All over the world, differences exist between man and woman only by their sexes, but in the Ubang community in Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State the dissimilarities have transcended genital organs, as the men have different words for communication from their women counterparts.
Call it the land of impossibilities both in tourism and in all facets of life and you would not be far from the truth. To some, it might be a mystery, to others a fairy tale, because you would not believe or have imagined that a community in Nigeria, which prides itself as the only one in the world have its people speaking two separate languages, the men speak separately from the women.
The beauty of it is that the man and the woman understand each other without inviting an interpreter, but the law is, the man must not be caught speaking the same language of a woman, vice-versa.
With no concrete documentation to how it evolved, some of the residents in the Ubang community, who spoke with Channels Television, appears to be proud of their ancestral heritage which according to them is as old as the community itself and it is second to none in the world.
According to them, this tradition, which they cannot challenge or change, forbids women from speaking the same language used by the male counterparts, is like a law which the people must obey at all costs.
In other words, in a home, the husband must speak a different language from the wife, while a man must find a way to communicate with his daughter and vice versa.
The Village head of the community, Joseph Aleinyang said in spite of the language dissimilarities amongst his kindred’s Ubang since its inception has remained one of the most peaceful in the state, promoting communal living and are also the food basket of the state in terms of cocoa and other agricultural produce, but has remained in abject poverty due to its bad road network to transport its produce for better sales to the outer communities.
There is also a major challenge of employment among its youths, lack of access to portable drinking water as the only source of water supply to the entire community is a stream which requires long distance to access most especially, during the dry season.
There is still more mysteries that lies in the domain of the Ubang community which needs to be harnessed, one of the Ubang Mountains called Okwe Asirikwe, a gigantic rock bearing a supernatural foot print, which no one has been able to unravel the source, no human being living or dead had the size of the foot print, which makes residents believe that it was the foot print of God.
Ubang people know how others feel about their wonderful talent and now and again, they tell their story in a way that makes others green with envy.
For instance, when Niger Delta Voice visited the community, the elders led by Ogbe Sylvanus Odobi, said God descended on one of the mountains in the villages of Okiro and stood on the rock at the peak of the mountain and distributed languages.
“He started with us (Ubang) since it is our mountain that He stood to distribute the languages and His footprint is still etched on that rock till today,” Odobi flanked by two others, Ochui David and Clement Obi said. His words: “It was after God had distributed the languages to the men and women of Ubang that He discovered that the languages would not go round the communities if He continued to give each for both sexes and so He decided to give the other communities one language for both sexes.”
Odobi asserted that right from birth, each child born in the community knows he or she has to speak the language of his or her sex because any attempt to learn the language of the other will end in futility.
“If a female tries to speak the language of the male or vice versa, she will not be able because she will be confused and make a lot of mistakes,” he added. For example, the men folk call water Amie, while the female call it Banu. The verb, ‘go,’ is Mbie by the male, while to the women, it is Uruo. Women call yam, Iri, while men call it Ketung.
An elderly woman in the village, Mary Orim, said the words that form the two languages were given by God, so no one language is superior to the other and each sex speaks the words allotted to their language with pride and confidence. “Why should I speak the men’s language after God has considered it fit to give me my own language?
She queried when asked why the women did not revolt and speak the same language with male counterpart as it is done in other places. She told Niger Delta Voice, “you (reporter) will spend the entire week here if you decide to write all the words down because nearly all the words we speak are separate.”
Stuffing her nose with snuff from her carefully-held snuff box, she said, “Women call stone ‘koka’, while their men call it ‘okai, we call shirt is ‘ariga’ while men call it Nki.
Source: Channels TV, VanguardNgr, Niger Delta Voice
Nigeria is home to seven percent (7%) of the total languages spoken on earth. Taraba state alone has more languages than 30 African countries put together. The importance of this fact is appreciated when one understands that language is the “soul of culture” (as Ngugi wa Thiongo famously said).
It is language that births the proverbs, riddles, stories and other aspects of culture that give us identity. UNESCO puts forward that the world’s languages represents an extraordinary wealth of creativity.
Linguistic diversity correlates with cultural diversity.
This we can look inwards and #MoveNaija to become the greatest hub for cultural tourism on earth, and consequently empower its citizens tremendously in the process.
If only we can ignore religious and party affiliations and stand together as a nation. What do you think. Drop your comments and join in the conversation.
We can and we will #MoveNaija