Table of Contents
1. Aminata Sow Fall. The Author, her Background and her Literary Works. Awomanist Appraisal
2. Une perspective analysante de Vol de nuit d’ Antoine d’Exupery
3. Black Friday
4. Urhobo is beset by Security Challenges
5. Women’s Voices and Actions in Achebe’s literary Works
6. Political Campaigns and the two Step flow Paradigm in the 2007 Governorship election in Enugu, Nigeria
7. La Poesie Negra: Poetics and Radical Eloquence in Black Latin America
8. SCIENTIFIC PEDAGOGIC AND DISCOURSE GRAMMARS AND THEIR RELEVANCE IN LANGUAGE TEACHING
9. COLLOCATION AND MEANING IN LANGUAGE: A RE-EXAMINATION
10. Biographies and Personalities
11. THE DECADENCE OF THE 19TH CENTURY GERMAN AND FRENCH SOCIETIES IN GERHART HAUPTMANN’S BEFORE DAWN AND EMILE ZOLA’S GERMINAL
12. Creative Writers and Human Behaviour: An Evaluation of Rems Umeasiegbu’s The Inevitable Aftermath and End of the Road
13.Environmental Activism and Artistic Techniques in Mbagiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone
illustration not visible in this excerpt
AMINATA SOW FALL: THE AUTHOR, HER BACKGROUND AND HER LITERARY WORKS. A WOMANIST APPRAISAL.
Ikechukwu, A. Orjinta. PhD(Munich), PhD((Ibadan, Nigeria).
Department of Foreign Languages and Literary
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Aminata Sow Fall is a muslim Senegalese female novelist. Though a woman writer, her role model is Sembene Ousmane. Hence, if Sembene Ousmane is a post independence writer; on too is Aminata Sow Fall. If Sembene Ousmane is a Marxist realist and engage novelist, so too is Aminata Sow Fall. However, Aminata Sow Fall views the literary world of traditional, colonial and post-colonial African society, and believes that the ills of the post-colonial era could be corrected if Africa goes back to her roots and rediscovers those rare African cultural values. In carrying out her literary vision, Aminata Sow Fall spares nobody; male or female. She eulogizes the gem that is in the African cultural values and morals and satirizes the excesses that are being entrenched in the social fabric of the society.
What one says about oneself is the most certain representation of the person in question. Briefly put, Aminata Sow Fall says that she is Wolof by tribe, and a Muslim by religion. Born at St. Louis in the Northern part of Senegal, she attended Primary and Secondary schools and later studied modern languages. (Pfaff:1985). When asked about her literary leaning, Sow Fall stated that “she supports programmes aimed at the emancipation of women, but she has no political commitment in the sense that she is not an activist of any political party” When she was accused of promoting outdated values, she replied that “she is not a feminist in the general sense of the word. She is not a militant feminist and the 1975 Women’s Conference had nothing to do with her starting to write. Writing is a form of witnessing, a way of filtering the social reality of the moment”. Samba Gadjigo (1996:28)
Biography: Born is 1945 at Saint – Louis, Senegal, Sow Fall hails from a family that was not only influential in Saint Louis, but was also wealthy Sow Fall was privileged to have started schooling early in her life. After her primary education, she did her secondary education partly at Faidherbe and Van Vo. Her initial plan had been to train as an interpreter. In view of this, she proceeded to France where she got her first degree in modern languages. She got married in 1963 and got back to Senegal where she took up a teaching job at the secondary school.
Aminata Sow Fall became a member of the National Commission of the Reform of French Education in Senegal. Later she was the Founder of the Koudia Publishing House, a subsidiary of the African Centre for Animation and Exchange of Writers’ Liberties (BADLE) at Saint Louis. She has been honored by many tertiary institutions with honorary doctorate degrees.
Her social criticism and her womanism have been greatly influenced by her family background, family upbringing and her society as we could read in Kestloot Lilyan (2001:270):
Après les grandes, esprérances de la négritude, romanciers… tant Anglophones que francophones avaient certes rapidement dénonce les dérives des politiciens autochtones, les ridicules et la contradiction de la nouvelle bourgeoisie, les déceptions et difficultés des masses populaires dont la situation empirait. Mais il y restait toujours l’espoir. Saint Monsieur Baly de Williams Sassine, Xala de Sembène Ousmane ou la Grève des Battu d’Aminata Sow Fall, Le Pleurer-Rire, d’Henri Lopes, débauchaient sur une issue positive, après des situations d’affrontement.
After the great hopes of the Negritude, both Anglophone and francophone novelists were very quick in denouncing the drift of the local politicians. They frowned at the ridicules and contradictions of the new bourgeoisie, and the deception of the masses of the people whose conditions were getting worse. But there were always rays of hope. William sassine’s saint monsieur Baly, Sembene Ousmane’s Xala, or the Beggar’s strike of Aminata Sow Fall and Le pleurer- Rire of Henri Lopes began on a positive note, after the era of confrontation.
Keesteloot goes further to state that Aminata Sow Fall took her impartial stand in Feminism because of her personal experiences as a woman. She came from a wealthy family and she did almost more studies nationally and internationally than her brothers. She was privileged to have an understanding, humorous and monogamous husband. In other words, she did not have the experience of sexism both within and outside her family:
Née dans une famille aisée de saint Louis, ayant pu faire des études autant ou plus que ses frères, épouse heureuse d’un home plein d’humour, sans complexe et monogame, mères de plusieurs enfants, enseignante, puis responsable d’un service culturel; enfin fondatrice de sa propre maison d’Edition, Aminata Sow Fall n’a pas de contentieux avec une tradition aux contraintes de laquelle elle a pu échapper sans même devoir la combattre. Ce n’est pas un cas unique au Sénégal ou souvent les intellectuelles d’aujourd’hui ont eu des pères médecins, avocats ou fonctionnaires.
Peut-on attendre d’elle, l’agressivité existentielle des femmes qui ont vu leurs mères ou leurs sœurs broyées par le système? (p.288)
AMINATA SOW FALL’S SENEGALESE BACKGROUND
Aminata Sow Fall is a female Senegalese writer. For us to appreciate and appraise her and her works, we must first take a look into Senegal. The Republic of Senegal has a ‘land mass of 75,750 sq. miles (196 700 sq. km). The country has a population of 7,953,000 inhabitants. With capital at Dakar, Senegal has French as its official language. There are five major ethic nationalities who speak different languages and dialects: Wolof 44%, Tukulor 21% Serer 16%, Malinke 3%. There are however other minority groups that constitute 10% of the population. 92% of the populations are Sunni Muslims while Christians (2%) and indigenous group 6% share the remaining population. The Senegalese state which is the setting of our six novels has 38% literacy rate with 80 in 1000 infant mortality rate.
Senegal is a typical example of an African nation where women are torn between Islamic, Christian and African Traditional Religious Cultures. The meeting point of the three cultures as far as we are concerned is their sexism and patriarchy. Sexism is a practice where men assume superiority over women, while patriarchy is a system of linear descent through the male parent.
Senegal, with an intimidating 92% of the population being Muslims is surely home to religious mysticism and superstition. These beliefs reduce women’s condition to mere domesticity. Women could only be formed and oriented towards such roles and responsibilities as mothers, house wives, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law cooks and nurses. The symbol of this female condition in Muslim Societies like Senegal is the Purdah. According to Badawi Gamal in “Women in Islam” in Ahmad, Khurshid (ed). IslamL: Its Meaning and Messag e. (1976):
A people will not prosper if they let a woman be their Head of State. The demanding position or any similar one, such as the commander of the Army, is generally inconsistent with the physiological and psychological make-up of women in general5 p. 131 – 145.
Everything about the European and Arabian incursion unto Senegal was not negative as far as women are concerned. The advent of the French Assimilation policy gave room for a number of Senegalese women amongst whom was Sow Fall to embrace Western Civilization and Education. In the words of Aduke Adebayo in Critical Essays on the novel in Francophone Africa, Vol. I (1995):
Senegal has also had a long history of contact with the French culture through the colonial system of assimilation which was put in force at the end of the nineteenth century. The Assimilationist policy was aimed at creating “black French men” in Senegal and making the country itself the appellation of Paris of Africa”. Our writer(s) of predilection, late Mariama Ba and Aminata Sow Fall are of the first group of educated Senegalese women of the Islamic faith and are thus very representative of the current yearnings of the modern Senegalese women. (p. 102)
This crop of educated Senegalese Muslim women writers used their writings to stand in solidarity, not only with the oppressed women population, but with the totality of the suffering masses whose high hopes and expectations after the Negritude and independence era were dashed to the ground. Sow Fall was indeed at the fire-front of women novelists who used their work to satirize both the non-womanists and the “enemies” of the ideals of the Negritude.
AMINATA SOW FALL’S LITERARY WORKS
Guided by her Islamic world-view, Aminata Sow Fall is first of all a social critic of the post-independence era. She spares no one, male or females. She has a good command and mastery of her contexts. Her novels are reflections of her role as a critical realist. She exploits the use of satire and characterization to highlight human efforts and weakness; the good side and the ugly side of the society. In this regard Emmanuel Obiedina (2000:265) notes that:
The imperfections of human nature are mirrored in the imperfections of society. That is why it is difficult to write a satisfactory novel glorifying a social system or idealizing characters.
Following this trend of thought, the publisher’s commentary on Aminata Sow Fall (1982) recognizes her as a born-novelist who does not “whisper confidential issues but creates a fictive world based on lived experiences of her milieu”:
Aminata Sow Fall est nue romancière née. Elle a le sens des situations et de la mise en scène. Elle ne chuchote pas des confidences personnelles mais construit un monde, représentatif à partir éléments du vécu de son milieu… (Ces) roman(s) suggèrent invinciblement les matériaux d’une vaste “Comédie humaine” ou nous voyons peu a peu s’élaborer le portrait du Sénégal de cette fin du siècle. Publisher’s Commentary, Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, Dakar, 1982.
SOW FALL’S COMMITMENT TO SOCIO-POLITICAL ISSUES
Her level of social commitment and solidarity with the suffering masses qualifies her as a disciple of Sembène Ousmane whom she takes as her role model. Sembene Ousmane is an engagé novelist with Marxist leaning. In his works, he shares the same militant postures with Aimé Cesaire. The engagé writer sees herself as the mouth piece of the under trodden masses. In this way she places her literary work at the service of the cause or the ideologies that she represents. In this way she places her literary work at the service of the cause or the ideologies that she represents. In her novels: Le revenant and l’Appel des arènes, women were her primary target for her trenchant, acerbic and vitriolic satires and criticism.
