Sunday, November 23, 2008

I am sorry I do not speak your language!

I am one of those people that have been born “tribeless”, not because I do not have a tribe but because I just happen to have been brought up in Warri where we have made our very own “waffy” tribe. You can have a Hausa first name and an Ishan surname, as far as you were born and raised in Warri, you are a Waffarian. However, if you are “originally” from Warri but have never lived here, then no, you are not qualified to be a Waffarian. If you do not know where the following places are: Agbaro, Orhuwhorun, Ovwain, Igbo market, Bendel Estate, Nana College, Jakpa junction, then please, drop that dream. You are not a Waffarian. Entering an Okada does not qualify you and neither does having a love for “banga soup”. However, if you still insist on becoming a Waffarian, then send your CV and a letter stating why you would like to become a Waffarian. The best letter would be published in this column next week. Send all letters to

Warri is a melting pot for so many languages and traditions that it is impossible to identify yourself with just one. I have never had any friends that have been strongly rooted in any particular tribe or culture. However, there are many Nigerians that are so strongly rooted in their language and culture that the thought of another person not speaking their own language might be quite displeasing to them. I am constantly baffled why people expect me to know their values and traditions when I do not have any affinity with them. I respect all tribes equally. I do not respect one above the others. That is why at this age, the thought that I might be at a disadvantage because I am not from a particular tribe is very troubling.

I have always believed that people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the language they speak. I have had more in common with a Tiv farmer’s daughter than with a minister’s daughter in Abuja. I might have more in common with an Italian cook (we both like food) than with a Nigerian pastor (I can’t stand their hypocrisy). It all depends on your principles in life. What is important to you? Who are you?

I do not believe I should be friends with other human beings just because they speak the same language as I do. I base my friendships on character and not on language, creed or colour. Today, there are many cases of marriages gone sour because of the insistence on marrying another human being from one’s own tribe, even though the two personalities might be incompatible. In fact, I know many people that have told me that they would not be able to marry someone who does not speak their language (I sure say my waffy people no concern dat one, as far as you fit scatter pidgin English, we dey happy). This to me is quite amusing. Why limit your world when you can do so much? Why limit your world to your own language and culture? Nigeria is a country blessed with so much diversity that it is a shame that people cannot see the beauty in it. When we learn from other cultures, we enrich ours. When we speak another language, we open ourselves to a world of new stories, new proverbs, new lessons. Learning another language can never be a detriment to anybody. We should be proud of our cultural diversity. We should be willing to acknowledge and be proud of the people that take the time and effort to learn the ways of others.

No, I do not speak your language. Do not ask me “why” I do not speak your language. Your language is not the only one in Nigeria. However, I am willing to learn your language for my own sake not for yours. The question is, are YOU willing to learn MY language? (no be say I get language oh but I fit give you intensive course for pidgin English).

P.S: All those market women for Effurun wey don turn the road wey dem just build na na to bicycle lane, I take God beg una, comot all those una nonsense from that road. Haba! Dem build that road for motor, no be for una to dey sell una goods.


Emeka Amakeze said...

I agree with you. Basing friendship on language is limiting our innate desire to make friends. I hail waffy!

Jaycee said...

I was also born tribeless o...fellow Waffarian. But thing is, I didn't live in Warri...I spent my holidays there. Oh, yeah...JS1 was in FGC Warri (boarding house, live). That has got to count...

I know Jakpa junction. There's this market that was located close to FGC, a popular hot-spot...unfortunately the name is not coming to me right now. How about GKS? My extended family goes there...Lol.

I used to buy popo garri on the Benin-Warri express way...and that nice meat that goes with it...wormy looking animal. I be Waffarian o...(lol)

TheAfroBeat said...

popo garriiiiiiiii!!! I never really liked that stuff...i guess that's one strike against my pseudo waffyness.

Spent christmas holidays in family house on Esisi road growing up, used to hit up effurun market but as far as my waffy pidgin goes, i sabi respect myself jejely coz i know there's more lagos in there than waffy. Nonetheless, it'll always be a home away from home, and the day 'authentic' lagosians decide to rise up and send the rest of us packing, that'll be my next port of call.

Definitely a believer in broadening horizons rather than limiting oneself to culturally identical people.

Thanks for sharing!