High Chief Okpame Ozekhome Write A Powerful Open Letter to Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki


A request for the incorporation of the Afemai Central Language books to be taught in Edo North Schools

Your Excellency, I crave your indulgence to present to you my passionate appeal for your kind consideration. To unveil this laudable request, please permit a little preamble into the background history of the Afemai people, which comprises Etsako, Owan, and Akoko Edo. These three groups making up the Edo North Senatorial District share a bond of unity that enables them to actualize every possible plan to move the community to a greater height.

History has it that the Afemai people with their unique cultural heritage migrated from Benin Kingdom to their present-day settlements about the 14th century following certain developments in the Benin Kingdom.

It may interest you to know that Edo North, otherwise known as Afemai, today has about 30 dialects, which makes it cumbersome to be taught in schools. This also poses a threat to unity in Edo North.

As a result of the comatose nature of various dialects, the Edo State Government in its wisdom decided that the three senatorial districts should each come up with a modality to streamline an arrangement on how to implement a central language that would perfectly unite the communities without anyone with a biased tendency. That will also align with the school syllabus as a proper guideline that aids teaching.

Edo South was the first to be given the green light with the Bini Central Language, which has since been approved and incorporated into the school curriculum. The other two senatorial districts, Edo North and Edo Central, are yet to be given approval.

The Federal Government had earlier announced a new National Policy on Education which states that pupils’ first indigenous language would be prioritized to enable them to have a sense of commitment to their mother tongue in the first three years of basic education.

UNESCO has also been championing the advocacy of multilingual education based on the mother tongue from the inception of a child’s education.

Research shows that education in the mother tongue is a key factor for inclusion and positivism. The quality of learning will be appreciably inclined to bring the best out of the child. This will also improve the mental health of the child to focus on learning and be bold enough to ask questions without fear of making blunders that will jeopardize his academic performance.

I laugh and at the same time get flabbergasted when some people exhibit their political chauvinism that does not relate to the present-day reality and with no bearing on the context and the issue at stake. They address issues in a mendacious manner. What readily comes to their mind is to kill the burning desires of the elite who want a positive change in their community.

Those narrow-minded individuals kill the aspiration of others who promote the progress of their culture to an enviable height. They ask, “What do we gain in having the Afemai language in our school syllabus?” This shows how myopic they are. The truth remains that our culture is what showcases who we are and our belief systems.

Knowing fully well that except for Afemai people, all other tribes – the lgbo, Yoruba and Hausa, as well as the Benin of Edo – do pedagogy in their central languages in schools, it bothers me that when it comes to the Afemai, some people will always close feelings with negativity rather than promote what would edify and bring the community to limelight.

Based on the request of the Edo State Government that only three language groups are allowed in the state (Edo South, Edo Central, and Edo North), a prolific writer and business guru, Mr. Solomon Jegede Enaboakpe, in his quest and thirst to promote the Afemai language, has written over 25 books in Afemai language on grammar, mathematics, social studies, Afemai numerals, names of animals, trees, fruits, to mention but a few. This also includes the Afemai Language Dictionary, which could be used by schools from nursery to higher institutions of learning.

In doing this, Enaboakpe, with his unquenchable thirst for the native language, was compelled to organise an Afemai Language Board headed by Prof U. M. O. Ivowi, with Prof. M. Okhakhu, Prof. Idornigie, etc. as members. A seminar was organized in April 2021 at the Auchi Polytechnic to brainstorm on various issues that bother the community, and the Afemai language was the core subject of discussion.

On that epoch-making occasion, it was unanimously adopted that one dialect be accepted and other major dialects harmonized to come up with one central language.

Mr Enaboakpe went back to the drawing board, being guided by the language board, to develop and harmonize the Afemai language with dialects of Etsako, Owan, and Akoko Edo as the main. These books were submitted to the Edo State Ministry of Education with a request that they be included in the school curriculum. This request, unfortunately, met a brick wall as the entire process suffered a terrible ignominy. Nobody till today can give a vivid account of why the whole scenario was politically suffocated.

Your Excellency, the time is always right to do what is right, according to Martin Luther King (Jnr). The Edo South Senatorial District has a single language that has been approved by your government. It is pertinent that the Edo North and Edo Central Senatorial Districts be given the same privilege for their language not to go extinct.

I am writing to remind you of our candid request, which still lies unattended. I know this is a result of your busy schedule. This letter is a passionate appeal on behalf of the Afemai people to kindly approve all that have been presented to you for your approval.

Your Excellency, kindly use your good office to do us proud in our quest for knowledge for our wards. Kindly approve all the over 25 books written in Afemai Central Language and direct for their usage in Edo North schools. Your name shall be written in gold and remain indelible in the annals of history if you do this for the Afemai people.

High Chief Okpame Ozekhome wrote in from Lagos.

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