Salla Niang and the beggars fight to be liberated from the socio-political injustice of the government in La Grève des Battu (1979). Nalla struggles to be free from the cultural oppression of his mother, Diattou in L’appel des arènes (1982). Naarou in Le Jujubier du Patriarche, (1993) carries the burden of slavery imposed on her lineage by the descendants of Almamy Badar. Asta Diop suffers racism in her quest for greener pastures in France in Douceurs du Bercail (1998).
In all the above instances of oppression and injustice, Aminata Sow Fall stands in solidarity with the oppressed group. Sow fall empowered her characters to become the ultimate winners in their struggles and by so doing shows her disillusion and disenchantment with the oppressive class. Aminata Sow Fall’s militancy and Marxism are so remarkable that most feminist critics like Lilyan Keesteloot (1986: 287 - 288) have denied her a place in feminist canons:
Une écrivaine connue et féconde comme Aminata Sow Fall n’est même pas féministe du tout! Ses romans de critique sociale (le Revenant, La Grève des Battu, L’Appel des arènes, Le Jujubier du patriarche, les douceurs du bercail) n’épargnent personne. Sont même ses cibles cette impartialité peut sembler suspecte et certain n’ont pas manqué de la considérer comme ‘rétrograde’.
AMINATA SOW FALL’S NOVELS
Le reventant (Dakar: les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1976)
Published in 1976, the themes and trenchant satire of Aminata Sow Fall in Le Revenant are still relevant in our present African Society. Le Revenant, according to the dictionary has two understandings: the arrival of someone who has been absent for a very long time; the spirit or ghost of the deceased from the great beyond. (Apparitions). (Le Petit Robert:, 1982). The second definition of the word revenant is more applicable in our context.
Bakr, the protagonist was initially naïf and allowed her sister Yama who was materialist to upstage him. Her vainglorious sister represented the average Senegalese who allowed vanity, namely the desire to compete or surpass another in the acquisition and show of wealth, to rule ones life. Yama’s presents and gifts to the new born baby and her donation to Malobe, the praise-singer were instances of extravagance. (pp. 41 and 43). Such show of extravagance and vainglory was very obvious in the attire of women to ceremonies (p. 120). It was not enough that people were vainglorious; one could note that the means to the acquisition of wealth was morally deplorable (p. 44).
The hero of the novel Bakar came to his senses after his period of incarceration. Aminata Sow Fall using the interior monologue device exposes the flow of Bakar’s thoughts as he re-discovered himself after his imprisonment and plans his revenge on his sister in particular and the society in general (p.128). Aminata Sow Fall studies a society that has abandoned the traditional African values of nobility, integrity and solidarity; and has gone ahead in an inordinate pursuit of ostentation and vainglory. Samba Gadjigo rightly notes:
Ce roman, qui n’est pas sans rappeler Le Tartuffe de Molière, présente au lecteur un monde qui, sous l’influence de l’économie de marche, sombre dans la cupidité, l’hypocrisie, les mensonges et les émotions feintes.
Sow Fall’s novel Le Revenant has been referred to as a human comedy.
La Grève des Battu (Dakar: Les Nouvelles Editions Africains, 1979)
So far, La Grève des Battu, Sow Fall’s second novel is the only one that has been translated into English with the title The Beggars’ Strike by Dorothy S. Blair and published by Longman in 198. La Grève des Battu has won the grand prix Award of black African literature. The principal character is Mour Ndiaye, the Director of the Environmental Sanitation. Mour Ndiaye sees it as his duty to keep the city clean. However the presence of crowds of beggars, for him constitutes a great obstacle to the realization of his goals. So the reader of the novel faces an immediate confrontation between an ambitious official of the government and a section of those at the margin of the society. Keba Dabo, Mour Ndiaye’s deputy dutifully takes the orders of his boss to clear the beggars from the city. The beggars, under the leadership of Salla Niang stand their ground as they meet regularly at the house of Salla Niang.
However in Muslim societies, people are exhorted to donate to the beggars. Unfortunately the impasse between Mour Ndiaye and the beggars made it impossible for people to carry out the above Islamic injunction. Mour who gets promoted for his good services as chevalier de l’ordre des meritants, justifies the saying that human needs are insatiable’ by targeting the post of the vice-president. This ambition pushes him into all sorts of superstitious practices like the consultation of marabouts. His search for personal grandeur and his wife’s quest to become wife of the president at the detriment of the marginalized, make them to follow the prescriptions of one of the marabouts by name Kifi Bokoul. Part of the keys to his success is the distribution of meat to the beggars. The beggars however have been evacuated from the city, and in anger they refused to partake of his largesse.
Sow fall’s novel, The Beggars’ Strike, is a post-colonial francophone novel with all its characteristics. The novel dwells on the social condition question of a populace that is experiencing dehumanization and disillusion in the hands of a crop of politicians who have taken over power from the colonialists. Aliom Fantouré, Le Cercle des tropiques and Sembène Ousmane’s Le dernière de l’empire fall within this sphere. Though geo-politically anonymous, instances drawn from the predominant religion-Islam, the local words and items of clothing show that Senegal is the country in question as far as La Grève des Battu is concerned.
The themes of beggary, corruption and mal-administration coupled with the problem of alienation are very conspicuous in the novel. Sow fall presents to the reader a society that is torn apart by her double allegiance to the foreign model of development and her cultural heritage. Samba Gadjigo (1996: 27) underscores this point when she notes:
Aminata Sow Fall explore à un niveau plus profond la duplicité d’une société prise entre les exigences d’un modèle de développement impose é de l’extérieur et les contraintes de son héritage culturel.
Nevertheless Sow Fall does not lose sight of stressing the woman consciousness and the female condition within the novel as one reads of such courageous female leaders as Nalla Niang in whose house the beggars pitched their tent.
L’appel des Arène s (Dakar: Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1982)
This novel builds its plot around the family of Ndiogou Bari (father of the house), Diattou Bari (mother of the house), Nalla (the only son of the family) and his tutor Niang in L’Appel des Arènes, Aminata Sow Fall’s third novel explores the conflict between the parents, Ndiogous and Diattou and their son, Nalla as a result of the system of education imparted on the child which does not take into consideration the cultural values of the pupil. Nalla was brought up by his grand mother Mame Fari in the typical traditional African setting while his parents were abroad doing their studies. On arrival home from Europe, the parents of Nalla got so immersed in the civilization of Europe that they almost lost all their African cultural roots. Ndiogou and Diattou tried at the same time to impart the European system of education and culture on their son Nalla. They tried to distance Nalla from his people, in the belief that they were local, unkempt, and illiterate people. The more they forced this foreign ideology on Nalla, the more Nalla revolted. Beverly and Volet (1994: 135) note in this regard that:
Nalla dépérit mais retrouve une raison de vivre lorsqu’il découvre petit à petit le monde d’où ses parents avaient tenté de l’exclure … l’univers de la lute lui donne l’occasion de renouer avec la tradition …
Nalla’s rejection of the mother and preference for the grand mother symbolize the boy’s rejection of the European cultural values in preference for the African tradition values (p.82). Diattou’s rigidity in fencing-off friends and relations including her own mother from her home and from her son runs contrary to the ideals of Womanist’s freedom of choice and that of the Fundamental Human Rights. Her arrogance, rigidity and burden of alienation broke her down. Diattou cannot therefore be regarded as a heroic female character.
L’ex-père de la Nation (Paris: L’harmattan, 1987)
L’ex-père is a typical post independent novel. It is a novel that has as its hero Madiama. Madiama was raised by a fisherman father, and a mother, who was a perfect mother, farmer and house-wife. After the death of Madiama’s father, his mother struggled to make his husband’s vision for Madiama to come through. Madiama’s father had wished that he should become a doctor. Later Madiama took to trade unionism and got into politics. With an overwhelming majority he won the election as the president of his country.
Once on the throne, all his good manifestoes came crashing. He became a despot, ruling a beggar and bankrupt nation. Even where he had good intentions to do things better, his lieutenants were more interested in lining their own pockets than in the interest of the suffering masses. He was surrounded by people who flattered him leaving him with symbolic power while they themselves were the real powerful and corrupt leaders. The novel could be divided into three parts: the rise of Madiama, the zenith of his reign and his fall. In these three parts, one could see the efforts of Sow Fall in laying bare the tragedy of the African political life, the incompetence of the political class who were mere stooges in the hands of the former colonial maters.
Le Jujubier du Patriarche, (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1993)
While bemoaning the tragedies of the glorious past of Africa, Sow Fall points to a new direction in Le Jujubier du Patriarche. In this novel she believes that the dawn of a new era rooted in the heritage of an epic traditional Africa is at the corner. The plot of Le Jujubier centres around the family of Yelli and Tacko and their royal, noble and legendary hereditary. These great ancestors are Yellimane, the hero of Natangue, Gueladio, the great hunter, Sarebibi l’Amamy, the son of Almamy Badar the Patriarch and Dioumana, the great adventurer. Warèle was placed under the tutelage and maternal care of Thioro, the mother of Almamy Sarebibi. In this way her descendants became the slaves in what later developed as the caste system of the free born and the slaves. Such a rich ancestry made Yelli to disobey his father by refusing to study medicine in preference for history.
The novel opens with the altercation between Yelli and his wife Tacko. Tacko has become a nagging house-wife now that Yelli is not only retired but has got to vacate his posh villa for a low quality residence. He needed to get enough income to take care of his numerous children, who have been abandoned by his numerous ex-wives and concubines. Yelli had these women when he was wealthy. Among those who took to their heels when Yelli became bankrupt were the beneficiaries and the praise-singers; though with the exception of Naani the praise-singer. Penda and her daughter Naarou also did not desert Yelli. Penda was a slave girl to Yelli’s mother while Naarou was equally a slave girl to Tacko.
Bouri, of all the children of Yelli and Tacko was given special mention because of her turbulent history of stubbornness and disobedience. Her failed marriage with Goudi on account of sterility was later restored and she later got a baby to the delight of her parents. The pains of failing health, the quarrels and enmity in and around Yelli and Tacko’s family got some healing with the great preparations for the pilgrimage to the ancient village of Baby selli in search of the rejuvenated stock of the miraculous tree on the tomb of the Patriarch (p.85,91). In Le Jujubier du Patriache, the author expores the wealth of African poetry and orality and uses both to highlight the depth and the nostalgia of the past African aristocracy. She burns with the zeal of Africa’s national and cultural revival.
