A WELCOME ADDRESS PRESENTED BY CHIEF OSARO OLLORWI, CHAIRMAN OF ELEME LANGUAGE CENTER AT THE OCCASION OF THE LAUNCHING/PRESENTATION OF THE BOOK TITLED “NSÃ ELOI RÃ” AT THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY HALL, ELEME LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL, OGALE ON FRIDAY, 18TH AUGUST, 2017
1. The Chairman of this Historic Occasion, Dr. Princewill Obele, Medical Director/CEO Sonabel Medical Center
2. The Special Guest of Honour, Opusenibo Hart Dagogo, Permanent Secretary Rivers State Ministry of Education
3. Royal Father of the Day, HRM King (dr.) Samuel O. Ejire, JP, Ͻnε Eleme X
4. Her Majesty, Ԑmεrε Evelyn Ada Gokpa, Ԑmεrε Ͻwa Eleme
5. Spiritual Father of the Day, Archbishop, Moses O. Kattey, PhD, G. O. Commonwealth Covenant Church International
6. The Chief Launcher, HRH Ԑmεrε Appolus Chu, Ԑgbεrε Ԑmεrε Okori 1, Eleme
7. The Chief Host, Chief Hon. Obarilormate Ollor, JP, CTC Chairman, Eleme LGA
8. The President-General, O-E’la Obor Eleme, Elder Israel Gomba-Abbey
9. Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen
10. All Protocol Observed.
On behalf of the Eleme Language Center, I heartily welcome you all to the launching/presentation of the Book titled, “NSÃ ELOI RÃ”. It is indeed a great honour that your presence has bestowed on this occasion.
The need to show great concern for the teaching, learning, and preservation of the Eleme Language can be appreciated when we realized that the language is at the verge of extinction. Just like any other challenge of life, the government alone cannot contain the continual drift of the Eleme Language towards total extinction, especially when it is an established fact that corruption and bureaucracy slows down government’s good intentions and efforts in Nigeria. This is why government efforts at encouraging the teaching and learning of Eleme Language should be complemented by all of us.
The book we are launching today is the outcome of a painstaking research conducted by Eleme Research Foundation last year. We made it clear then that, “The study is required to create awareness and advocate the participation of Eleme people in the teaching and learning of Eleme Language using the four language learning skills of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing”. Our primary target is to advance the teaching and learning of Eleme Language in Schools in Eleme.
Generally, the aims of the new 9–Year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) is to inculcate in children good behaviours, moral values, fear of God, respect for the rights of others, ability to obey rules and regulations and to live in harmony with others. The Book Nsã Eloi Rã contains fourteen (14) stories and each of the stories is written to inculcate moral disciplines; each of the stories have a peculiar lesson to teach, a peculiar message to deliver to the reading public, the children in school and even the adult that is learning Eleme Language.
The stories are designed to inform, educate, and entertain. Its language is simple and easy to read and understand. At the end of every Chapter, the reader is expected to explain the lessons learnt and carryout some class activities tagged, “Ogũrũ Enu Rε Ԑnaa Ebo Kalasi” and answer the questions that follow known as “Edoεgua”. Nsã Eloi Rã is written for those interested in learning Eleme Language.
Whither Eleme Languge?
Most people would rather want to believe that Eleme Language is not a priority problem of the Eleme People. We, in Eleme Language Center do not agree. Whither Eleme Language, if I may ask? Eleme Language is dying. Eleme Language might be lost forever, if prompt conservation actions are not taken NOW. A very high proportion of children of Eleme extraction cannot speak or write fluent Eleme today. For most Eleme parents English Language is the prestige language they wish their children to acquire and any education that did not lead to its early acquisition is often regarded as second best, and even an attempt to hold back Eleme from advancement.
Eleme is recognized as one of the 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The Eleme Language is featured at number 96 of the four hundred (400) languages recorded in the book “Studies in Nigeria Languages”. The Eleme Language Center in collaboration with the Rivers State Readers Project with technical support of the Language Development Center of the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Abuja developed and secured the approval for the Orthography of Eleme Language as published in the ORTHOGRAPHIES OF NIGERIAN LANGUAGES MANUAL X, 2011. What this means is that the Eleme Language has been approved as one of the Nigerian Languages. The Eleme Language Curricula have also passed through the processes of writing, review, and assessment. The Federal Government had done its part, it is our responsibility as owners of the language to produce and distribute the Curricula respectively. It is also our duty to produce the Eleme Phonology, write necessary books based on the curricula, train the required quality of teachers to teach the language and deploy them to schools.
Language is an important medium for the preservation and promotion of culture of a people. People without language are people without culture; people without language are people without history; people without language are people living on borrowed present and lost future; anybody can claim you and swallow you.
The disturbing general practice in Eleme today is to introduce English Language as medium of instruction in the nursery and primary schools much earlier than necessary. Apart from English, other Nigerian Languages including Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba and Efik have become prestige languages for urban-dwelling Elemes. Eleme mothers now communicate with their children in Pidgin English rather than Eleme Language. This is at the expense of the Mother Tongue – Eleme Language. Churches in Eleme also prefer to conduct their services and preach their Sermons in English, Ibo, Efik, Ogoni and other languages rather than Eleme Language.
