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OUR LANGUAGE; OUR BEAUTY! By Enwongo C. Cleopas


2015, I was directed to the Public Complaints Commission office in Ado Ekiti from the Ijero branch. While waiting for the director, two men at the reception asked where I was from and I said I was from Akwa Ibom. One immediately said, "oh you are igbo". I was actually confused and I repeated myself to him, "I'm sorry but Akwa Ibom is not an 'igbo' state". People of God, these men were arguing with me about my own state and tribe. I started laughing and they kept quiet. I couldn't believe my ears. But that was just the beginning of my encounter with that mis-education.
Before going for service, I did my online registration and I was asked to select the 'languages/dialects' that I could speak. I was amazed at the number that I saw listed on the site. I knew we had a whole lot but the reality of that number confounded me, totally. I remember selecting very odd ones just for the fun of it. Imagine my surprise when I was posted to Ekiti and I met a lady who told me she wasn't speaking the yoruba language but rather a dialect called Okun which was one of the numerous ones I filled in my form. The joke was on me.
I also recall asking a neighbour if he would teach me yoruba, he replied and said, 'I speak ekiti'. To be sincere, I laughed and said 'what'? Afterwards, I deliberately went round complimenting people on their 'lovely' yoruba language just so they react and tell me, 'no, this is ekiti I am speaking or this is owu or mogba', etc.
If there is anything I have learnt is to appreciate the full diversity of who and what we are as a people. My grandmother, my father's mother, speaks efik and ibibio and a dialect called Agoi. Agoi wants to sound like a very thick igbo + efik language. Honestly, you woAuldn't hear one of any word she speaks. ‎

I have had to consciously learn about where people I meet are from, their languages, dialects, tribe, etc., and to ask if I don't know.
We have over 500 languages/dialects in Nigeria. That's something.
I've shared here before about travelling from Ondo to Abuja and meeting a lady who spoke an odd language later identified as Igala. The lady gave me an education about the abundant diversity of dialects in Kogi state. What was intriguing was that a small part of Kogi shared similarities with far away Anambra.‎
In 2012, I met a guy from Rivers state who understood my ibibio, never mind that he has not been to Akwa Ibom state before. He couldn't speak it but he understood almost everything I said. I was intrigued and impressed.
Our cultural heritage is too complex to be simplified by straight identifiers or one-liners. I still remember my fascination with Benue state for just one reason, the way their names sounded. Then I came across people from Plateau and thought to myself, 'I must have a plateau name'.
I had a roommate from Bekwara whose Bekwarra dialect always made everyone pause whatever it was they were doing to listen. I never heard a more tricky, aggressive and high pitching sound. The day she stumbled across another hallmate who spoke her dialect, they kept hugging and smiling at each other. I envied them. It was like a lost and found reunion. P.s we had another Benue hallmate who understood her bekwarra dialect.‎
Last year, E put it down to embark on a journey to some part of Cameroon that share a lot of similarities with the ibibios. Their names, dialects, and cultural inclinations were too similar with ours. That's a journey I will still embark on.
I have a family friend who insists he speaks itak, a variant of Ibibio. I was surprised until I learnt that we had a lot of that variation from central ibibio to enyong to itak to nsit etc.‎
Sadly, we are doing a poor job teaching ourselves and those coming after us our rich history and the beautiful diversity that abounds. Instead of making an attempt to silence or diminish the minor or not so popular groups, let's listen and learn about them. We are too diverse to be lumped into a big umbrella, and that's not a bad thing. Each group is authentic as it is, needing no external validation to be accepted.‎

So errrrrrmmmm, can we do a thread where we mention the particular dialect/language (not English) we speak, our tribe, LGA and state, please? Not for divisive purposes but to learn about each other. I will go first.‎
I speak Ibibio and a bit of efik. I am from Ikot Ebom Itam in Itu LGA, Akwa Ibom state. Itam Itam enié mkpo. (thank you Nkechi for inspiring this)‎ 
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