I remember one of my aunties who was fond of visiting us when I was a child. When my parents would speak English to us, she would make a funny face and then turn around to converse with my siblings and me in Igbo. She also told us many folktales with songs sung in our local dialect that she demonstrated with a lot of drama. Her visits were one of the many highlights of growing up.
However, when we started going to school, I realised that almost everyone only wanted to speak English. Not just English, but they wanted to speak it in a very English way, without any tinge of native or Igbo accent. As a matter of fact, if you spoke a local dialect in school, you were asked to pay a small fine. It always happened that anyone who talked with any hint of an accent was criticized or laughed at, eventually beyond the fine, people came to associate their native way of speaking with shame. It is so sad that while people across the world use their accents as a means to identify which part of the world they’re from, we in Nigeria want to scrub ours away, it’s like we regard it as a stain or some kind of tarnish. Naturally this is a fall out of our inherited colonial mentality.
I’ve had conversations with people who had a thousand and one opinions on this subject. One major complaint was that our natural accent was too igbotic, or the ‘h-factor’ tongue was too distracting, and I’ve always countered by saying: “butthislanguageisnotourowno,ourtonguesareadaptingtothesething.”
So, probably some people have eliminated all trace of an accent but if you think about it, does that deserve a badge of honour? It might be understandable when it’s just for the purpose of making the person’s speech clearer, but when having a traditional accent becomes some sort of nasty label attached to a person, then it becomes a problem.
Again, it’s like we had our independence, but our minds still remain captive. Some people still have the phobia for anything home or local based, they still carry preconceived notions and are not willing to move forward or accept that it’s actually up to us to appreciate what we have. From our accents, our own languages, clothes, talents to people in the country doing great things, there’s simply so much we need to reclaim. There is this funny translated Igbo proverb that says, Ogaracha must come back. It simply means that no matter how a person wanders, they will always come back to their roots.