Douceurs du Bercail, (Abidjan, Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes, 1998)
Douceurs du Bercail means the joys and sweet nostalgia for the motherland. Asta Diop was the heroine of the novel. She was forty-five years old divorcee and a mother of three children: two daughters; Miriam, and Sira; and one son. At the instance of her company, she was seconded to do a press coverage in France. On arrival at the airport, everything turned sour.
Both the immigrations and the police were very hostile to her and to other Africans who alighted from the plane. After searching them in a very humiliating and abusive manner, they were all locked up in a detention cell at the airport. They were later deported after a long period of mental trauma and physical torture. Once back they were paraded before the press as illegal aliens. Asta’s experience made her to renew her life in a total and more definitive manner. She updates herself academically, gets herself back to job and ties the nuptial knot with another man. In this way she renews her life and got herself reintegrated into the society. Her case becomes an example to those who think that Europe is paradise. She proves that Europe is after all not a paradise. Sow Fall criticizes those who are prepared to lose their African roots in preference for Europe. This is what she does through the character of Asta Diop and her compatriots.
INTERVIEWS WITH AMINATA SOW FALL
- Simon Kiba. “Aminata Sow Fall: son second roman est présélectionné pour le Goncourt”, Amina 83 (octobre 1979), pp.16 – 17
- Thomas N. Hammond. “Entretien avec Aminata Sow Fall”, Présence Francophone 22 (1981), pp.191 – 195
- Simon Kiba. “Les Confidences de Aminata Sow Fall”, Amina 120 (novembre 1982), pp.64 – 65
- Jacques Chevirier. “Comment travaillent les écrivains. Aminata Sow Fall”, Jeune Afrrique 1214 (11 avril 1984), pp.66 – 67
- Françoise Pfaff. “Aminata Sow Fall: l’écriture au feminine, Notre Librairie 81 (Réédition 1989), pp.135 – 138.
The African novel has three worlds and eras namely the traditional, the colonial and the post-independence. Sow Fall tends to operate within the traditional and the post-colonial spheres. The problems and the glories associated with these eras could be studied from a feminist point of view. The literary exercise of “the lost golden age” we observe in Sow Fall is contradicted by “the sinister and miserable past” in Flora Nwapa, Bushi Emecheata and Mariama Ba. So far, Aminata Sow Fall has no answer to the confrontation between Africanness and femininity which is engulfing her daughters. Never the less her realist and peculiar portrayal of the uncomfortable conditions of women in a patriarchal and post colonial society help to create more awareness of the unjust status quo and the need for reform.
1. Fall, Aminata Sow: Le Jujubie du Patriarche, Paris: Présence Africaine, 1993
2. Fall, Amainata Sow: La greve des Battu, Dakar: Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1979
3. Fall, Aminata Sow: Le Revenant, Dakar: les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1976
4. Fall, Aminata Sow: L’appel des arènes, Dakar: Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1998
5. Fall, Aminata Sow: L’ex-père de la Nation, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1987
6. Fall, Aminata Sow: Douceurs du Bercail Abidjan: Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes, 1998
7. Bâ, Mariama: So Long a Letter, Ibadan: New Horn Press, 1981. Translated from the original
French Version by Modupe Bode-Thomas
8. Kestelot, Lilyan: Histoire de la Littérature Négro-Africaine, Paris: Karthala, 1986
9. Jones, D. Eldred et al: African Literature Today, London: Heinemann, 1984
10. Pfaff, Francoise: “ASF: L’écriture au feminine …” (entretien) Notre Librairie 81, 1985
11. Encyclopedia of Literature and Criticism. London, 1990
12. Ormerod, Beverly et Volet, Jean-Marie (eds.): “Romancières Africaines d’ expression française, le sud
du sahara. Paris: Editions l’Harmattan, 1994
13. Gadjigo, Samba: “L’oeuvre littéraire d’ Aminata Sow Fall face à la critique” in Dictionnaire des
de langue française, Paris: Karthala, 1996
14. Webster’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary, New York: Black dog and Leventhal publishers,
15. Gamal, Badawi, A: “Woman in Islam” in Ahmed Khurshid (ed.) Islam: its Meaning and Message
Lagos: Islamic Publication Bureau, 1976
16. Humm, Magie: The Dictionary of Feminst Theory 2nd Edition, Herfordshire: Publication
17. Vestermann, Williams: Literature, An Introduction to “Critical Reading, Florida: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1993
18. Kourany, J.A. et al: Feminist Philosophies, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1992
19. Michel, Andre: Que Sais-Je? Le Feminisme, Paris, Presses Universitaire de France,
20. Gardes-Tamine, Joelle et al: Dictionnaire de critique littérature, Presses Universitaire de France,
21. Rent, Adebisi: “The Image of The Woman in Aminata Sow Fall’s La Grève des Battu” in Ojo, Ade,
Sam (ed): Feminism in Francophone African Literature, Ibadan: Signal Educational Services Ltd, 2003.
UNE PERSPECTIVE ANALYSANTE DE VOL DE NUIT D’ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY.
- Ikechukwu. A.Orjinta. PhD(Munich), PhD(Ibadan)
Department of Foreign Languages and Literary Arts
Univerity of Nigeria Nsukka.NIGERIA
Rèsumé : VOL DE NUIT D’ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY.
Vol de nuit était le deuxième roman de Saint-Exupéry. Le roman était apparu pour la première fois dans les années 1930. Son histoire était basée sur les expériences de l’auteur lorsqu’il était un pilote de courrier en Amérique du sud. Le roman est divisé en vingt-trois (23 chapitres). Les personnages principaux sont Fabien, le pilote du courrier de Patagonie et Rivière son patron, responsable du réseau postal - aérien. L’histoire est simple – Fabien et son avion sont perdus au cours d’un orage nocturne et ne parviendront jamais à la destination.
Vol de nuit était le deuxième roman de Saint-Exupéry. Le roman était apparu pour la première fois dans les années 1930. Son histoire était basée sur les expériences de l’auteur lorsqu’il était un pilote de courrier en Amérique du sud. Le roman est divisé en vingt-trois (23 chapitres). Les personnages principaux sont Fabien, le pilote du courrier de Patagonie et Rivière son patron, responsable du réseau postal - aérien. L’histoire est simple – Fabien et son avion sont perdus au cours d’un orage nocturne et ne parviendra jamais a destination.
1. ANALYSE DETAILLEE
1.1. Valeur structurale et intrinsèque
Ce live à environ 180 pages subdivisé en 23 chapitres. Chaque chapitre comprend entre 2 et 8 pages. Cela explique le souci de l’auteur de frapper la lecture avec beaucoup d’actions et de réflexions, mais très peu de paroles. II n’y a pas de détails inutiles. Tout tend à exposer le drame de Rivière et la tragédie du pilote Fabien. Les personnages ne sont pas du tout nombreux. En ordre décroissant d’importance, nous pouvons les présenter comme suit.
Rivière est le directeur du réseau postal aérien dont le siècle est a Buenos Aires. II est prêt à tout sacrifier- hommes, sentiments afin de réaliser son ambition à savoir, le succès des vols pour améliorer le courrier aérien. Fabien est le pilote du courrier de la Patagonie. Parti en mission comme d’habitude, il sera porté disparu : et la seule personne à souffrir de sa perte est Simone, son épouse de six semaines. Robineau est l’inspecteur du réseau. Homme de très peu d’idées, il a pour tâche de sanctionner le personnel du réseau selon, strictement, les instructions de Rivière. Pellerin est le pilote de l’un des trois courriers mentionnés dans l’œuvre. Son avion transportant le courrier du Chili atterrit sans problème à Buenos Aires. II est le symbole de la mission accomplie. Leroux est le vieux contremaître à l’aéroport de Buenos Aires. Robert n’est mentionné que pour être renvoyé par Rivière après-vight ans de service et avoir été le monteur du premier avion d’Argentine. Les autres dont les noms ne sont pas mentionnés sont les pilotes d’Europe d’Asunción, les secrétaires, les téléphonistes, les veilleurs de nuit, les radios, l’ingénier, les écouteurs, etc.
Le temps et l’espace sont presque insignifiants. Il est quasiment impossible de situer l’action du roman dans le temps. Par contre, l’espace est exposé par les lieux comme Buenos Aires, le siège du service aéropostal de Rivière, les points d’escale comme Telew, San Julian, La Patagonie, Asunción, Le Chile, Le Paraguay, Commodores Rivadavia, Bahia Blanca et l’Europe.
Il y a aussi un vocabulaire géographique qui décrit le relief de l’Amérique du sud (la mer, les plaines, les montagnes, la Cordillère des Andes, le Pic Tupungatp) et l’atmosphère d’orage, de tempête, de cyclone dans le ciel : tous ressuscitant la réalité aéronautique.
1.2. Valeur littéraire et philosophique
L’influence de l’expérience personnelle de St. Exupéry
L’œuvre de Saint-Exupéry élève et enrichit l’esprit du lecteur au-delà des vols décrits – une lecture profonde ressort l’authenticité de l’œuvre, noble en inspiration et en intention. Pour lui, toute création s’achève, se prolonge et se justifie dans les courants d’émotion causés chez celui qu’elle atteint.
Sa condition de pilote de ligne lui laissait une merveilleuse et totale disponibilité d’esprit et lui permettait de savourer «une espérance inexplicable » (VN.23) Ainsi, les rapports étroits entre ses pensées et les actes qui la nourrissaient ont convergé pour lui donner une identification complète avec son œuvre, bref, une authenticité touchante.
Ce n’est pas seulement sa voix qui s’y fait entendre. Il y a aussi sa conscience qui s’est largement ouverte au monde et dont les récits simples nous transmettent à la fois l’expérience et la sagesse. L’œuvre este le fruit d’une réflexion fécondée par un fait vécu. Ses lignes commandent impérieusement une conviction personnelle profondément ancrée et toujours chèrement défendue.
Dans Vol de nuit, le métier exaltant des pilotes de ligne et le lourd tribut qu’ils doivent parfois lui payer sont sombrement évoqués.
