Why Nigerian Languages Must Never Go Extinct, Mrs E.O Oga

Mrs Enotse Oga is a retired Director of the Ministry of Education but not tired of impacting knowledge and wisdom on the coming generations. Having trained young generations for about a decade, she has taken a path that will remain ever green. Regenerating her spoken Nigerian Language-Idoma. As her old student, it was a pleasure talking with her.  In this chat, she talks about her new book, Unity schools and her prospects. 

Let’s talk about your teaching background in the unity school how functional were federal Government schools,when you were still in service?

It was a very challenging period leading unity schools, especially FGGC Gboko and very rewarding as well to be able to bring up young girls.  It was a passion for me because I have young girls too and I gave them all I could. I was like a mother to all of them and I made sure morally, they were brought-up up right and then educationally, I made sure too with the help of my teachers that the girls attained great educational heights while I was there. The percentage part for Senior Secondary School certificate exam was nothing less than 90, I remember the year I was leaving the school in 1995 the SSCE scores for the school was 95%. So I’m very very grateful to God that I brought up a crop of girls who were morally sound as well as educationally sound.

Would you say the Federal Government schools really promoted unity during your time? Yes, the Federal Government colleges have a motto in Latin called ‘pro unitate’ which means unity. It has students from all over Nigeria, from all groups, tribes and culture. That’s why we are thankful to General Gowon because he brought the idea of unity colleges. It brings children from different environments and they learn about each other’s culture and that is a very good one for the children. So yes, they united back then and I believe thy are still uniting now too.

In the course of your grooming children, were there experiences that made you write the two books we are focusing on today? The books were through the inspiration of my husband, he was a man that learnt about proverbs because he grew up at home before coming out, he was always speaking with proverbs so I asked him to write but he said he did not have the time, then I picked interest in it and wrote the Idoma proverbs which has moral implications to teach people the lesson like the title page. I have one that says olapemaleku which means “there is time for everything”. That was my inspiration and the fact that they are words of wisdom.

Interesting, let’s hear some of these proverbs.

For example the first one means Inner beauty begins from the home. The moral implication is that good up bringing should be emphasized and practiced in the home so as to produce good characters. I just looked at one, it says echeweja which means the world is a stage where you play and after playing your own part on the stage, you leave. There is need to be straight forward in whatever you are doing. To enjoy the world in very difficult times, it comes from being contented and thankful with what you have, the world doesn’t end with you so don’t carry it on your shoulders. These proverbs need to get out especially in times like this so that people would learn from them and be positively affected.

“Eche che ofu” meaning, “the world requires tough handling”. It iss not every issue in life that should be handled carelessly, “it has to be handled with firmness and maturity”.

Do you have any proverb that guides your own life? All of them are important but concerning women, it’s “anya we ole” meaning that “women are the home”.  In my life, I’ve stuck to that proverb that I’m the home. I take care of everyone knowing that I build the home, no-one else would. It’s similar to the Chinese proverb “women are the key to the house”. In essence, proverbs have universal application.

It’s become very challenging for women in today’s world seeing that some women are the breadwinners of their homes, what should take more of their time, home or work place? It’s very challenging but you should divide your time evenly, with a balance and give a greater percent to your home, nothing should let anything take the place of your home. Your partner and children are very important, so always do your best do balance.

There’s so much disadvantage for the girl child today, what’s your advice to her?  I agree, there’s so much disadvantage but I’m glad the government and NGOs are promoting the interest of the girl child. Girls are important and so they have to be trained. There’s a popular proverb that says “when you train a girl, you train an entire nation”, Don’t just marry the girl child off, give her a training, give her a skill and then she can take off from there and train the entire nation, by training her children and many more people.


Was it difficult getting these proverbs?

It was really challenging but interesting, I had to travel to my place in Idoma land, “Agila”, meet up with some lecturers in the University to collate my research. It took 3 years to get it all in order and then I took time to go through, it was indeed challenging but it was a fun and exciting period, knowing I was doing what is needed.

Were there people who had this information already or it was difficult? Yes, elderly people at home have it in their head and as a result of old age which would surely take it’s place, it motivated me to document this knowledge and information from the minds of these elders.  Because you see, they will soon be gone with all the knowledge. But now, I happy to pass it to my children, grand children and many more children of today and tommorrow.

Interesting, did you also come across other information for possible documentation in the future? In the course of research, I found more information that would increase and create awareness on our cultural differences and background. I believe the book would create a more positive thought towards upcoming minds like the students in the cultural aspect. I will be working more with all the information, subsequently.

How far do you want these books to reach? I intend for the book to be read far and wide especially in the Idoma local governments, and the world at large. No knowledge is wasted and languages must be learnt. You know, I believe everyone should be involved right from the Benue state government to the primary school and also around the world.

Who are we expecting at the launch? Everyone is invited. I believe a lot of people would be present at the launch, I’m expecting a good attendance, the deputy governor of Plateau state will be present, Idoma groups , My church group, former students from Federal Government Girls’ College , friends etc so I believe it would be a great day.

Any last words? Well my last words are to the upcoming generation and young minds, I acknowledge the fact that we speak English but we shouldn’t forget our culture ,language and proverbs and also always remember our heritage and where we are from. We will always be better off, knowing more.

Alu Azege

Alu Azege is a broadcast journalist. Creating multimedia content for social causes, a communication and strategic planner, a Public Relation's manager and Public image maker.

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