Similarly, the colonizing industrialization and modernization have painfully tore Eleme people from established cultural norms and values. Eleme Fathers’ inability to preserve, protect, and promote Eleme Language is also a disturbing factor. Today, there is hardly any family in Eleme without children born of women married from outside Eleme, notably, Efik, Igbo and Ogoni speaking origin. Some Eleme people now look at Eleme Language with disdain. The natural consequence of all these unintended developments is rapid alienation to the roots of the Eleme society; the rape of Eleme traditional values, and the promotion of cultural dislocation in Eleme.
Language, as we all know, is a very important component in a people’s culture and tradition, yet matters got to a pitiable pitch where the Eleme man or woman is frightened, cowed down browbeat on and threatened with regards to speaking the Eleme Language in public places and government offices. Is it not disheartening and dishonorable to witness Eleme Legislative House conducts house businesses in English Language?
Ladies and Gentlemen, extinction is a phenomenon that normally takes place without notice. When species of wildlife is at the verge of extinction, only a handful of people with a fecund foresight will be aware of the dangerous trend and will raise the salvation alarm of immediate rescue and conservation of the particular animal species. It will interest us to know that a language is said to be at the verge of extinction when the following occur:
1. When there are no outstanding scholars of the language.
2. When the language is not taught in the school.
3. When the language cannot boast of a written form daily, i.e. in the form of newspapers and magazines.
4. When the general means of mass communication e.g. radio and television despise using the language.
5. When the younger generations have a hyper-hatred for the speaking of the language.
People of Eleme and Friends of Eleme, when the above barometers are applied to Eleme Language, the conclusion are clear. Please, think about this! To the best of my knowledge, we lack enterprising scholars of Eleme Language. Kindergartens, primary schools and post-primary schools in Eleme do not offer Eleme Language as a subject and Eleme Language is not a Diploma or Degree Programme of any tertiary institution in Nigeria. Radio and Television Stations in Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general do not cast their news and programmes in Eleme Language. Worse still, is the glaring enslaved mentality of our younger generation that hates the indigenous Eleme Language. As for the music world, English, Ghana, Congo, Igbo and even Ogoni records remained favoured amongst spineless and culturally dislocated Eleme youths.
The results include lack of respect for local traditions, abuse of culture, disregard for values and a widening gap between the world of school and Eleme heritage.
All hopes are not lost. The Eleme Language deserves the highest protection possible. To promote the teaching and learning of Eleme Language, action has to be multi-sector involving all stakeholders. Government must show political commitment to promote conservation awareness, Social mobilization is very important, followed by action. Beyond generating awareness, the Eleme Local Government should improve commitment to the teaching and learning of Eleme Language; develop strategies for support of independent studies; seek out appropriate NGOs/CBOs partners, build their capacity through training; create NGOs/COBs Resources Centre; strengthen strategic planning for the teaching and learning of Eleme Language and regularly update the partner’s data base.
As directed by the Eleme Local Government recently, the Eleme Language should be firmly adopted as a medium of instruction throughout pre-primary and primary schools in Elemeland. This will ensure the survival of the language in the midst of 512 competing Nigerian Languages. The Eleme Legislative Assembly when properly constituted should as a matter of priority take a step further by enacting appropriate legislation making the teaching and learning of Eleme Language compulsory in all Pre-Primary, Primary and Junior Secondary Schools in Elemeland.
The Eleme Local Government, corporate organizations operating in Eleme and philanthropic Individuals should be patriotic enough to sponsor National Eleme Language Competition quarterly, biannually or annually. This can take the form of Debate and/or Essay Competition among Nursery, Primary and Junior Secondary Schools in Eleme and even among Eleme Students in Tertiary Institutions.
Inter-and Intra-Community Eleme Language Competition can also be encouraged and appropriate prizes awarded to promote the language. Parents should make it a point of duty to communicate with their children and wards in Eleme Language from birth. The Eleme Elite should religiously stop being ashamed of Eleme Language. Speak Eleme language anywhere, everywhere and anytime you meet your kindred. Be proud of Eleme Language. Your Language is you. It is Eleme Language that made you thick, unique and special. Eleme Language made you who you are, what you are. That Eleme standout in the crowd as an ethic nationality is our language. If we lose our language, we become a forgotten people.
Finally, let us individually and collectively, join the Eleme Language Center. Let us resolve to dedicate ourselves, our efforts, our money and other vital resources to the promotion of Eleme Language.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there could have been no book launch today without the encouragement of all people here present. I feel highly honored at the turn out. As earlier pointed out, the unique identity of a people remains their language and culture. Language is the medium through which culture is communicated and preserved from generation to generation. We should come together, cherish our language and thereby carve a niche for Eleme in the society.
The quality of people here speaks volumes. You are welcome.
Thank you all and God bless.
Chief Osaro Ollorwi
Chairman, Eleme Language Center/
Author Nsã Eloi Rã