disheartening that present young Igbo mothers no longer speak Igbo to their children. About 80% of these children don’t even understand Igbo any more.
“It’s inferiority complex that makes them speak English to their children instead of Igbo. This ugly trend will kill our language if we keep quiet.
“The English people travelled all the way from Europe to force their own language on us. Who tells you that our language is not good? It’s all a scam! Their language isn’t better. We should be proud of our mother tongue otherwise, it will die in our hands.”
The IWA President said that the group had perfected arrangements to celebrate this year’s United Nations Mother Tongue Day in Owerri on February 21.
She further said that the group was mulling other options including legislation by the State Houses of Assembly in South-East to promote the use of Igbo language.
“We want to attack this menace with laws,” she said while appealing to lawmakers and other stakeholders in the South-East to join in the crusade.
The IWA President further advocated a return to the era of agricultural revolution championed by the late Premiere of the defunct Eastern Region Dr Michael Okpara.
She decried the growing starvation and deplorable economic situation in South-East, blaming it on lack of interest in farming.
The IWA President also urged Ndigbo abroad to start investing in Igboland to help discourage further migration of Igbo youths.
“Things have fallen apart in Igboland because women no longer have interest in agriculture. We want to revive the resilient spirit of the Igbo women.
“We also want our men to begin to invest at home. We want them to develop and industrialise South-East to stop this mass exodus of our youths. When youths have meaningful jobs at home they will stop running away to foreign lands.”
Speaking further, Lolo Chimezie said that IWA had embarked on an advocacy to persuade Igbo importers to transit from importation to production.
According to her, when Igboland is fully industrialised, the zone will regain its enviable position in the days of Okpara when it was recognised as the fastest growing economy in the whole world.
She appealed to all Igbo women including those in the diaspora to come on board and make Igbo language a leading global language.
The IWA President commended the Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo over its efforts to promote unity among Ndigbo, acknowledging that the group enjoys very cordial relationship with Ohanaeze.
She also commended the IWA Founder, Chief Mrs Maria Okwor, for her efforts and patriotism in advancing the cause of Ndigbo.