2. La morale de l’action
Vol de nuit exalte aussi une morale de l’action qui servirait de base à l’édification de la philosophie exupérienne. Dans l’observation des conditions de vie qui étaient imposées aux pilotes à l’intérieur du cadre professionnel où s’exerçait leur action, Saint-Exupéry dévoile une certaine image de l’homme – cette image, il l’a d’abord entrevue au cours d’une expérience personnellement vécue. Ensuite, il la poursuit à travers son œuvre. II cherche à la cerner et la traduire en élargissant sans cesse le champ de sa pensée. Ce n’est pas l’affranchissement réservé à certains individus d’élite, mais l’affranchissement et l’élévation de tous les hommes. En outre, ce n’est plus dans une solitude orgueilleuse que l’homme travaillera à son accomplissement, mais au sein d'une communauté dont les structures favoriseront un épanouissement collectif.
Par exemple, le pilote Fabien recherche dans l’action, non plus une fin en soi, mais le sens même de sa vie. Désormais une voie s’ouvre pour le héros exupérien, une voie dans laquelle il s’engage avec lucidité et courage, dans un don total qui l’amènera à aller jusqu’au bout de lui-même. L’action ou la création sera un moyen de modeler l’être, de le corriger, de le transformer en profondeur. Aussi, Saint-Exupéry arrive-t-il à donner un sens à la vie des hommes, de l’astreindre à une action créatrice exigeant le meilleur d’eux-mêmes et par-là, de les grandir.
Saint-Exupéry ne conçoit donc pas la création comme une fin en soi, mais comme un moyen permettant à l’homme de s’accomplir. L’essence spirituelle de l’action prédomine sa valeur en elle-même. On reconnaît dans l’action, le dénominateur commun de toutes les opérations humaines. L’idée d’action est étroitement liée à celle de communauté. L’avenir de Fabien dépasse celle d’un individu. Un but extérieur de l’action le relie à ses camarades, et l’aventure dans laquelle il se trouve engagé, c’est la grande aventure avec des compagnons comme Mermoz et Guillaumet. Aux yeux de ces hommes, la ligne ne peut pas seulement être vue comme l’occasion d’exercer un sport dangereux ou d’assurer leur subsistance. Elle leur permettait d’accomplir une œuvre sociale en établissant des liens fraternels entre les hommes.
Le héros de Saint-Exupéry essaie de lutter contre le double sentiment d’impuissance et de solitude. Il se tourne vers les êtres prisonniers d’eux-mêmes et les empêche de communiquer entre eux.
L’action de Fabien fait partie intégrante d’une démarche collective. Il a conscience d’appartenir à une équipe, il se sent membre indispensable de la communauté qui l’utilise, il éprouve que l’œuvre repose en partie sur lui. L’initiative et la responsabilité, le sentiment d’être utile et même indispensable, sont des besoins vitaux de l’âme humaine.
Aussi, Fabien et ses camarades de ligne obéissent-ils à cette loi obscure en assumant une mission qui exige d’eux un engagement professionnel total. De même, cette consistance et cette réalité confèrent un sens à leurs actes.
Dans Vol de nuit, la conception de la responsabilité est suggérée tout au long du roman plutôt qu’exprime. Mais, l’accent est mis sur la justification des sacrifices humains qu’exige l’action. Quand Rivière se déclare responsable d’un ciel entier «avec (ses) deux courriers en vol» (VN, 76) cette phrase manifeste le lyrisme d’un homme d’action que le sentiment de se sentir responsable. Dans ses rêveries, il pense aux conducteurs des peuples d’autrefois qui obligeaient leurs suets à se construire une éternité de blocs de pierres transformés par l’art en statues ou en temples. En outre, une réflexion de la femme de Fabien exprimera beaucoup mieux le sentiment confus des pilotes à l´égard de responsabilité :<<Elle regardait ces bras solides (ceux de Fabien) responsables de quelque chose de grand, comme du sort d’une ville>> (VN.94).
Saint-Exupéry tente d’assurer à la communauté humaine l’unité d’esprit. Ainsi, iI crée un tissu de lien reliant l’homme, sur le plan vertical, aux échelons supérieurs et inférieurs de la société, et sur le plan horizontal, l’unissant à ses camarades. Par exemple, à l’ endroit du secrétaire de veille, artisan lui aussi, dans sa mesure, de la création des lignes aériennes. <<Rivière se découvrait une grande amitié pour cet homme (le secrétaire), que chargeait aussi le poids de la nuit. Un camarade de combat, pensait Rivière. II ne assura sans douter jamais combien ce ciel nous unit>> (VN 80).
` Vol de nuit racontait, sous une fiction à peine violée, l’un des plus grands exploits de la ligne : l’inauguration des vols de nuit qui devaient assurer le transport rapide du courrier entre la France et l’Amérique du Sud. Tout en l’œuvre respire l’atmosphère de tension dans laquelle évaluent les personnages sous l’égide du directeur Rivière.
Il domine les autres personnages du récit qui évoluent discrètement dans son ombre. Pour lui, le but à atteindre prime tout. Du succès ou de l’échec des vols de nuit dépend le sort d’une entreprise dont l’audace dépassait à l’époque ce que l’imagination la plus hardie pouvait concevoir. Les avions disposaient de faiblesses moyennes techniques. En ce temps, un vol de unit représentait un acte héroïque de l’Aéropostale.
Même les envols de jour étaient rendus périlleux par l’absence de radio à bord des appareils, la «casse» des moteurs en plein vol, les insuffisances de la science météorologique qui lassaient le pilote, surpris par la tempête à la merci des caprices d’une boussole affolée. Que penser, alors, des risques que les appareils volant la nuit, en butte à toutes les obscures menaces de l’ombre?
Pour une ambition qui paraissait folle, Rivière opposait l’impliable relais des faits qui justifiait une telle Enterprise. «C’est pour nous avait république Rivière, une question de vie ou de mort, puisque nous perdons, chaque nuit, l’avancé gagnée, pendant le jour, les chemins de fer et les navires » (VN, 105). Âme du réseau aérien, Rivière doit former les hommes capables d’affronter des obstacles apparemment insurmontables et leur inculquer cette volonté de vain. Qui l’anime. Il lui comble de trouver des hommes à la mesure de sa gigantesque entreprise. Aussi, de ces êtres issus de milieux divers, se veut-il de créer une équipe.
Cette œuvre fragile, Rivière la porte en lui et la soutient de toute son indomptable énergie. II incarne cette volonté souveraine passionnément tendue vers le but à réaliser cette force agissante capable de créer les événements, de mettre en marche et de les orienter dans la direction voulue, capable de déjouer les ruses du sort et de détourner au profit de la fin poursuivie, des forces aveugles.
Cette volonté de Rivière, qui s’impose aux événements, s’affirme également sur les hommes :
«L’homme était pour lui une vierge qu’il fallait pétrir, II fallait donner une âme à cette matière, lui créer une volonté» (VN, 47).
Pour permettre aux hommes de se rendre maîtres d’eux-mêmes et de triompher de la fatalité des événements, il leur faut une discipline ascétique, appliquée et maintenue avec rigueur.
Nous apercevons un renversement radical de certaines valeurs telles la justice, la charité et la pitié, jugées jusque la selon les canons de la morale traditionnelle au profit de l’établissement d’une nouille morale située «pardi delà le bien et le mal». Peu importe à Rivière de paraître juste ou injuste «peut-être ces mots-la n’avaient-ils même pas des sens pour lui». (VN,47)
L’œuvre qu’il poursuit se situe, à son avis, au-delà de la justice et de l’injustice. Dans une telle mesure, tout ce qui représente un obstacle à l’action doit être impitoyablement rejeté. C’est cette forte volonté de ne permettre à aucune fissure de se glisser dans l’œuvre qui incite Rivière à châtier rudement ses pilotes. Les accidents, pannes ou casses d’appareil même provoqués par des facteurs extérieurs impossible a éviter, se voient impitoyablement punis.
«Suis-je juste ou injuste (s’interroge Rivière) ? Je l’ignore. Si je frappe, les pannes diminuent. Le responsable, ce n’est pas homme une puissance obscure que l’on ne touche jamais, si l’on ne touche pas tout le monde. Se jetais très juste, un vol de nuit serait chaque fois cette chance de mort» (VN, 84).
Ainsi, il maintient ses hommes sans cesse en alerte. Son but est de leur forger une volonté de fer qui brise les obstacles, dompte les circonstances et, en aucun cas, n’admet la démission ou l’échec. Par exemple, il rabroue un jeune aviateur à qui la tempête a fait rebrousser chemin. «Vous m’avez fait une blague à votre dernier courrier – vous m’avez fait demi-tour quand les météos étaient bonnes: vous pouviez passer. Vous avez eu peur ?» (VN, 101).
Cependant, lorsque le pilote, un honteux, se retire, Rivière pense que «c’est le plus courageux de mes hommes. Ce qu’il a réussi ce soir-là est très beau, mais je le sauve de la peur…» (VN, 102-103). Les événements qu’il sert n’admettent aucune défaillance au presque de voir détruire l’œuvre entreprise.
A travers son personnel, c’est au danger menaçant son œuvre patiemment construite que Rivière s’attique, au mépris apparent de la dignité humaine.
C’est ainsi qu’il revoit froidement le vieil employé Robel qui après vingt ans de travail exemplaire, vient de commettre sa première négligence Rivière pense que. «ce n’est pas lui que j’ai congédié ainsi brutalement, c’est le mal dont il n’était pas responsable, peut-être, mais qui passait par lui» (VN, 86).
Toutefois, l’intimité de Rivière trahit son apparence d’acter, son masque dur de chef insensible. Loin des regards des autres qui ne doivent point savoir qu’il doute, le défaut dans l’armure apparaît. Au lieu de chef omnipotent dont les décisions bouleversent des vies, on découvre un homme assailli de toutes parts par ses pensées bousculé par le doute et l’appréhension, anxieux de justifier honnêtement les dures valeurs pour lesquelles il combat. On voit donc qu’il est perméable à l’angoisse, humanisé par elle et enfin, accessible.
Face aux incidents dramatiques qui jalonnent la vie de la lige, Rivière s’interroge sur le sens d’une action dont il lui semble que le but utilitaire est insuffisant à justifier les risques. Ce souci relève de l’éthique et donne au récit un ton d’inquiétude.
Les hommes dont Rivière risque la vie valent plus que leur mort. De même, il se demande avec angoisse si le but peut justifier les sacrifices exigés des pilotes. Devant le corps étendu d’un blessé, un ingénieur lui avait posé la question : «Ce pont valut-le prix d’un visage écrasé?» (VN 130).
