Why Igala People Speak Igbo Fluently– Enugu Traditional Ruler
HRH Igwe Emmanuel Emeka Umunna, the traditional ruler of Ojjor, an Igala-speaking community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, says Igala-speaking people of the state make teaching of the Igbo language compulsory in order not to lose their identity.
Speaking with THE WHISTLER exclusively at his palace, Saturday, Igwe Umunna said, “Igala is our mother tongue, but we are from Enugu State. We simply learn Igbo in school. That is why we speak both fluently. During our school days, we call the curriculum of learning Igbo ‘vernacular’. If you cross the River Imaboro behind my palace, you go to Obale, Odeke, Ayeke, Enweli, Ojuju, Odolu, among others. The afore-mentioned are Igala-speaking communities in Kogi State. We migrated from there, just like other communities did in the olden days.”
According to him, to ensure that the concept thrived, the community had an enforcement team. In his words, “We preach it every day because our identity is in the language we speak. It’s a pity that it is only the Igbo that do not take their native tongue seriously. If you watch, Yoruba and Hausa are gaining grounds, but the Igbo language is dying down. That is why government should make it compulsory. In Ojjor, we made it compulsory that the Igbo language is taught in even private schools. We have our cabinet, which is equivalent of commissioners at the state level. So, we enforce it at schools that Igbo is taught compulsorily.”
He however called on the Enugu State government to include the Igala language among the programmes of its Enugu State Broadcasting Corporation. Quoting him, “There was a time the Igala language was being aired on the state radio station, but today, it has stopped. It will be assumed that we don’t belong to the state, but in truth Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi holds us to the highest esteem. We feel his administration very well. But we appeal for inclusion of Igala programmes on the state radio, ESBS, and even the Radio Nigeria because any society that has no language loses its identity.”
He added that his being an Igala-speaking traditional ruler ‘does not make him shy’, adding that, “I am proud of being an Igala man in Enugu State. People can only be ashamed of what is not good. We are good, so why should I shy away from realities? The Igala culture is worthy of emulation. Ojjor community lacks nothing. We have land, very fertile. We have rivers: Obinna, Imaboro, Ishi. This is an island, fully created by the Almighty God. It is a heaven. We do have flood matters, but it does not stop the beauty of Ojjor community.”