So that's how yesterday I was instructed to get my state of origin papers for some thing I'm trying to hook. After wondering if it was worth going all the way to the east for, and deciding it was, I thankfully realized that I could likely get it at my state's liaison office in Lagos. A brief Google search pointed me to the address in Victoria Island and I immediately set sail.
One foot into the compound and you're suddenly transported from the lustrous Victoria Island to the native air of a south-eastern town. I mean for all I knew, I could have been in Awka or Owerri. After making a few enquiries I was directed to an office where I would be attended to. I was greeted by the loud chatter of idle women discussing everything and nothing all at the same time. Sensing my presence, they all turned to look at me, and as though I was invisible or irrelevant, immediately turned back to their gist.
I approached the woman closest to the door. "Good afternoon ma, please how do I go about procuring the papers for my state of origin?"
She responded with a blank stare, as though I'd spoken Mandarin, so I decided to repeat myself. "Good afternoon ma, please how do..."
"A di ghi a ghota ihe i na ekwu" I don't understand what you're saying, she said flatly.
"State of origin..."
"Su o ya na igbo!" Say it in igbo, she said.
Now I tried to translate the grammar I'd spoken into igbo and I was momentarily stumped.
"Hahahahaha. You people come and follow me to see o!" She beckoned to all the others. Now about twelve pairs of eyes were glued to me. They already knew the drill, obviously several people like me walk into their office on a regular basis, Igbos unable to speak Igbo; "city people". Some of the eyes were amused, some irritated, some filled with pity, none with indifference. They all held an opinion and none was good.
"Chioma, attend to her" she said dismissively, passing me on to a junior staff to deal with such rubbish.
Chioma was one of the youngest in the room, really pretty, early 30s perhaps.
"What did you say you want?" She asked in igbo, I repeated myself.
"Su o ya na igbo" she demanded.
Wait, I thought we'd already established that I couldn't. I stared back at her, forcing a smile, to stop myself from rolling my eyes at her.
"Ke side na Anambra?" She asked, I told her what part of Anambra I'm from.
Next thing she began to shout to the hearing of the other women. "O nwanne Dera o!!!! Dera bia ka i fu nwanne gi! Come and see your sister and teach her your language"
Once again all the women began to chatter excitably; such nonsense, they say they're igbo yet they cannot speak it!
I had to endure this for about five minutes until Chioma pointed me to a notice on the wall which had the requirements, which was the very first thing they should have done, instead they chose to use me for Monday midday comic relief.
I read through and one of the requirements is a very long thing so I went back to Chioma. "Is that one compulsory?"
"Compu-gini? Mmu a a ghota ihe i na e kwu". She said feigning confusion.
I swear down I wanted to thump her head with the stack of files on the table.
Next thing all the women were asking me to say "compulsory" in Igbo. This time I actually rolled my eyes and said I'd be back, I'd gotten the information I needed. They all guffawed at my retreating back.
...In truth it was an amusing albeit annoying experience. No I'm no longer lamenting over the inability to speak my language fluently. I've just been playing out the scenerio in my head. Then I wondered if it would have played out the same way if I'd walked into an office full of men? I don't know but I doubt they'd have turned a simple question into a half-hour moment of ridicule. What do you think?
Ps; I've heard some young parents argue about the usefulness (Or lack thereof) of kids knowing how to speak their native languages. Some say it really serves no purpose as the world is becoming a global village and one's local language is in no way going to foster their growth or advancement. Instead the same energy should put used in teaching these kids languages that are important in the "economic" world, like Arabic or Mandarin. Some others strongly differ, saying the importance of knowing one's language can never be overstated. What do you think?
Yeah, the title said women are the worst but I love my sisters any day anytime and if I could, I would come back to this world as a woman again, and again!