Posts Tagged ‘language’

MUTUAL LIBERALISM


Indecision


We are from different ethnic groups, each from two different majorities in a country with three majority ethnic groups. We both presently reside in the third majority ethnic area. We live in caution, tending towards fear. There have been incessant cases of religious crisis around us, with increasing possibility that it might arrive at our doorstep soonest. Obinna and I constantly remind ourselves of our peculiar situation; Christians living amongst a predominantly Muslim population. We cannot leave because we are currently fulfilling our mandatory one year post university graduation service to our motherland. Thus we seek solutions daily.

It is apparent that religion is a front continually used to foment political and ethnic chaos. We decided the solution was to detribalise Nigeria, create unity. The most malleable instrument-we observed- is language; food is common, and religion; too sensitive. Obinna believed that if the local languages were discouraged, abolished from the school curricula and all Nigerians adopt English like the eclectic American society, peace will reign. Eventually, he enthused, all of Nigeria will be one and we will speak in one tongue. I admitted that it is important to transact all official business in a common lingua franca irrespective of tribes. A situation where language differences in the workplace encourages tribalism and nepotism is surely unacceptable however it is important that we do not forget our origins. African history has been passed across generations by the local languages. If I stop speaking Yoruba, I stop knowing who I am and where I come from. It is like forgetting the reason why I grow a potbelly when I am hungry. The Fulani man will also be confused about his lanky frame even after overfeeding! We argued awhile, and then agreed to disagree. He named his theory “mutual liberalism” and mine “mutual conservatism”. We did not ponder over the political accuracy of his terminologies; we decided to take a lunch break. Our fears had been dispelled temporarily with youthful banter.

Our argument made us forget food, we searched for lunch at 5pm when most restaurants around were closing for the day. At various stops, we repeatedly heard “sorry, food has finished”! Hunger made us intransigent, we continued our forlorn quest. Fortunately, after a few minutes, we happened upon a restaurant that still had food; however we were presented with a dilemma. They had only a plate of our favourite meal-corn food and ogbono soup-left, all they could offer the next person was rice and stew without meat! We sat for a moment, dejected, considering our lack of choices. Our gastric juices jolted us back to reality. We started conversing in low tones; each looking to the other to make the inevitable sacrifice.

Suddenly, Obinna looked at the woman that addressed us; she was a fair complexioned one, portly and quite hairy. Her wrapper was brightly coloured, definitely eastern. He mumbled some incomprehensible words to her in Igbo; she nodded in understanding and sauntered away. I turned and asked my friend “what is happening”? He answered that he only told her to bring the food. The portly woman returned with a tray laden with plates, she placed the corn food and ogbono in front of Obinna, then the rice and stew in front of me. I looked at my friend across the table from me; he had a mischievous smile on his face. Why didn’t he say those words in English? What did he even say? I could not take offence, someone had to budge. What If I was in his shoes? I started eating my rice. Mutual liberalism indeed!

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