Et, la réponse de Rivière fut la suivante : «Si la vie humaine n’a pas de prix, nous agissons toujours comme si quelque chose dépassait, en valeur, la vie humaine… Mais quoi ?» (VN, 130).Cette vérité qui se cache derrière la riante des faits, Rivière la découvre à la lumière d’une autre vérité, celle exprimée par la femme du pilote Fabien, disparu avec son appareil au cours d’un vol de nuit.
Cette femme représente un univers (de jeunesse et d’amour) différent de celui de Rivière et de ses pilotes. Elle témoigne des liens de chair et de sang dont la vie de l’homme est tissée, et du bonheur sacré auquel il a droit : «Elle révélait à quelle matière auguste on touche, sans le savoir, en agissant. Sous tant de regards elle ferma les yeux. Elle révélait quelle paix, sans le savoir, on peut détruire…» (VN.161).
Quel droit a Rivière d’opposer à la femme sa vérité à lui, une vérité inhumaine qui prétend nier l’acte. II existe peut-être quelque chose d’autre à sauver et de plus durable : peut-être est-ce à sauver cette part de l’homme que Rivière travaille ? Simon, l’action ne se justifie pas.
«Aimer, aimer, seulement, quelle impasse ! Rivière eut l’obscur sentiment d’un devoir plus grand que celui d’aimer» (VN, 131).
Ce devoir que Rivière entrevoit vaguement, se propose deux aspects dont l’un naîtra de l’autre : «Le but peut-être ne justifie rien, mais l’action délivrée de la mort» (VN, 164). Comme nous hommes loin déjà, du pragmatisme des premières affirmations de Rivière pour qui «le but dominait tout» (VN, 62)
Saint-Exupéry reconnaît de la vie de l’homme une chose fragile, vouée à la dissolution. Ainsi, l’action sera envisagée comme le moyen par lequel l’homme luttera pour faire éclater les limites de son destin et triompher de la mort en laissant derrière lui des traces qui, à jamais témoigneront de lui. Rendre l’homme éternel : le rêve plus ancien que l’humanité ait nourri !
Assurer à l’homme, par ses actes, cette permanence et cette fixité définitive à laquelle il aspire. <<Il s’agit de les rendre éternels…>> (VN, 131).
Il apparaît, du même coup, impossible, insatisfaisant de rêver d’une fallacieuse éternité. Les actions de l’homme, en vue d’accomplir une action de valeur devaient lui procurer autre chose. Vol de nuit pose un problème qui est imparfaitement résolu. Aux dernières pages du récit, alors que la certitude s’est faite sur le sort de Fabien, il semble que Rivière entrevoit du même coup une justification possible à l’action : «Nous ne demandons pas à être éternels, mais à ne pas voir les actes et les choses tout à coup perdre leur sens … » (VN, 163)
Certes, Fabien, entre les escales de sa vie hasardeuse, rêve d’un destin simplement humain, et les jardins fermes sur leur mystère. «Et le village coulait déjà au ras des ailes, étalant le mystère de ses jardins fermes que leurs murs ne protégeaient plus» (VN, 20).
La vie paisible d’un village incarne tout à coup à ses yeux l’image d’un bonheur facilement accessible et qui apparaît au lutteur épuisé un havre bien heureux de repos.
3. L’amour et l’action
Le débat de l’amour et de l’action s’élève dans Vol de nuit où dans le personnage de Fabien, l’auteur tente une conciliation encore imparfaite de l’univers masculin et de l’univers féminin.
Cette part inaliénable de soi, Fabien découvre qu’il n’y peut renoncer sans se renier. L’auteur craint un certain conformisme de l’amour qui enchaîne et limite.
A partir de Vol de nuit, l’amour commencera à se transposer sur un plan supérieur, où il deviendra élément favorable, et non obstacle, à la réalisation de l’homme. Mais ce sentiment ne s’opérera pas sans un déchirement. Au cœur du renoncement qu’exigera la qualité de cet amour, l’homme éprouvera toujours la morsure un peu douloureuse de regret, qui prendra souvent la forme d’une rêverie nostalgique. Cette note de mélancolie éclaire les figures de Fabien et de Rivière.
«Et Fabien pensait aux amitiés, aux filles tendres à l’intimité des nappes blanches, à tout ce qui lentement, s’apprivoise pour l’éternité». (VN, 20).
Rivière, symbole de l’univers virile de l’action, est autre visage du renoncement total à l’amour. Il ne représente donc pas, de ce point de vue, une tentative de conciliation entre le monde de l’action et celui de l’amour.
En lui aussi, cependant, afflue parfois la marée des regrets.
«Et pourtant revenait contre lui, avec un murmure mélancolique, la masse des douceurs qu’il avait toujours écartées : un océan perdu. [..] Il s’aperçut qu’il avait peu repoussé vers la vieillesse, pour «quand il aurait le temps» ce qui fait douce de la vie des hommes» (VN, 29). L’amour donc, au terme de son évolution, sera élevé à un plan où il n’entrera plus en conflit avec la vocation d’accomplissement de l’homme, laquelle exige parfois de se déployer dans un champ d’action qui au premier regard demeure incompatible avec le monde des sentiments affectifs.
Sur le plan stylistique, Vol de nuit est un roman court et facile à lire mais difficile à comprendre. Saint-Exupéry n’a aucune intention d’impressionner et d’éblouir le lecteur avec un jargon aéronautique simple, direct provient peut-être du fait qu’il n’est point un écrivain professionnel, mais plutôt, un pilote de ligne dont le souci majeur est de partager avec son lecteur ses expériences individuelles et sa philosophie personnelle, résultant d’une vie mouvementée et excitante. Ainsi, sur le plan sémantique, l’auteur se sert du sacrifice pilote Fabien et des pensées du directeur Rivière pour nouer et présenter sa philosophie sur le devoir de l’action et son effet sur l’amour.
A travers la mort de Fabien au milieu du récit, nous apprenons que ce n’est pas l’orage pour le succès des vols de nuit mais sa croyance en la vision de Rivière. Saint-Exupéry nous apprend que ce n’est pas le bien-être de l’individu qui compte, c’est plutôt la tâche de tout le monde pour que la société progresse, étant donné que la communauté humaine correspond à une unité d’esprit.
Toute action exige des sacrifices mais elle permet à l’être de s’accomplir. Par conséquent, la réussite de la ligne s’est traduite par l’inauguration des vols de nuit qui assuraient le transport du courrier entre la France et l’Amérique du Sud. Le but à atteindre est primordial. Pour cela, il faut trouver l’équipe qui sera à la mesure de chaque entreprise et à laquelle une discipline ascétique sera appliquée et maintenue. L’œuvre se situe au-delà de la justice et de l’injustice car elle ne faut tolérer aucune défaillance au point de la voir se détruire. Le but suprême de toute action est de rendre l’homme éternel. A cette fin, l’amour aussi doit être apprivoisé pour devenir un élément favorable à la réalisation de l’homme.
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Otosiri Obiyoung & Aloy Orjinta
My mother used to lock me in our flat after school every day for reasons I could not understand. I was simply not to mix with other children in Ngwa road: Street urchins who roamed the neighbourhood bare-bodied and unkempt. And she didn’t even know if they bathed, she always added. I still spent time with them though, speaking hours daily, watching them play Swell or In-Out from our backyard balcony, the second floor of our yard’s four-storeyed building. It was 1999, when I was nine years old, that she stopped. After one Friday.
I was waiting outside our school gates for our driver and thinking of the last stories Ndubuisi and Edu had related in the class on Wednesday. Frightening tales of Ndi Bakassi and how they caught thieves.
‘If they pass you and their machetes turn red, very red, like blood...’ Edu was saying.
‘That means you’ll be killed,’ Ndubuisi cut in excitedly. ‘But it’s not like blood o, like something like apple.’
‘Apple and blood are the same colour,’ said Anthony. I looked at Anthony from the corner of my eyes wondering whether he has seen an apple before. I was thinking it might be something like tomato red.
‘For it to turn red it means that you’re onye oshi, a thief,’ Edu went on with his usual air of expert ignoring novices. ‘Or you have used somebody for ogwu ego, money rituals.’
‘What if it’s only five naira or even one naira?’ Anthony asked.
‘Then you’ll die,’ Ndubuisi retorted.
‘What if the money belongs to your mummy or daddy and you took it for sweet?’ Okey asked quietly. So quietly that it was almost not a question.
‘You’ll still die kwa.’
My heart had been beating, and then it missed one beat. Two beats. I had not stolen before. But I was wondering if the soup pots counted, the choice pieces of meat and fish I always took when nobody was around, and not telling my mother that it was me even when she flogged Nzube and Chinemelu, our maids, for doing it. Nzube usually said it was Chinemelu, but Chinemelu, quiet, shy Chinemelu would know it was me and keep quiet because my mother would say that she dared to call her son a thief and because I always let her finish my Sunday fried rice.
‘If you steal anything at all you must die!’ pronounced Edu with finality. I didn’t know what he was so excited about. ‘Ok, didn’t you hear of the boy burned for two maggi?’ He raised fingers to show it. ‘ Abuo nani. ’
Silence. Each person thinking of ways he might have stolen or done any other evil thing.
‘But you’ve been stealing people’s bics, you’ve taken even my HB pencil before,’ I said to Edu. ‘Yes, o eziokwu, true,’ came other voices.
‘Mba, no! You all don’t understand because you’ve never seen it happen live. Have you? You? Have you been there before?’ Ndubuisi shouted looking and pointing round at the rest of us. ‘Bic doesn’t follow, only things used at home! Unuaghotala, do you understand now?’
Quiet again. Then somebody from the back of the classroom asked in a thin voice I knew even without looking was Tobenna’s: ‘What of ihe iberibe ?’
‘I don’t know o,’ Ndubuisi said raising and showing his palms, shrugging. ‘ I’ve not done it before. Imetula, have you?’
‘No o,’ Tobenna said quickly, as quickly as he had heard imetula, and then folded his hands on his knees in that usual manner that, with his eye glasses, made him seem the most innocent boy in the class. With him asking about sex you’d imagine how far the rest of us had all gone. We all knew Edu had done it with Ogonna last term under the staircase behind the chapel because Ogonna’s mother had come and shouted at the headmistress and slapped Edu two times and Edu’s mother had knelt down and begged her and we laughed at them before Aunty Njideka, our form teacher, came and flogged us badly. Whenever I bathed then I still touched my left lap where the koboko had left a long welt which later burst when my mother flogged me again for coming downstairs one day. Our headmistress had flogged Edu too. They had cut their thumbs with a razor blade and licked their blood like in Nollywood films, an act of igba ndu, love oath. So Ndubuisi looked round and began laughing. We joined him, laughing and looking at nobody in particular to avoid crying home for somebody.
