In scholarly circles, it is standard practice to commence every endeavour with a clear definition of concepts. So, let’s begin with the word ‘lost’. There are a variety of possibilities with respect to the meaning of this word as provided by the dictionary. However, for the purpose of this piece, we will settle for ‘confused’ or ‘to be defeated’. The word ‘generation’ has a variety of meanings too. Let’s be content with, ‘a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously’. The lost generation here, therefore, refers to the demographic below 20. They represent the cream of Nigeria’s young populace. They are rudderless. They are lost.
Why are they lost? Don’t be quick to snort in derision. The facts are available and they stare at us in the face everyday. If you’ve noticed, these set of Nigerians are totally alienated from their cultural roots. They only speak English and even then, it’s mostly rotten English which they nasalise. They don’t hide their disdain for anything local and many of them have never sat at the foot of their parents to enjoy the rich stories revolving around the tortoise and his exploits. When they write, you’ll cringe in horror. For them, ‘because’ is ‘ bcos’, ‘before’ is ‘b4’, ‘that’ is ‘dat’,etc. It is regrettable that space won’t permit one to really thrash out this matter. Maybe one of these days, we’ll return to it again. You must forgive me. I’m already jumping ahead of myself.
The problem, it is pertinent to note, begins from their various homes. There is something about many of these contemporary parents. They are embroiled in a race of ‘my children are better than yours’. They discourage indigenous languages when talking to their children. Sadly, some of these parents themselves struggle to string sentences together. Any child who speaks any of the Nigerian languages is termed ‘bush’. The ones who speak English like an ‘opeere’ hardly know their right from left. For instance, they start every sentence with ‘as in’. Here is an example:
Man: What’s your name?
Girl: As in my name? ( man nods)
As in Rita.
Many of them don’t know the difference between the subject case and the object case pronouns. So you hear, ‘ us came to your house’, ‘ This matter is strictly between you and I’ or even expressions like: ‘ The worstest part is that…’, ‘ You’re still owing me fifty naira’. The strange thing is many of them don’t even care to know what’s appropriate. When corrected, they are often quick to offer a riposte, ‘ who English epp?’.
Let us come to the indigenous languages. Here, many of them can’t even pronounce their Yoruba or Ibo names correctly. If they try too hard, they’ll most likely chop off their tongues in the process. As a teenager, I had the privilege of reading Tai Solarin’s autobiography. He explained that students learn faster when concepts are explained to them in their native languages. I have also read recently that people think better and reach sounder decisions when they use their native languages. This is why the decision by the Ministry of Education to begin teaching science subjects in native languages is laudable. The wisdom of the elders is incontrovertible. How best can we tap into this wisdom? Proverbs! Many of these proverbs are witty, apt and there is always something for a particular occasion. Our children have lost it. The only wisdom they rely on is the one that is gleaned from video games and social media interractions. I once met a teenager who said learning to speak Yoruba language will make her pick up a bush accent. My good friend and editor, Peju is a Fulbright Scholar because her command of the Yoruba language is sound. So, what did I say to the foolish girl? Nothing! I simply walked away.
When we were children, we looked forward to those times when our parents would regale us with folktales, especially those ones were the trickster tortoise was at the centre. In the evenings on Sunday, we also had the good fortune of watching Tales by Moonlight on NTA. From those tales, we learnt the values of honesty, kindness, patience and so on. Of course, even in those days, there were children for whom these things seemed a waste of time. We also read books like Chike and the River, Koku Baboni, Ade, Our Naughty Little Brother and so on. These days, there are no such books. We now have cheap books riddled with unbelievable blunders and spelling errors. Surprisingly, parents are too busy to see these things.
As shocking as it sounds, many of these children can’t write properly. Undergraduate essays too are an eye sore. Many of them stupidly carry over the abbreviations they use when chatting with friends on social media to their examination essays. Worse still, is that they can’t spell. I have heard some say, ‘ I don’t like to spell’. What song does one sing to that kind of beat? You see for these children, their problems are many and the parents are at the base of it all. Why in heaven’s name do you want your child to speak Queen’s English when the same child is a dunderhead? Fela has labelled this ‘Colo (nial) mentality.’ All the Soyinkas, Osundares, Ofeimuns of this world speak exquisite English, yet they do not fake an accent. In the scheme of things, it is not your nasalized expressions that matter, it is the strength of your character.
Nigerian parents are grooming alienated children. Children who have no cultural foundation. Children who think the only way is the western culture. This is why it is so easy for many to buy results for their children. The standards they have set for their children are unattainable. So they must achieve their set goals by hook or crook. The real malpractice begins at home. When children look down on their culture and venerate another’s to the high heavens, it is a sign that danger looms. It is the beginning of the end.