NAIFS 2011 Lagos Convention


In the next 30 years, our language will suffer if nothing is done - Comrade Evah
On November 2, 2011 ·.In Features
IT is true that what we sometimes call civilisation is nothing but destruction. Take a people's language, for instance; it is part of their identity and so societies that have lost their native tongue have inadvertently lost part of their identity.
To prevent this from happening to the Ijaw people and their language, Comrade Joseph Evah, the Co-ordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group and Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress, INC, spoke with Vanguard Features on the forthcoming biennial convention of the National Association of Izon Female Students and what they hope to achieve. Excerpts:
*Comrade Joseph Evah...changing students' mindset
SPEAKING on the forthcoming convention, Comrade Joseph Evah said: "We are organising the fourth biennial convention of the National Association of Izon Female Students. We are Ijaws and we felt that we have to mobilise our women because they are very powerful and again, because of modernity, we have inter-tribal marriages and there is need for us to make our daughters appreciate where they come from."
"As men, the advantage is that we are not going anywhere, even if we move; we know very well that we have no other home than our homeland. Not so for women who move because of marriage and when they move, how do we make them appreciate where they come from?" He noted that unlike the Yoruba and Hausa languages which are structured to survive over time, the Ijaw language is not structured that way.
Structured languages
"The Yorubas because of their advancement in education, right from the time of Bishop Ajayi Crowther, even before the 21st Century, have structured themselves so that their language survives. The Hausa-Fulani because of Islam, also structured their language to survive.
Now, our own language is dying because we are not yet advanced like the Yorubas who structured their language in a way that it becomes an alternative to the English Language.
So because of these inter-tribal marriages, the only language our daughters, who are married to men from other tribes, speak with their husbands and children is the English language so if we organise them to return home at least once in a while to appreciate where they come from, our language, by the grace of God, will not die.
Because of modernity, use of Pidgin and regular English for academics and inter-tribal marriages, our own language is dying. You find out that 90 per cent of parents today are not interested in the native language, they just communicate with their children in the English language," he lamented.
Continuing Comrade Evah said: "Apart from the language, the children should appreciate where their mothers comes from. Since our daughters will go and be part of other people's family, we are now telling them that there is need for them to return home and appreciate where they come from and still go back to their husbands. Let the children also return and know where their mothers comes from.
If the children totally move away with their mother to their father's area and cannot recognise where their mothers comes from, it is a minus. In the next 30 years, our language will suffer if nothing is done because children that are one or two years now will be 31 - 32 years, at least 25 - 30 per cent of our population will be affected if we don’t make our daughters realise the importance of their homeland, and the children the importance of where their mothers come from."
Power of women
According to Evah who is so passionate about the Ijaw ethnic group and the Niger-Delta region in general, the National Association of Izon Female Students started in 2004 because they realised the power of women to change the society for the better.
The association which started in 2004 with 35 - 36 members; now has more than 5,000 students drawn from all the tertiary institutions in the country. Apart from making them appreciate their roots, the association is also into community work, helping to keep their people healthy as it is said that a healthy man is a wealthy man.
Said Evah: "They register and we engage them like the National Youth Service Corps idea. Every December, we ask everybody to come home and we carry out de-worming programme in the villages. The conventions are mainly outside our region because we want people to travel and see the difference and see why other people prosper.
For example, they are coming to Lagos for this convention. Why are the Yorubas sophisticated? Why are they more advanced than other parts of the country? We will tell them.
We will visit some local government areas where local government chairmen in Yoruba land are paying bursary to students of their area unlike in our own area where such a thing does not happen. No local government chairman in our own Niger-Delta area stays in the council. We ask them: 'do you want to remain like this?'
Students' mindset
They stay in hotels because the governors allow it. Council money is shared to party leaders. You can't see that in Yoruba land and you see the prosperity in the area and we ask them: 'do you want this type of thing for your children's children?'
So we move to council areas where the council chairmen are working, where local government chairmen were removed from office for not working. In our area, local government chairmen and commissioners operate from hotels for two - three years.
The governors are aware but do nothing about it. We want to change the students' mindset. But now, the major thing is the female because they will move out of our environment and they are moving with children so when they move with children, we say please, once in a while, return home and appreciate where you come from. Appreciate the Ijaw language, don't let it die in your household.
We that are going to permanently stay in our homeland, we have no option than to follow the culture the tradition and the language."
He appreciated Emzor Pharmaceuticals for always being there for them. "We want to thank Emzor because each year we de-worm, although we buy these drugs but Emzor makes sure that the drugs for the National Association of Izon Female Students are always available, no matter the time they are needed and the pressure from other buyers, ours are always ready."
The 'Macedonian' call
He stated that the programme has been very successful and the communities are calling on them to come to their aid. "This is November and the communities are calling, appealing that the students should come. The programme has helped to prevent polio, cholera and other water-borne diseases.
Because of our environment and years of pollution by the oil companies and others, our children are exposed to a lot of diseases but this de-worming helps to clean their system, especially when life-threatening diseases surface in the communities, the de-worming goes a long way to help them.
We make our daughters realise that if they de-worm other people's children, God will take care of their own children. It is natural. As you save other people's lives, God in heaven will make sure that He will also take care of your children by the time you start having children. So the students are excited."
He said the response from people have been great in terms of support. "Last year, over 100 speed boats were mobilised, some provided accommodation for the members of the association, some provided vehicles, etc.
The convention which will start on the 4th of November with the arrival of the students, will take place at the National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos and Mr. Ben Bruce is expected to chair the occasion while Professors John Pepper Clark and Alele-Williams are expected to be the father and the mother of the day.
In conclusion, Evah said: "We are afraid of the unknown and because of that, we decided to organise this forum to gather our daughters and make them to appreciate their roots. They are free to marry from anywhere in the world but remember where they come from. That is the purpose of the convention."


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