‘That one concerns only grown-up people,’ Edu said frowning. ‘They don’t kill children for it.’
‘Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.’ Nobody heard him again and we scattered to our seats because the bell for break’s end had gone.
As I knew Ndubuisi and Edu, I knew there were exaggerations. But I also knew it was mostly true because everybody was talking about it including our teachers. Even people in the yard behind ours and those on the road. There was talk about it even in the church and in our Block Rosary centre where Bro Adindu always used it as his okwu Chukwu, the short sermon, before we sat down on benches to listen to the night’s catechism teacher. On the nights he did I hardly ever learned a new catechism question and answer because I would be wondering what my father would say if I told him that they talked about Bakassi even in the centre. He might not believe it; he believed that the Catholic Church was the best which was why we stopped attending Christ Holy Church and became Catholics, and I changed to a Catholic school too and had to start attending Block Rosary every evening by six-thirty. But Catholics in Aba were just like everyone else when it came to the new phenomenon in town: The big machete-wielding, gun-strapping, crime-fighting men in black and red hanging on onuazu, white Mitsubishi buses, with chains of charms dangling from their necks and scarves tied on their heads or necks. The Bakassi Boys .
Bro Hope, our driver, was one of the main people around our yard telling stories of the boy gunned down around Obohia road, the one flogged on bare back with white machetes, the one whose hand was chopped off before a big tyre was hung around his neck and gallons of petrol exhausted on him. After hearing the last, I imagined how the hand wriggled in its own blood, in the black mud of Cemetery Market. Whenever he drove me to and from school I looked in the centre mirror to study his face. My father said he smoked igbo, marijuana, that it made his eyes red and his lips black, and he often scolded him for being late to work. My mother said he was a thief, that you could see it in his eyes, the way and frequency with which he blinked. So I wondered if all thieves’ eyes were the same, seeming to want to pop out of their heads like Bro Hope’s, if they all frowned frequently, squeezing already disjointed-looking faces. Nzube said he was ugly but they usually locked themselves in our room, asking me to go and watch cartoon in the parlour. Those were the only times I could dictate where I wanted to be, the countable times I went downstairs to play Swell or In-Out because my mother would be in her shop in Ariaria market. I knew what they were doing because Bro Hope was always nicest after coming out with beads of sweat on his forehead, buying me meat pie or ice cream and smiling. We both understood so I sealed my mouth shut.
That was another thing I wondered: How come Bro Hope was always there, after doing everything with Nzube, seeing it happen. I thought, Edu was wrong. Sex, whether for adults or children, didn’t count. Or maybe it was because of what Sister Udoka had told us at the centre: that Dinwenu anyi Jesu Kristi had paid for the sins of all Christians, all of them including the ones we’ve not even committed, by giving his life on the cross on Good Friday. The first night she said it I remembered when our teacher in my former school told us in a Bible Knowledge class that Catholics had names for each day of the week: Tuesday was shrove, Wednesday was ash, Thursday was holy, Friday was good and Saturday, again, was holy. My mother sometimes scolded me for not having church in mind like Chinemelu so I told her that I’d just learned a new important thing, that Good Friday meant we wouldn’t have to pay for our sins. It was something very different from what I’d learned when we still attended our first church where Prophet Okem always said that God’s children would never ever be poor, that we’d be successes in life because God hath said so and because it was simply our destiny. Our, then, referred to those who donated cows, now it had a slightly different meaning. Our meant only people who went to church. The only explanation for the thieves killed was this: they didn’t go to church. Bro Hope’s case was different, he was not just a Catholic, he was a member of the Charismatic group; that was why the machetes never turned red when he was always at the scene. Those in the charismatic prayed very hard often. They had to, because my mother said that among all Catholic groups they acted as though they were closest to the Holy Spirit.
It was three o’clock when Bro Hope came with the Mercedes, school had dismissed at two. The last time he had come by three-thirty he told my father that he’d gone for Divine Mercy prayers. Divine Mercy indeed, my mother had repeated. I didn’t know what Divine Mercy was except that it was a prayer I was sure Bro Hope never went to. I climbed in, thinking he should have come with the Toyota which was lower, easier to enter, with him looking on as if to make sure I would.
‘Brother good afternoon.’ No reply. As usual. I opened my flask and thrust my fork into the Indomie solid from coldness. I was not hungry but he looked at me every ten seconds or so, so I had to eat to prevent him talking to me. Sometimes I just hated him. Other times I either liked or tolerated him. So I ate.
‘You didn’t finish your food?’
‘Eeeh.’ I had deliberately delayed finishing chewing before answering. There were times he offered me video game cassettes in exchange for sachets of Indomie from our kitchen. My mother had stopped him from going beyond our parlour. I knew it whenever he wanted to because that was another time he suddenly became friendly.
We were turning into our yard, he had just honked loud and long like the Mack drivers, like a madman, my father once told him, when shouts arose. It was a rapturous cheer that I would later come to know instinctively the fantasy it heralded. Suddenly many people were on the road. A road block of excited human beings. Two or three okada men were steering their motorcycles in crazy circles and a fourth I saw had loosened his tyres hanging one around his neck and holding the other one up. Bro Hope ran out to the gate forgetting to wait for me to come out so he could lock the car. It was when I heard, ‘ E jidela ha !’ that I knew what it was all about. I ran out of the gates and someone said it again, that they’ve caught them.
I could no longer see the petrol station on the other side of the road because there were so many people. I’d never seen so many people at once before. Many were restless. A man, one of the many who already were, was narrating the chase to his own circle. Behind him was Papa Edozie, in his singlet and usual ironed brown trousers, folding his arms, lips pursed. The narrator’s voice was loud but the only thing I heard clearly was that it was at FirstBank and that they had chased them from Ariaria to just before Osisioma junction. When the siren began sounding and everybody began to run around, jostling into good viewing positions, the applause heightening to new levels, it blew me, the excitement. The suddenness. I was finally going to see somebody killed. I made to squeeze my way back into our yard so I could see it all from Ugoo’s flat, the last floor of our house, but on second impulse I slid in between the men, several of them. Surprisingly, I found myself almost at the front. In a circle were the Bakassi boys and in their centre was a fair man I had seen somewhere before.
‘ Ihe onye metara !’ the Bakassi leader shouted waving his gun in the air. He wore a red cap like that of a chief and there was a feather on it.
‘ Ya buru !’ A resounding response from the crowd. Silence.
‘Ihe onye metaaraaaa!’
What you have done you will suffer for!
The noise began again, everybody wanting to and speaking at once. The man’s head remained bowed even when the twenty-five gallon jerry can was half-emptied on him, the petrol ran down, his body looking shiny-green like the skin of some of the snakes I saw on Discovery Channel, and slippery. I’d never asked how their heads were cut off, if it was done like those of goats or chicken, a continuous shoving of the knife, while they struggled, unable to wriggle free from the men who held them. I was not sure but I would find out soon. Their leader made signs with both hands for us to move further away. The circle in the centre widened and I almost got pushed down. It was hot. And it had become hard to breathe.
My eyes followed the machete as the man raised it in the air. It was like the one in our kitchen, an mma oge. Only that this one’s head pointed backwards, the shape of a half-mango, and both edges looked sharpened, the silver lining traced along them glimmering. The Sun had turned orange, a shadow of red. My heart beat. In me tugged what I later recognised as a final desperation to remain innocent. But I couldn’t oblige, I had to stay and see. I had to have an original story of my own to tell in the class the following week. Still, the blade falling happened so quickly that I didn’t see it because I’d turned away as speedily. Yet I had heard it; like lightning, the whirling of a flexible Guava branch. Then its sound when it had reached home. Like the force of a Chinese kung-fu sword. Piiam ! When I opened my eyes I saw the head, like a doll’s now, rolling, still rolling: A ball of chocolate-yellow and black towelled in red, bright-red blood. Then I heard it, we heard it: Screeching, frightening, a woman’s scream piercing the still air – Ndi Aba, olee ihe m mere unu, olee ihe m mere ooo ! Aba people, what have I done to you! That it had enough power to drown all that commotion, that ear-deafening noise, scared me. Heads turned in its direction as the crowd began dispersing, pushing back and front, excitement on faces, dejection on some, seriousness, indifference. The woman was an aged woman, and I later learned, his mother. People held her as she squatted holding her wrapper and her son’s bloodied shirt, the screams still coming out of her. Two men bent over her and I wondered what they might be telling her. Stop crying? Take heart ? The pushing got fiercer and I had just forced my way through legs when a man who knew my father saw me. ‘Bianwa a, this small boy, come on leave here osiso! ’
I bumped into Nzoputa at our gate; he was laughing and jumping up to catch a glimpse of the fire that had blown up with a fierce rainbow – the yellow, blue, green, orange and purple glinting on our silver-painted gates and showing on people’s bodies. For a moment the beauty of the colourful atmosphere seemed to envelope the horrifying sight at its centre.
‘Did you see it?’ he asked with his mouth wide open. ‘They didn’t allow me, how e happen ?’ He paused. ‘ Chere, wait, Chukwudiegwu, are you crying? Why you de cry ?’ I slipped away my hand, irritated by his Pidgin, and ran up the staircase. I imagined his amused face. How e happen. I stopped on the stairs and heard a man shouting: o fesaram, the blood touched me! His laughter filtered into the staircase and I felt suffocated because I felt it hanging in the air, encircling me. I felt so cold.
I lay on the rug when my mother came in, her steps quick, with a cane. I stared at the black cellotape wrapped around its end. Slowly, her feet turned and left. Later, my father lifted and sat me on his laps.
‘ Ozugozie, stop crying,’ he patted my back. ‘You know they were killed because they were thieves, ndi ohi.’ I shook more. I had never cried like that before, with my whole being. And I would never again. ‘It’s their sin and they have to pay for it, no one else except them, so that people would stop stealing what other people suffered to get.’
