Finally someone is doing something about the vexed issue of our disappearing mother tongue. Nigerians and maybe Africans even are somewhat laid back about the dire consequences of ending up with an Africa where only English, French and Arabic will be spoken by over a billion Africans, none of whom can speak a word of any African language. Along the way, the last memories of every aspect of our culture and heritage a distant memory! We identify 7 highlights of XLR8’s MTS:
Can your child speak her mother tongue?
That’s the question that will be taking center stage in a short while as XLR8 launches the innovative, sociological relevant Mother Tongue Show. “The Mother tongue show is a new, exciting game show that seeks to bring back the cool in the speaking of the Mother tongue” says the project’s website, www.mothertonguetvshow.tv.
Whether you see this as some boring item on your family’s entertainment menu or as a life saving idea, culturally speaking, will depend on how far gone you are over the vexed subject of culture clash and culture assimilation, which is a direct consequence of conquest and colonialism of African nations. Ordinarily, conquest and colonialism ought to be political and economic in consequence. But since the days of the Roman conquest of the Greeks and the cultural dynamic that ensured Greek culture dominated, conquistadors came to learn that political and economic conquests do not last the generation except you also conquer the mind through cultural assimilation.
In the case of the English, they did what they had to do, which included giving us their language while telling us that ours is inadequate and inferior. They also taught us how their own culture and civilization was the very apogee of human existence and how ours languished at the very base of it. Our forefathers gobbled up this nonsense because all they could see was the shiny mirrors of technology, raw power from the nose of the Gatling and the sophistication that came from a globally exposed culture that intimidated them both psychologically and physically. They succumbed totally making the surrender a generational and subliminal conquest.
Our language and consequently our culture became a pariah. It got so bad that in the post-colonial era it was a punishable offence to speak your mother tongue in school. This is despite a bitter political campaign by the fathers of Nigerian independence against the colonial government that eventually forced them out in 1960. Despite this, the brutal effect of their unwanted, uninvited incursion lingers.
By the 70s, the burgeoning middle class who benefited from the oil boom and the now infamous Udoji largesse were more exposed and more educated than their parents. But they were more economically conscious than culturally assertive. The privileged ones among them actually studied abroad and gradually English, seen as more prestigious and more progressive, became the semi-official language of most Nigerian homes. It didn’t help that it was the sole language of instruction in which education was offered, mostly.
But many of us, who came out of those homes, managed to escape with a good grasp of our indigenous languages. The real trouble happened in the 80s and 90s when military rule and a rapid dilation of values ensured the virtual elimination of indigenous languages and culture from most urban homes. What was once a middle class phenomenon went south to take root even in homes of the poor both in the urban and peri-urban households. The most tragic part of it all is that even pedagogy in indigenous languages suffered from lack of attention and investment. If you said you wanted to study Yoruba or Urhobo language, somebody was bound to ask you with a grimace: What’s the point?
Perhaps the only hold out of the indigenous languages was the rural areas where many parents lacked capacity or proficiency in English language and where cultural practices were still carried out in indigenous languages. Our languages therefore face the threat of extinction. And this is not a palatable vision. To stem the tide and change or reverse perceptions about our different indigenous languages, someone has finally decided to do something.
Why this effort is impressive is that it is not academic in nature. It adopts a simple entertainment format to deliver something of lasting significance. This activity will hopefully bring some pride among our young ones regarding the speaking of and achieving proficiency in our indigenous languages. The following are 7 highlights of XLR8’s Mother Tongue Show:
1. This is a competitive show that focuses on a particular language every season. The kids (9-13-year-olds) will engage in creative performances in their mother tongues. A mother tongue, for the purpose of this competition, is any indigenous language in which they are proficient. So a Yoruba boy growing up in Zaria can participate in Hausa.
2. The Mother Tongue Show will initially preview online as a teaser. It will feature online entries that is targeted at giving viewers an idea of what is to come. The main seasons will be broadcasted on satellite and terrestrial television with members of the public following every moment of the action and probably participating in selection.
3. To contest, a child should be between 9-13 years of age, must be fluent in a Nigerian indigenous language and should have the consent of his/her parents to compete. To feature in the preview, competitors only need to record answers to the 2 questions proffered on the site on video and send to the organizers. Video length should be 3 minutes only and deadline for entries is November 20, 2024.
4. An elders council has already been appointed for the preview edition of the competition. The elders council will sit in judgement, taking public sentiments into consideration to determine the ultimate winners. The council includes Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, Steve Ayorinde, Bemigho Awala and Jahman Anikulapo. Others are Akin Adeoya and Atim Nkpubre.
5. Participation is absolutely free. Organizers are keen to state that this show hopes to go beyond the shores of Nigeria.
6.There is a cash prize attached to winning this competition at the preview stage, so this is additional motivation for kids and their mums to take interest. Organizers emphasis that mum’s are encouraged to take keen interest and be part of kids’ preparations apart from been cheerleaders.
7. The show is conceived and organized by the Lagos based communications agency, XLR8, led by Calixthus Okoruwa. Okoruwa is one of the nation’s leading lights on Public communications and brand marketing having been the pioneer public relations manager for the mobile giant, MTN Nigeria communications. Pharmacist turned marketer, Okoruwa is a consummate marketing and sales professional with an MBA and many years in top corporate roles including in DHL and Society for Family Health (SFH).