Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Political Self-Rule is not enough!

by ahjotnaija

Mr Tanimomo is a scholar and resident in Germany. He guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com with Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM)

Nearly two decades ago, there lived Wanayo on my street. Wanayo is Togolese. The assumption was: He was dull; as dull as an ass because he spoke no English. It would need no mentioning that Wanayo spoke French instead. He is from Fracophone West Africa. We laughed at him, questioned him in English and did whatever we could just to get him out of his shell and hear him shell in English. To us, English was a sign of good education and intelligence. Wanayo was not the only person we laughed at, We laughed at other pupils in my primary and secondary schools who did not speak good English.

Around the same time, one of my science teachers won an award as the best science teacher. I need point out that this particular teacher, like Wanayo, also spoke bad English; so bad an English that we dedicated a book to chronicle his grammatical mishaps. The book even had a name: Ish Okay Tabons. This science teacher had been nicknamed Ish Okay, because he punctuated warnings with “Ish Okay”.

Let us fast forward now: I was admitted into the university to study French. Subsequently, my parochial thinking of tying English language to intelligence changed. I did not want to study French but my grades were not so bad so I stayed.

Initially, I had no problems with the language. I was a bit above average, and at times I was a dark horse in some courses in which I did well enough to be noticed by my lecturers. I had no issues with the language until I travelled to Porto-Novo in my second year as part of a immersion programme. It was a big revelation. For the first time in my life I felt like an illiterate; a real dull illiterate. I suddenly became even duller than Wanayo. I was starved, a powerful tool had been taken away, was practically stripped of my communicative abilities. I gesticulated more than I spoke to explain what I meant. I had awkward feelings each time people laughed when I spoke. I was in another world, a world where English Language had been stripped of its dignity. I felt dull but I knew I was not dull; I knew I was intelligent, I mean I was one of the best students at OAU pre-degree entrance exam in 2005 and I made my school leaving exams at the first shot. I was just a magician whose magic wands had been stolen.

Consequently, I was compelled to see that there was (and still is) an “over-hyping” of the English Language. English has nothing at all to do with intelligence. Nobody gives so much a hoot about the English Language saving the Anglophone countries and allied countries/protégés, namely the`”Scandinavian countries”.

Truly the English Language, and many other language of colonialism could be seen as possible hinderance to and of many intelligent minds. Many African countries became independent but are yet to severe the one crucial tie to colonialism, namely the language. The truth is that language is never innocent. In all cases, it expresses the interests of its producers. I laugh at friends who in patriotic pride say things like: Africans have culture and Europeans do not. I laugh because behind this statement is an unconscious undoing. Culture is about the mask, the masquerade and the ankle long dresses. To the true owner of the language, who invented the word culture, this is what culture is: Culture is more than those, culture goes beyond the mask, it is a way of life. The reason the inventor wakes up in the morning to be productive, the reason he saves up for the future, the reason he is aware of his environment and climate etc.

By the way, have you noticed the connotative differences between the words: ‘tribalism’ and ‘nationalism’. One is pregnant with negativity while the other is tied to some positive heroic deeds; one is an infantile love for a tribe while the other is the love of one’s father-/motherland. Have you noticed that Africa was divided into tribes and not into nations? A love for your tribe gets a negative tag while a love for a nation makes a hero. I wonder how one can love a nation when one don’t love the tribe. Meanings of words are derived from what the producers wants and intends them to be.

This is a plausible question: Why can’t we develop our own brand of the English Language or any national language for that matter that reflects our culture(s) and recognizes our ways of life? Yes, we have the Standard Nigerian English, but like almost all products made in Nigeria, ours is perceived not to be good enough. So if you speak the so called Nigerian English in the presence of a Nigerian English language perfectionist, you may get some knocks because it is “sev’n” and not the Nigerian version pronounced with a stressed h as in “seh-ven”.

Certainly, there is more to independence/freedom other than political self-rule. Political independence without an accompanying cultural and language independence/freedom might as well be a good way to prevent complete freedom from ignorance and self-degradation. It is undoubtedly a bad package.