My father was wrong, I would only know how wrong with time. The year I turned fifteen, 2005, the year he finally sacked Bro Hope and had him locked up for impregnating Nzube, was the year we first heard of unmasked robbers in the broad daylight. That one happened in Azikiwe road and they were all women, could you believe it? my mother would ask Aunty Ozioma, my father’s sister living in Maiduguri, on the phone. The Bakassi boys and the police would clash several times and people began asking why two security agencies would fight themselves while robbers ruled the roads, the days, the nights, and minds. And there would come about a new tactic to make it all the more dramatic: They would write letters to banks, markets and individuals; trust them, they would honour their appointments. We would hear about the man who’d brought out a suitcase of US Dollars and waited for them in his house. They asked for more when they came and he budged. He refused at the third asking and was shot in the head. There would be a second twist too: They would make sure to litter their trail with bundles of naira and people would hail them. People would actually hail the robbers. It’s your money after all, ego unu, they would shout as they ran to out-pack themselves. I still remember Bro Monday stuffing his polythene bag with money and other engine parts dealers in front of our yard gathering round him. It’s now something interesting, Aunty Ozioma would laugh over the phone, her voice ringing in our candle-lit room. Our two generators, on months-long rest in our passage, had become a luxury that safety-conscious people kept out of sight, out of sound. My mother would taunt her about it happening in the North and she would shout, ‘Ogechi, not even terrorism can start here!’ And she would laugh again. My mother would laugh back and long even when she knew that she might stay awake all through that night, or early morning, with my father listening to the sounds of engines being carried away in the neighbouring shop yard and praying in front of our altar, the picture of Our Lady on it crying blood. It would be during that time that I would buy two more pictures: The Divine Mercy Jesus which we would begin praying in front of, on a separate white-clothed table, at six in the evenings of the days of the mid-months of 2010; and one of Saint Gertrude which I would hang on the parlour door.
2010 would come almost too quickly. The year kidnapping gangs would hold up the town, a massive graduation to a far more thriving business of dealing in persons rather than things. The year a woman’s breasts would be sucked so dry that she would die on the spot. They’d sucked too hard, someone would say later, and I would almost laugh, my heart contracting, because his words had been guiltily funny. A son would be shot dead that year for refusing to play along with their night visitors, to climb his mother. Everything would get so out of hand that the bishop would call for a day of mourning in Aba, a prayer procession round the town. It would be that day, wearing black and black like every other Catholic, that I would see the governor for the first time and join the furious crowd in pelting him with sachets of water that the bishop had to take him into his quarters for safety. They would say that he’d come to campaign for the following year’s election when his on-going tenure had been horrible. That’s one of the days Nigeria’s own revolution that everybody talks about should have begun, my father would say in front of our new Plasma TV as he alternated between CNN, Press TV and Al Jazeera channels, watching their very diferent coverages of the Arab Spring. He would be talking to Aunty Ozioma who’d be sitting and staring at the big screen. Aunty Ozioma had come back from the North because of Boko Haram. But not before seeing her supermarket go up in flames because she was Igbo and Christian, the two worst things; because Nigeria turning out like Nigeria had been the fault of Christians. Businesses would close and many more people would be killed. My father’s Hausa friend, Doctor Ahmed, would tell us that he, like every other person living near the Port-Harcourt expressway, never slept in his house at night. And that he’d sent his wife and children home to his wife’s village. Large numbers of people would swarm into town as evening approached, most of the town’s outskirts deserted.
The leader of the kidnappers would be called Osisikankwu, a name that would be spoken in whispers in those times to avoid being tracked down by informants and inviting a night visit. First, it would begin as a rumour that soldiers had tracked down the kidnap hideouts, camps in communities deep in Ngwaland. A rumour that strengthened, it would turn out to be true: The president actually ordered a military intervention. God bless that man Jonathan, Papa Edozie would say kneeling down in the centre of his yard waving his hands in the sky. Adaora, his second daughter, had been raped into a state of near coma in her friend’s house and could hardly walk since then. Rumour would have it that the soldiers sent were those ones who locked their mouths with rusty padlocks, those ones who heard only one command: Shoot. Some would even claim to have seen them, that they’d moved in around 2am the first day, and had lain in ambush around the town. My father would say they were the kind the situation needed after flipping through a newspaper giving figures of people killed, by the kidnappers and by the soldiers. Whole communities almost entirely wiped out because they were accomplices, their men working as informants, their women cooking for the kidnappers. Information that would shock me and I would come closest to crying again with my whole being. No, no, no, no, asi asi, lies! They want to defame the Church, my mother would say after another rumour had risen, that a Catholic priest had been involved, that using his capacity he’d facilitated some of the high-profiles kidnaps. No one would begin complaining until months after the cleansing when soldiers became too visible on the roads bullying and intimidating people, asking tricycle drivers to lie down on the road, hitting those who talked back with strong-looking sticks.
‘One thing remains,’ my father would say after it had all passed. ‘Where are all the bank vaults recovered?’ People would be asking too, saying that the soldiers had carried them with them. The stolen vaults exhumed from their places of burial, several feet deep in the kidnap camps. How could people get so much money and still continue stealing? my mother would ask. The question would be thrown at nobody in particular because there’d been just so many questions in need of answers and I would think of reminding her that it was not really money they were primarily stealing.
‘ Ha akwusiri, they didn’t stop, did they?’ I’d asked my father as he drove us – I and my mother – in the Mercedes fleeing like almost half the town to our village in Anambra. He would not look at me; he would come out of the car and stand by the door because it was hot. We would be in a traffic hold-up at Osisioma because hundreds of other cars, an endless queue, would be leaving at the same time. And none of the drivers would be making characteristic noisy statements. They, like their passengers, would sit, or stand, quietly, the only words would be about the line not moving at all.
‘If you knew what happened that forced them to form Bakassi you wouldn’t say that,’ my mother would reply. She would still be thinking about the Toyota. She’d slammed the parlour door, and the Saint Gertrude picture had fallen and its glass smashed, while running in one morning to announce that our Toyota was no longer in the yard. It had been driven off, somehow, through our yard’s locked gates, stolen. ‘Atrocities were being committed and the police was just not there.’ She paused. ‘And please for your sake don’t ever say that in public.’ I was never going to. Not in public. Yet for a reason I didn’t know I would smile because I’d recall in a split second how I usually sat on the passage staring at the different padlocks she used to lock our flat. One day would be a brown Tokoz padlock; another day would be a gold and black Globe; the next would be a silver Dimos hanging from our iron burglary proof. All of them very big. And when we were leaving she used two B&Ks.
Those times would come. My father did not know. No one did. But that Friday evening and all through the night I coiled on his body thinking of what I knew, the things better imagined than seen: The man killed, the machete, his head dancing around in mine, and his mother. I dreamt of her that night. The bloodied shirt was her head tie and she was screaming and people were bleeding from covered ears. But her screams were laughter now, throaty, croaky. She was laughing and laughing. I wanted to laugh with her and tell her sorry but I couldn’t. Because I too was bleeding.
The following day was clean-up Saturday yet nobody touched the black body. It lay there in the centre of the road, its immaculate white teeth showing, vehicles carefully avoiding it. O na-ajakashi eze, Ebuka told me, it was laughing. It was my father who later paid for it and those of the two other men burnt in Obohia and Ahia Ohuru to be carried away and dumped in Gworo Pit, the very wide refuse pit of ash-coloured smoke that something was always burning in along the Port-Harcourt expressway. That day he’d kept on saying, ‘They should have burnt them there at Osisioma not here!’ to the men who did the job, and to my mother. And I couldn’t eat the apples he bought me because I thought their colour reminded me of the man’s blood. I threw them into the gutter and watched them float momentarily before sinking. Aba n’anya, Aba and eyes, looku-looku, the men would shout at passers-by who’d stopped to watch the rites of road-clearing. The bodies would’ve been left there for days; weeks even, to stink like so many other bodies after them would before being honoured in the sanctity of Gworo Pit.
Still, in school the following Monday, Ndubuisi would say that what I’d seen was nothing to compare to how the one killed in Obohia junction, an albino, had died. He’d been lighted on fire alive and been beaten by everybody. He’d gotten up and ran with the flames but was hit on the head with a block and fell finally. He said the third person had stolen bales of cloth in Ahia Ohuru, and that because it had been oshi aguru, hunger theft, they’d killed him on the spot with planks. What he did not tell me, what I would later find out from Anthony, was where I’d seen the fair man before: The man was his father’s tenant in Evina. What he had tried to steal was their Mazda 232. I asked my father if it was true and he said that I would not understand.
‘What about Good Friday?’ I asked again as he drove me back from school the next Friday because Bro Hope had called to say he had fever and could not come for work.
‘Is that what they teach you in the centre?’ he asked back frowning. ‘Leave those Catholics.’ But then my father would never really become a Catholic until 2010, he’d merely allowed my mother to begin taking us to Mass. He would never feel a need to attend one himself until then.
But before all those times, by 2003, I would be missing childhood, missing being nine, wanting to run around with little children playing Isakaba or Ashes to Ashes with long pieces of wood as machetes and nailed pieces as guns, shooting themselves rat-tat-tat-tat and declaring, ‘ Taa! Odeeshi, it doesn’t enter!’ to their shooters in imitation of the Bakassi having bullet-proof skins because of their very powerful medicine. Watching them tie their shirts on their heads and choose names like scorpion and stone after watching those Nollywood movies about the Bakassi who by then had taken their sanitation exercise beyond Aba to Onitsha as well. By then, I found it hard to believe what Bro Hope said, that before its formation in 1998 they were originally cobblers, a simple group of Ariaria shoemakers so appalled at the level of criminality in Aba that they took it upon themselves to curb it. By then too they’d gone to a movie production office, beaten the staff, raped some, and burnt or carried away film cassettes. The movie team had dared to re-enact their worst on TV. Aunty Ozioma would call it madness and say that the government should stop its support for the group. My father and my mother would say nothing.
URHOBO IS BESET BY SECURITY CHALLENGES
Emeka C. IFESIEH, Ph.D and Eseoghene ALEH (Mrs.)
Department of Languages and Linguistics,
Delta State University, Abraka.
