“My Lord, in this sacred court, I, Kobina Ebo Okunyin, christened in an orthodox Christian church as Robert Gayheart Essandoh, admit the logs lodged in my eyes. I plead guilty. I know full well that I do not stand charged with the fervent embrace of the Queen’s language per se – for a worthy lingua franca it is – its merits are as many as its interlopers. I stand charged with negligence…with disregard for my own. I stand charged for complicity in the demise of many native words and expressions. And I further plead, that in pronouncing judgement, a tincture of mercy be stirred into the brewing potion of justice.
In this dock I stand alone. But a social animal I am; society fashioned me thus. Therefore, my Lord, permit me to say that society is complicit in the present matter. Among my city- dwelling folk, the sins for which I stand charged, are as common as the busily buzzing flies at the Sakasaka meat market. I am a spitting image of society. That which ails me, same ails society. My people and I have become as a gleeful glutton at a banquet of plenty. We have become happy, indiscriminate consumers of many things…wigs, nails, slimming pills, skin- bleaching creams, foreign accents…
Today, my Lord, many are the Trojan horses and trash-hauling trucks within our unguarded walls. Slowly, yet with surety, they are infiltrating…spreading their insidious influence among my people. We are progressively becoming what Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once dreaded – a people who are “neither fowl nor fish”. Sadly, my Lord, many of my people are too busy basking in the momentary bliss of wholesale civilisation, unaware – perhaps oblivious to the slowly shifting sands underfoot. One day, and I pray that day never sees the light of day, we may throw out our baby and retain the unwholesome bathwater of unbridled secularisation.
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But, my Lord, I am minded to steer a straight course in this court. And so I cease the digression and beam the probing lights on myself; my mother tongue; my native name. My Lord, I so wish that in my native tongue I could express with half dexterity, that which I so ably say and write in the Queen’s language. But, a strange paradox I have become to myself – somewhat deficient in my own, much more proficient in another’s. Yet, even my partial linguistic deficiency is comforting because many of my people fall far behind. Many can neither read nor write their own and same could not care. Few among the younger generation will pass the test of linguistic equipoise. I am going adrift again. Forgive me my Lord, but my people and I are like two peas in a pod. I could not possibly divorce them from the matter at hand, try as I may.
So, my Lord, as with many other things in my life, the scales of language are skewed in the Queen’s favour; so skewed my speech gets muffled and heavy, my lips part with unwilling sluggishness, my mouth suddenly feels dry and sandy when I speak to my children in my native tongue. It feels like trying to start a decommissioned first-generation locomotive engine that has been at the mercy of the elements since it puffed out its last cloud of dark smoke.
And when I have mustered the will, subdued the resistance and spoken in my native tongue to my wards, I am often met with puckered brows, dilated eyeballs, pursed lips and suspended breathes – as though my words were not only extragalactic gibberish, but cacophonous and nauseating.
Yet, these selfsame vocal cords of mine instantly come alive – they spew forth free-flowing flowery words, when in old Tom Brown’s tongue I speak. My brain speedily sends word to glands and a perfect blend of lubricating enzymes are released to oil every nook and cranny of my oral cavity. My jaws move with the silent, majestic motion of an angel. And my young domestic audience Adom, Aseda, Ayeyi and Nhyiraba are now hearing sweet orchestral music. Such a perplexing paradox!
The language of the cradle is fast trading places with the language of the classroom. In many of our schools today, my Lord, the former has become a necessary evil, grudgingly indulged for the fulfilment of academic righteousness. The mother tongue has become the proverbial token offered the village witches to keep them at bay. Despisers of our very own good are we becoming, my Lord. The trees are fast shedding their green leaves out of season, yet we do not ask what ails the trees. We hurriedly burrow past the unmissable outer layer of fallen leaves and in ostrich-like fashion, bury our heads beneath the sand.
My Lord, my heart is not feeble from the toll of age; it is as vibrant as my Christian middle name, Gayheart. My limbs have not grown frail; very heavy ‘goods’ do I lift for love in the quietude of night. Verily, I possess the virility of a zealous breeder bull in its prime. Yet, my Lord, my native name, bestowed on me by Opanyin Kwesi Mensah, my paternal grandfather, is an ancient relic. Yonder it lay, overlaid with a thick coating of dust, ashes and sooth, in the darkest, farthest-to-reach corner of the memory storehouse, stifled among a thousand odds and ends. There is not enough room to accommodate it on anything titled “official”.
But when the blue moon appears, and my kinsmen gather in Saltpond, an old kinsfolk may suddenly beckons me by that name. When they do, I instantly feel Mother Earth’s pull. I feel Her large, pulsating heart. My soul leaps within me as did John the Harbinger inside Elizabeth, at the sight of the bearer of the Christ child. I feel alive though a sentient being I am. Surely, this must be the name the Earth upon which I live knows me by. Surely, this language is not a mere means of verbal exchange; this must be one imbued with a spiritual essence. Such is a crude description of how I feel every time my native name tastes a short- lived escape from imprisonment. And so my Lord, I further incriminate myself for discrimination against my own soul. As for my people, I defer to your revered judgement. I bow”.
The writer is a Communications, PR and Marketing Consultant with close to two decades of professional experience across several industries. He may be contacted on Tel: (GH) 0268811122 and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org