"THE LANGUAGE OF EDUCATION IS THE LANGUAGE OF PRESTIGE AND INFLUENCE!"
ANNANG HERITAGE PRESERVATION POSITION PAPER ON THE SINGLE ORTHOGRAPHY RULE IN AKWA IBOM STATE
Éma inöghö éwa nkpö k'uluk ndiche, éche éno k'uluk ichörö: (If the dog is not offered a morsel from the table out of pity for its intense look, it can be offered for waiting patiently.)
As the AKHA debates the indigenous language bill, it is important to alert our people to what they may not know. There is something that is happening in Akwa Ibom State that is flying under the radar of many people. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a publisher in Nigeria. I wanted the company to publish and distribute Ngwed Iko Annang, the Annang textbook for use in teaching and reading the Annang language, an effort of the Annang Writers Association. The publisher agreed to take the project but informed me that there is a single orthography rule in Akwa Ibom State that makes it hard to adopt a new book that employs a non-approved orthography for use in schools. All languages in the state are derivative of “the main language”, this source stated. To say that I was appalled is an understatement. I knew there is a politics of language, but did not realize that in my home state, we have elevated such politics to an art. What difference does it make, if the speakers of a tongue decide to represent their sound with a particular sign? Isn’t the right to self-expression and self-determination guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution? The effort to homogenize the various tongues in Akwa Ibom and force everyone to speak the same way is at the root of this misguided policy. Thanks to this policy, no one can break away and claim any identity other than the one approved by Big Brother. I must at this point state that I have never seen anything in writing about this policy, but I know enough about the politics of language in my home state and so I cannot wait and hope that it is not true. I am bringing this issue up so that our representative debating the indigenous language bill offer an amendment that prohibits the state government from imposing a single orthography and discouraging the study of other tongues in the state.
As every student of semiotics knows, language is more than a tool of communication it is a symbol of identity and a description of the culture and thought pattern of a people. Language is more than sound and its relation to an object and concept, it is a crystallization of existence of a group. There is no scientific reason to establish a policy that seeks to kill off the identity of others simply because the Nigerian military established a political entity called Akwa Ibom. I am yet to be convinced why it is necessary to ban all other orthographies except one in Akwa Ibom State. Anyone who has ever listened to the speech pattern of the Annang, Oron, Eket,Ibeno etc. knows that there are words and meanings that are different from other languages spoken in the state which require a different way of representing such sounds. To force all of us to use one orthography and pronounce words the same way is to light a gun powder to the Annang beautiful tongue. We want to keep our language alive and we want our right to write and maintain our tongue and pass it on to our children.
The right of man, Karl Marx once wrote, is not a gift of nature but it is the reward of a struggle. We are inviting you to join the struggle to keep our language alive. No one person should have the right to tell us how to speak. No one person has the right to tell us how to pronounce words and make meaning of our world. Annang has a right to exist alongside other tongues. Our children have a right to learn to read and speak Annang. Our language must be accorded the right to be studied. You can do something by sharing this wherever we gather. The state has no right to dictate who should use which orthography. The state has no right to tell us how to speak. The illegal rule to stop other languages from being studied has to stop. Take a stand for as our people say: If the dog is not offered a morsel from the table out of pity for its intense look, it can be offered for waiting patiently. We have waited for too long to be told that we have to write a certain way and pronounce word a certain way. Oppressive policies of the past should no longer be tolerated.
Annang Language Has A Textbook for Schools
A new book for those interested in learning the writing and speaking of Annang Language has been published. The new book, Nwed Iko Annang is written by Prof. Ezekiel Ette, President of Annang Heritage Preservation and Annang Writer’ Association. Speaking after the release of the Teacher’s Edition of Volumes One, Two and Three, Prof Ette said that the books are the fruits of years of hard work. The new textbook is written to fill the void of a textbook for parents, school teachers and communities who are interested in teaching their children the Annang native tongue. The language is not an archival one and over the years has been slowly dying. The idea, according to the author, was birthed in his struggle to teach his children the native tongue. Using the English alphabets proved inadequate in writing down the language. What was required, therefore, was an orthography (rules and pattern) that would enable those interested in learning the language to pronounce some of the words with ease.
In 2001, Dr. Ette reached out to the then President of the newly formed Ati Annang Foundation. In his conversation, the author disclosed that they talked about the need for an orthography that would allow writers to explore storytelling and communication in writing in the Annang language. They spoke about the fears of the death of several indigenous languages around the world that were not written down. They saw Annang as heading towards the path of extinction in the absence of orthography and methods of recording the past and the speech pattern. They also spoke about the advantages of recording the history of the community for posterity. The two embraced the good idea and Ati Annang quickly set up an Annang Orthography Committee. The work of the committee became a review of the previous work of a committee set up by Afe Annang in 1991 and chaired by Adede Sunny Akpaidiok.
Following the completion of the Ati Annang Committee, progress in realizing the dream slowed down and in 2009 a group known as Annang Writers Association (AWA) was formed by Annang Heritage Preservation as an independent arm. The initial board of Annang Heritage included: Dr Ezekiel Ette,USA (President); Dr. Michael Eshiett, UK, (Vice President), Barr. Uduak Ukpe, UK, Secretary, Dr. Unyierie Idem-Augustine, USA, Treasurer, Rev. Dr., John Bosco Ekanem, Nigeria) PRO, Barr. Paul Usoro (SAN), Nigeria, Member, Prof. Celestine Ntuen, USA, (Member). To make the work easier given the distance of the memberships, the group adopted a model that allowed individual authors to work independently and to own the rights to their work according to the AWA Byelaw. The new group saw the publication of Annang textbooks as a goal. The recently published textbooks for use in schools are, therefore, the fulfillment of a dream. In his statement to members of Annang Writers’ Association around the world, Dr Ette reminded the members of the committee about Isaac Newton’s speech during the ceremony of his knighthood, “I see a little farther because I stand on the shoulders of giants”. The Teacher’s Edition for all three series is also available on the website www.amazon.com according to the publisher. The books will be launched in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom Nigeria on December 12, 2016 while books 4 - 6 awaits publication. The present work by the author is actually an amalgamation and a simplification of the work of the two previously mentioned committees. To get copies log on to www.amazon.com then search for ngwed iko annang.
Dr Ette is former Chair and Director of the only accredited Social Work Program in the State of Delaware at Delaware State University, USA. He has written and traveled extensively. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the North American Society of Social Work and Spirituality and also serves as a councilor in the Council on Social Work Education, a body that is responsible for the accreditation of schools of social work in the USA and Canada. He is a reviewer for the United States Department of Education.