Urhobo  language is beset by security challenges in the Nigerian linguistic ecology. Studies on the language dwell largely on the teaching and documentation of the language. The aspect that concerns security challenges of the language has been largely overlooked. This paper investigates the remote and immediate causes of Urhobo insecurity in the Nigerian linguistic ecology. Subsequently, it suggests possible solutions to them. Unobtrusive observation coupled with oral interviews were conducted among people of different age brackets (young: between 10 and 20 years and old: between 21 up to 70 years) within Delta central senatorial district, the Urhobo homeland. The different age bracket offered insight into the linguistic choices of the people in different generations. Findings show that poor attitude of Urhobo speakers, especially the young ones towards the language leads to a gradual extinction of Urhobo; that the old generation are generally indifferent to intergenerational transfer of Urhobo; that both old and young generations of Urhobo prefer English and Pidgin, while educational institutions prefer English to Urhobo. Subsequently, to safe guard Urhobo from extinction, besides documentation, intergenerational transmission, revitalization and interest reawakening in Urhobo by Urhobo all and sundry are a panacea to the challenges that beset Urhobo.
Key Words: Urhobo, security challenges, English, Pidgin, intergenerational transmission and attitude.
Security of life and property is a major issue in all aspects of human existence. As days go by, new ways of livelihood continue to evolve. In the same vein security challenges evolve, too. The term security is etymologically Latin: securus, meaning to care (for). Implicitly, when something or a situation is said to be secure, it means that the thing or situation is free from danger or anxiety. Security has become a global concept, because of the increasing intra and international occurrences, such as terrorism, wars, insurgences, adverse climatic conditions, internet scams, sex and drug trafficking. Sequel to that, the united nations, an intergovernmental organization was created at the close of World War II with the primary purposes to protect the peace, to advance socioeconomic cooperation and promote respect for human rights (Encyclopaedia Americana 1988: 440-469). Security is therefore defined in relation to vulnerabilities, both internal and external, that threaten, or have the potential to bring down or significantly weaken state structures, both territorial and institutional and even regimes. Thus, security can be defined as all precautions taken to protect lives and properties at the societal, community, state, national and international levels (cf. Abolurin 2010: 26). Insecurity can then be seen as the lack of all the precautions taken to protect lives and properties at the societal, community, state, national and international levels.
Integral in every structure of the society is language in which the sociocultural ideologies are embedded and transmitted. Therefore, language is the most essential property of any socioculture. Nevertheless, Nigeria has the potential of losing most of its main and small group languages to dominant languages such as English, Pidgin otherwise known as Nigerian Pidgin (NP) and the three major Nigerian languages: Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. Implicitly, although some linguists (cf. Bamgbose 1992:4) speak of tripartite division of the languages, both the main and the small group languages fall within the category of the minority languages. If anything, there is little or no clear semantic distinction between ‘major’ and ‘main’ as noun qualifiers, but the noun which they qualify, language is used to designate different sociocultural and linguistic groups that are also constitutionally different in numerical terms. Therefore, using similar noun qualifiers to describe such languages is ambiguous. Sequel to that, using ‘major’ and ‘minor’ to describe them would be more appropriate. Therefore, in Nigeria, there exist major and minor languages.
Nigeria is a multilingual country with so many languages, whose exact number is yet to be known (cf. Emenajo 2002:1). The number of languages spoken in Nigeria has been variously put at 394 (Hansford et al. 1976), 478 (Grimes 1992) and 500 (Crozier and Blench 1992). Ejele (2003:126) observes that ‘main group’ languages are gradually being eroded by NP and English. Some have become endangered as a result of NP becoming the first language of youths, as in the case of Urhobo. Most Urhobo people aspire to master English, Pidgin and even the major languages to the detriment of their language. Youths are seen to feel embarrassed and ashamed to speak Urhobo. The few who have the courage to speak the language are often called ogburhobo meaning ‘village champion’, that is, an unexposed and timid person. This of course is a show of inferiority complex and lack of confidence in Urhobo, because it may not serve the same purpose as English and NP. The implication of such negative attitudes is increasing neglect of the language.
Subsequently, this work is geared towards discovering the exact security challenges that beset Urhobo and thereby create awareness among the Urhobo people, government and linguists about the insecure state of Urhobo and the possible means of revalorising it. This is necessitated by the fact that approximately 6000 languages still exist worldwide, and it is estimated that in most regions of the world, about 90 percent may be replaced by dominant languages by the end of the 21st century (UNESCO 2003). If adequate care is not taken, Urhobo may not live out the subsequent 22nd century.
To What Extent is Urhobo Beset by Security Challenges?
A language that is beset by security challenges is endangered. Therefore, an endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. According to Aikawa (2001: 13-24), endangerment can be ranked on a continuum, from stability to extinction. Six degrees of endangerment can be distinguished with regard to intergenerational transmission: 1. safe (stable yet threatened), 2.unsafe, 3. definitely endangered, 4. severely endangered, 5. critically endangered, 6. extinct. For a simplified explanation, look at the degrees of endangerment table below:
Degrees of Endangerment Table
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NP is being acquired by most children as mother tongue in Delta Central senatorial district, where it is fast creolizing despite the fact that it is the Urhobo homeland. In addition, the rapid urbanization of the Warri axis and the strong presence of English within the senatorial district contribute to the security challenges of Urhobo. Therefore, Urhobo can be described using the above explanations to the extent of being definitely endangered; it is used mostly by the parental generation and upwards. Causes of language endangerment are basically five: 1. parental influence, 2. natural or man-made disaster – sudden shift, 3. migration outside the traditional territory – planned shift, 4. use of second language as a medium of instruction in school, and 5. national language policy (cf. Ifesieh el al 2006: 50-56).
Issues in the Nigeria Language Situation
The Nigerian language situation is a very complicated one. This derives from its extreme multilingual nature, arising from the contact and conflict between the different language types in the country, that is, the major and the minor languages. Two major issues have dominated the Nigerian language situation. They are the role of the three major languages vis-à-vis minor languages and the dominance of the English language over all the languages in the country. A constant source of language conflict is the relationship of the major to the non-major languages. Apart from their numerical strength, the major languages were among the first to be reduced into writing in the early or mid 19th century with substantial vocabularies, primers, collected texts and translations. They also have the advantage of a sizeable literature as well as extensive linguistic study leading to the production of scientific grammars, dictionaries and learned articles, which are much more in scope than those on any of the other languages. During the revision of the 1979 constitution, with the recommendation that the three main languages Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba be adopted as National Languages and be taught in all primary and secondary schools in the country, the recommendation provoked a walk-out by some members of minority languages. This led to a watering down of the recommendation to section 19 (4) of the 1989 constitution. Thus, Government shall promote the learning of indigenous languages. Therefore, it is not only the three major languages that should be promoted, but every language within Nigeria of which Urhobo is one. However, internal acrimony within and among the Urhobo people often play a role of frustrating genuine political and social efforts towards the emancipation of Urhobo. For instance, although the Okpe and Uwie would view themselves as Urhobo people that speak the central Agbarho dialect of Urhobo, which has become a lingua franca in the Urhobo area, they rightly insist that they have their own languages (Elugbe 1986: 9). Such a discordant tune add to sociopolitical tensions within the area and consequently hinders meaningful social developments, which work for the common interest of the people. Sequel to that, once a people are in disaccord among themselves, their linguistic choices will be affected. Then, they will begin to see more and more reasons why their in-group interaction and communication are no longer urgent. This invariably promotes language change, because they would no longer be engaged in a constant adaptation of their language to counteract the effects of differential change (cf. Francis 1993: 16). Nevertheless, although in-group rivalry is a recurrent issue in Urhobo homeland, a few Urhobo elites work assiduously to ensure that their tongue does not go into oblivion. It is in this connection that Dr. (Mrs.) R. O. Aziza then was drafted from College of Education, Warri to start B.A. Linguistic/Urhobo programme in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Delta State University, Abraka. The programme took off in 2002/2003 academic year of the university and the first set of B.A. Linguistics/Urhobo graduates was produced in 2005/2006 academic year of the university (Ifesieh 2011). Despite the spirited efforts being made to valorise Urhobo in its homeland, it is cantankerously grappling with the difficulty of intergenerational transmission coupled with low image and disuse among its owners. On the contrary, they prefer English, Pidgin and the Nigerian major languages.
The data for this work were elicited from indigenes of the Urhobo language through structured oral interview. Questions were geared towards eliciting information from respondents relating to languages spoken, domains in which respondents use the languages, with the aim of finding out the extent to which the languages are used and at the same time taking a particular note of Urhobo. This enabled the researchers to discover specific security challenges that beset Urhobo. Efforts were also directed towards finding out the respondents competence and performance coupled with the intergenerational transmission level of Urhobo. Data collection was limited to Delta central senatorial district. Two groups of respondents were targeted: 1. persons between the age of ten (10) and twenty (20) years, who represent the unmarried, children and the young generation of Urhobo people; fifty persons in the category of Urhobo young generation were interviewed and observed unobtrusively within the school premises, 2. persons between the age of twenty one (21) and seventy (70), who represent the married, parents and the old generation of Urhobo people; fifty persons in the category of old generation of Urhobo people were equally interviewed and observed unobtrusively at homes. Therefore, a total of hundred (100) persons were randomly selected from within the Delta central senatorial district, interviewed and observed unobtrusively. In selecting the respondents, efforts were made to capture data from all the local governments within the area.
Data Presentation And Analysis
Table 1a and 1b
Tables 1a and 1b below show the languages spoken by the different groups of respondents within different age brackets. The respondents reacted to the question: what languages do you speak?
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The tables above show that many respondents between the age of 21 and 70 years speak Urhobo more than the respondents between 10 and 20 years, who are the children and Urhobo leaders of tomorrow 12% of married respondents speak Urhobo as opposed to the 4% of the unmarried. The married respondents tend to be more multilingual than the unmarried ones as can be seen from the 40% accruing to the married respondents in terms of speaking Urhobo, Pidgin and English as against 20% of the unmarried. None of the respondents in the age bracket between 21 and 70 years was identified as speaking only Pidgin, but within the 10 years and 20 years age bracket, 28% noticed as speaking only Pidgin.
 Urhobo is both the language and the people who speak it. The population of those who identify themselves as Urhobo is about three million and are predominantly resident in South-South geopolitical zone in Nigeria. It can be designated as one of the main languages in Delta state within the South-South. It is aboriginally spoken in nine out of the twenty-five local government areas of Delta state. It is one of the largest ethnic groups in the state. Some linguists have done a linguistic classification of Urhobo. Elugbe (1989:7) classified it along with Isoko, Eruwa, Okpe and Uvwie as members of the South Western branch of the Edoid family of languages. Therefore, as a language, it belongs to the Niger-Congo family of West African languages. As a people, Urhobo lends credence to the Great Bantu Migration. See the following authors for details: Otite 2003; Ubrurhre 2003; Darah 2005; Ojaide and Aziza 2007.
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