By IKEROYAL EMEWU
I read about a Catholic priest in Ikorodu (Rev Fr James Anelu) banning Igbo songs of praise to GOD, not man. And the Bible recorded in Psalms 136 that God understands all diverse tongues.
I thought it was a social media gossip until I saw a letter distancing the action of the priest by the Lagos Catholic Archdiocese. That means it is true.
But I would not fathom what extent of deep seated hatred in the man that caused such terrible flop. It is possible the Igbo are the majority of the membership of the Church given the lopsidedness of denominational following in Igbo land towards Catholicism. Also, in Yoruba land, the Anglican denomination is far more popular than the Catholic. That means in this catholic church, majority of the members would be possibly the Igbo.
It is also possible they have raised fund in the past and did some good acts for the parish. So why this hate?
We may not know why he said what he said until we hear from him. But no matter what, since the head church has written to distance his action and suspend him, then something didn’t go right in he making such open announcement in Church. Even now, there is still room for him to correct the wrong and mend fences with his members because the announcement would have caused some bitterness even among non-Igbo members who would not see that proper.
However, regarding the ‘dominance’ of Igbo praise songs in churches, it is not abnormal because they are not lacking in the churches.
The spread of Igbo language is not even as much as it should because the Igbo doesn’t seem to be proud about speaking their language. If they were, the language would have been heard everywhere in the world because they go everywhere, and we even cry that the language is getting to extinction. Whenever I listen to Igbo people conversing or making phone calls, especially the illiterates that cannot speak English language, I lament that our language is lost.
Yet, many places in Africa still sing those Igbo language songs of praise, even among the whites in their lands as we see these days.
On the first day I met my colleague African journalist Fellows of the China Public Diplomacy Journalism Fellowship, in Beijing, I introduced myself as Ikenna and asked them if they could pronounce the name.
The response of many of them surprised me…”You ask us if we can pronounce Ikenna. Isn’t it the name we hear in Nigerian movies everyday”?
In 2019, I was with some Kenyan friends as they took me on a tour of the Nakuru region up to the Great Rift Valley. After getting information from a local on our right direction when the Google map would no more assist, they thanked the man in Kikuyu…thengio muno (thank you very much)
I also thanked the man in the same language, which made them very happy as they said I spoke it so well.
Now, a question arose…”In your Igbo language, how would you say thank you very much?
I replied, Imeela or daalu. They screamed, “we will take imeela. We prefer it because we sing the song IMEELA, IMMELA OKAKA… in our churches here.”
They didn’t know before then that the language was Igbo. One of them said they had been told that it was a Ghanaian language, which I corrected and later sent them the full lyrics on Whatsapp. They were so glad because they said they enjoy the song even though many of them never knew the meaning.
Igbo moving all over the world has gone too deep that it is very difficult to find an African who doesn’t know the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria. Some of them can even greet you in Igbo.
There was a day in Beijing I was in the home of a Rwandan friend who invited us over for a social event. Because we lived in a diplomatic community, those in the living room of the man were from at least seven different African countries. All of them said one thing in common…They have Igbo friends in their countries who do business there. In fact, a Guinean, as we watched the PSquare music on TV, lauded the Igbo, according to her, for loving and projecting their culture in all their musical videos.
With all sense of modesty, all Africans from other countries I ever met outside Nigeria always asked me if I were Igbo or Yoruba.
So, this cleric should be calming down about our diversities that should be celebrated and fought.
The preponderance of Igbo songs of praise he observed is normal and I would not guess if an Igbo priest would do that about another language in Igbo land because even our local towns in Igbo land, where all members of the church are Igbo, we still hear them sometime sing praises in Yoruba etc.
So, this man took the bias too far, and I wish he repents and takes a cue from most Pentecostal denominations in our urban cities that have days of worship they celebrate Nigerian ethnic diversities in costume, food, language, dances, songs etc.