That the Aniomas speak much of Igbo language has its root on the invasion of the church in the area.
I have often been confronted with questions such as: If the Aniomas are not Igbos, how come they speak Igbo? This got me into some research and I discovered that the Aniomas are conglomeration of different people groups, call it tribes if you may, which consists of Benis, Igalas, Igbos, Ishans, Urhobos, Isokos, Ijaws and Yorubas. These people have their various languages and dialects mixed up with little Igbo due to proximity to the East and the constant influx of the East in the Aniomaland till date. (Most of our farmlands are occupied by the Igbos in form of camps. Many have been there for ages). As the people mixed up through inter marriages, the original dialects of the people were compromised. Then the church came with the early missionaries by the way of the River Niger, and Anioma was home to them.
Both the Aniomas and all of the East have different dialects based on their migration. The church then instituted the “Central Igbo Language Bible” which cuts across the barriers except for the Aniomas whose primary language or first language was not Igbo.
As the missionaries plants churches and CMS schools, they began to teach the Aniomas Igbo language for effective communication and understanding of the bible. At the church schools, we were taught ABCD as A, Bi, Gbi, Di. Then, they introduced the pastorship exchange program whereby converts from Anioma are sent to the East to pastor vice versa which got worse with the Pentecostal movement championed by the Igbos of the era who had fervently embraced Christianity. The Igbo gospel hits were all over the airwave with gospel artists like Herbert White, Voice of the Cross, Voice of Salvation etc. By so doing, the Aniomas continued to loose their language and dialects singing Igbo songs and reading the Igbo bible under an Igbo pastor.
A few days ago, I listened to a supposed Anioma song by an Issele Uku man with utmost dismay. While this music was played with the Anioma “apele or otulaka” the wordings were void of Anioma, Issele Uku dialect. It was more of Igbo accents than Anioma. That actually gave birth to this article as I cry for my people.
I fear an extinction of our dialects in the very near future. The core Anioma languages are fast evaporating. I continue to find myself use some words that the current generation does not know what I am talking about. This is puzzling.
Finally, Anioma is gradually migrating into the generation where kings who knows little or nothing about our language, culture or history. Some of them reside overseas. This further poses a threat to the Anioma. I therefore with due respect plead with all the Anioma kings to hold on to our God given culture, tradition, and language. Address your people in your dialects and not in English. Uphold our Anioma values. It is a gift from God.
Michael Brian Onyekalichukwu Odiakosa