I made a post a few days ago about my service year in the city of Abeokuta. I thoroughly enjoyed the city’s terrain, the serenity of the GRA and the general friendliness of the people.
Being my first time in Western Nigeria, I did what I knew to prepare myself for the differences in environment I was bound to encounter.
I knew that Yorubas generally eat spicy foods. Because I had had bouts with ulcers, I prepared my mind on how to avoid them. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first Yoruba words I learnt in Yoruba land were “Ata” and “Tipoju,” which meant “pepper” and “too much.”
So each time I went to a buka to eat I’ll be singing “ata otipoju” upfront as my self defence.
I had every other expectation fitted for, after all, I had spent four years in Calabar as a student away from home.
My biggest cultural shock in Abeokuta was the alarming fact that many young people could neither speak nor understand English. As in, you’ll be telling a Taxi driver that you have reached your destination and he’ll continue moving until you shout “oda bayi.”
I nearly fainted.
Even when you spoke in pidgin English, a young person will answer you “emi kogbo engirisi.”
Then I was knocked off my pants when, as a result of my experience with the younger generation, I run into a frail looking elderly woman or man and try communicating in pidgin, then she or he turns and answers in impeccable Queen’s English.
I kept wondering what was wrong with the city. The young were so illiterate while the very old had solid education.
Why was there that disconnect?
What went wrong with the education in Abeokuta?
The presence of a university in the city, UNAAB, didn’t help much. Even the undergraduates spoke like they were being taught in vernacular.
When it came up in discussions among us as corpers then, I got hushed because I could hurt some of us who came from Ibadan Poly.
Of the eight Ibadan Poly corpers I met in Abeokuta, only one had a command of the English language.
You’ll hear things like “Emeka, how much did you bought it?”
Once I corrected a friend and she cried for the rest of the day. She said that I was making her get back into the shell she had been all along. That broke my heart.
But seriously, what is wrong with us in Nigeria?
A lot of people on Social Media type all sorts of rubbish as English language, show casing our illiteracy with pride. Some use pidgin English and abbreviations to hide their deficiencies (the reason I don’t hang with small girls around here).
It’s even easy with your phone to learn English. I’ve become a better English writer on this space just by utilising the autotyping tools here and following people who write very well.
That should not be difficult.
As for our cities that are hugely disconnected from what we used to be in the years gone by, I pray we are able to vote into power development minded leaders who will trully give education the attention it requires in our country.
I hope someone doesn’t let this post offend them.
~ Emeka Echefu