How we’ll re-engineer promotion of Esan Language, Culture – Esan Okpa

The newly floated Esan socio-cultural organization, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), has restated its strong resolve to promoting Esan language and culture, saying that it is committed to the reintroduction of Esan as a subject in the West African Examination Schools Certificate (WAEC) and eventually scaling up its teaching to the tertiary levels.

Apart from setting up mini language clinics in big cities like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and the Diaspora, Esan Okpa says, it is also going to latch on deployment of technology to fast track this process.

The organisation revealed that it is going to set up a committee of experts versed in the language, to draw up a curriculum to guide the teaching of Esan from primary to tertiary levels.

Outlining the strategies for achieving this, its President, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon says, “We have identified and outlined programmes and events we shall be embarking on soon, to sensitize and rekindle our people’s interest in speaking and writing in Esan language.”

In a letter of congratulations to Dr Judith Oremire Ehibor, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile ife, who recently completed a PhD programme on “Contrastive Analysis of Functional Categories in Esan and English Languages,” at the University of Port Harcourt, Egbadon, who was particularly excited at her prowess, said, “We will surely be latching on the knowledge of experts like you to put together a befitting curriculum for the teaching of Esan Language at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.”

The letter reads in parts: “We wish to warmly and heartily congratulate you as one of Esanland’s most resourceful daughters, on your recent conclusion of your doctorate programme at the University of Port Harcourt. You have no doubt done our people proud by this lofty attainment.

“We at Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI) not only greatly rejoice with you on this strides but are particularly excited by your thesis titled, “Contrastive Analysis of Functional Categories in Esan and English Languages” which resonates with our drive to re-engineer the study and promotion of Esan Language and Culture, one of the critical issues addressed in our recent press conference held in Benin City.

“We will surely be latching on the knowledge of experts like you to put together a befitting curriculum for the teaching of Esan Language at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

“We are strongly soliciting your partnership to key into our vision to ensure that our people speak the Esan Language.

“An Esan adage says “You are lost if you cannot speak the language of your place or people.” Needless to state that language is an integral part of the culture of a people.”

Lamenting the down slide of Esan language over the years, Egbadon, who’s also pioneer Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, said, “EOI is concerned that the Esan language is fast going into extinction, as many of our people, particularly the young ones, including those who live in Esanland, cannot speak the language, let alone write in it.

“The situation is so worrisome, to the extent that many of our people cannot string a simple sentence together in Esan language without mixing it up with mostly English language.

“As a body, we have identified and outlined programmes and events we shall be embarking on soon, to sensitize and rekindle our people’s interest in speaking and writing in Esan language.

“We also have plans to promote Esan language and culture among the Esan people, including those living outside the State, by setting up mini Esan language clinics in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and in the diaspora. We are resolutely committed to this project including deploying the appropriate modern technology to facilitate this objective.”

While reiterating the call on the Edo State government to reintroduce the study of Esan language in its school curriculum, at the primary and secondary school levels in Esanland, he disclosed that, “In the past, Esan language was taught in schools and was even part of the West African School Certificate Examination syllabus.”

He also assured that “We have adequate texts and books in Esan Language to support its teaching and teachers in schools in Esan Land.”

Explaining further, Egbadon stated that, “We have also made a similar request to the State-owned University, Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, to, as a matter of urgency, introduce the study of Esan and other Edo languages and culture as part of the programme at its Department of Language Studies.”

He lamented that, “It is anomalous that AAU’s Department of Languages does not teach Esan or any of the Edo languages, but teaches French, Russian and Spanish. It is on record that the University is probably the only one with a language department that does not have a programme on the study of the language of its catchment area.”

“As a body, EOI is restating its readiness to make its contributions in whatever way it can, to support the State government and the University in the study of Esan language and culture. We will be counting on your expertise in this area.

“We will also be needing your assistance as we popularize and consolidate the work and programmes of EOI, floated by three organizations-Ikolo Esan based in Benin City, Esan Club 30 based in Port Harcourt and Association of Esan Professionals, a global body with headquarters in Lagos.

“Since the birth of EOI to ensure Esan people speak with one voice, several other associations have indicated interest to join the group which has the support of the different segments of our people. It is our hope that you will partake in the historical drive to change the fortune of our people,” Egbadon asserted.

Responding, Dr Ehibor said she was delighted to receive the congratulatory letter from Esan Okpa and expressed her willingness to partner with the organization on the promotion of Esan language and culture.

“I am very pleased to have received your congratulatory letter to me. I’m most delighted and I look forward to working with the Esan Okpa Initiative. I’m very interested in rebuilding the Esan language in making it one denotable language globally.

“Hence, I will be pleased to partner with you in the vision to ensure that the people speak Esan Language and also making Esan Language a language of literacy and research. I look forward to working with the organization. Thank you very much, she wrote.

Since Esan Okpa Initiative declared its move to re-engineer the promotion of Esan language and culture, several scholars with bias for teaching Esan have keyed into the process. The production of Esan text books dealing with several areas of knowledge seem to have also taken fillip.

The Esan people who are said to have emigrated from Benin during the reign of Oba Ewuare 1st in the fifteen century, are massed in five local governments-Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North, Esan South East and Igueben, which constitute the Central Senatorial Zone of Edo State. Driven by a predilection for higher education and professional excellence, the Esan form a sizable number of highly resourceful Nigerians in the Diaspora.