My first ever visit to Lagos was in 1994. But it was on my second coming -five years later- that I began to understand the reason behind the Igbo man’s mum language culture in Lagos.
Back then I was young and feeble, and can barely understand the workings of the town.The cross flyovers, the dense-view of Oshodi the sea shore outlooks and the lagoon spread of the city made my situation worse.
Onitsha were I came from had no such things.All she had was a concentrated main market, a rarely talked about river and the four lane confluence.
Oguta road, Upper New Market road, Ozala road and Awka road all converging at the famous Zik’s round about.Just like the Lagos inland waters, River Niger which ought to be the honey comb of liquidity super leverage remain largely un-useful.
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Though I made some observations on my first Lagos visit I hardly could make anything out of it.Like my observation about the Igbo mum language culture, it was at my second coming that I became versed with the inner workings of the city and could transverse her without guide.
The mum language culture explains why an average Igbo resists the urge to speak Igbo language in a public transport or other enclosed public places, except in the market where the Igbo population makes it almost impossible not to.
Not many know that the sheer confidence amongst the Igbo in Lagos today is a recent phenomenon.And that after the civil war, the Igbo were immersed in fear of openly communicating in Igbo, just as many Igbo families in Lagos feigned from teaching their children their mother tongue for fear of being ethno maligned, shame of a war loss and lack of opportunity.
As a young man, I heard stories of Igbo sons and daughters who had to change their names to reflect a northern native imagery to get absorbed into Government jobs or a western outlook to be able to have the chance of being admitted into the University.
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As an undergraduate at the University of Benin, I had class mates of Igbo extract who live in Lagos, and who can barely say a word in Igbo.
Those of us from the East berate them, mock them and slice them as being not Igbo enough.
I did not, because at that time, I had noted what the problem could have been.
This was in part the effect of the civil war.
It is an acute PTSD effect so many Igbo family suffer from till this very day.
Today I am appalled at the audacity with which many Igbo speak Igbo without fear, even at the slightest provocation without the initial fear that characterize the the first three decade after the war.
These are my words.