Book Review At The National Launch Of Izon fiéSpeak Izon Book And Audio Book CD In Lagos, On Sat. 25TH MAY, 2013


Professor Benjamin O. Okaba
Head, Department of Sociology and Psychology,
Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria


Prelude I consider my humble self highly honoured to be part of this epoch making occasion especially as the Book Reviewer. The National launch of the Izon fié Book and Audio Book CD taking place today is no doubt, a giant step in the series of bold and deliberate efforts directed at the revitalization of Izon and other languages of the Niger Delta region, through the provision of well articulated written and audio language resource materials.

As a prelude to this review, it may suffice to note that in recognition of the invaluable role of the mother tongue and other related cultural resources in the early learning process and also in the all-round development of the Nigerian child, the National Policy on Education and the National Language Policy emphasize that:

The medium of instruction at the Universal Basic Education (UBE) levels shall be the mother tongue of the local environment… during the first three (3) years of learning, the CORE subjects including the culture of the environment shall be taught in the mother tongue and that English shall be taught as a subject

The relentless pioneering genuine efforts of the Rivers/Bayelsa Indigenous Language Development Initiative under the inspiration of the Late Professor Kay Williamson and Professor  E.J. Alagoa, on the one hand, and the listing of Izon by the West African Examination Council as one of the examinable local language subjects, the development of an Izon language curriculum for Primary and Secondary Schools by the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education, the floating of the Diploma Programme in Izon Language for serving and intending language teachers in Bayelsa State by the Centre for Niger Delta Studies, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island (under my Directorship) and the recent ‘decree’ passed by the present Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson on the compulsory learning of Izon language in schools in Bayelsa State (to mention just a few) all aimed at actualizing the goals of the National Policy on education and the National Language Policy have been truncated by the absence of standard, affordable and accessible pedagogical text on Izon and in Izon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is against this backdrop that I present the following review of the Izon fié Book and Audio CD, to patriots and friends of the Ijaw nation gathered in this auditorium today.

Structure, Style and Content Analysis   Izon fié Book and Audio CD is a 186 paged Izon language resource material written in Izon (Kolokuma dialect) with English translations by the Veteran Izon language instructor, researcher and author Mr. Ogonibenitari Alfred Egberipou of Kaiama Town in Kolokumo/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.  For details on Mr. O. A. Egberipou, see pages 185 and 186 of the book.

In addition to the preliminary pages that contain the forward (written by Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, Executive Secretary/CEO of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation, Abuja) the Dedication, Acknowledgements, Introduction and the Izon Alphabets, Izon fié is divided into seventeen lessons (chapters) representing also seventeen thematic discourses.

The Author introduces every lesson with a series of dialogues (an average of 4). Every single word, expression, phrase, and sentence in each dialogue is translated in English language and vice versa.  Notes are also provided, which further explain certain special aspects of the dialogue where translations were not initially properly made.

The text also has for every lesson, a grammar component that identifies and taxonomizes each word/phrase into the appropriate linguistic form in terms of nouns, verbs, tenses, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.

For each lesson, there are exercises intended to make the reader practice and revise what has been read and studied.

As a pertinent pre-condition to understanding the text, the author introduces the reader to the structure and composition of the Izon alphabets which he categorized into (a) The letters (b) The vowels and (c) Consonants. The letters are further divided into single letters (a, b, d…), double letters (ab, gh, kp…) triple letters (ngh…); while vowels are grouped into wide vowels (ąęįou) and narrow vowels (ęįou). The 17 consonants in Izon alphabet are also listed.

Lesson I, titled Hallo! You are welcome (Dó éé, emiyo, tubara, ebinimi), addresses issues such as, how to exchange greetings; how to address male and female and some names given to people in Izon.

Lesson II deals with Welcoming visitors (kimi kori ni aki yemi bara), more on how to exchange greetings; more names in Izon; some cultural aspects and vowel agreement or harmony.

Lesson III deals with Duties at home (odubo gbayemi bara); inclusive of the items in the home, pronouns for he and she, while Lesson IV, titled Cooking Food (ye tuo bara) talks about how some dishes are prepared; items in the dining room, connectives and the structure of sentences in Izon.

Lesson V, VI and VII deal with the subject matters of ‘Going to buy an air ticket’ (ticke fee yo gho mu yemi) ‘Arrival in Nigeria’ (Naiziria Ladon) and ‘Communication-more Greetings’ (Ere tei yemi-wari kai ronimi bara bi) respectively.

In Lesson VIII, ‘Visiting the country side’ is treated alongside life in the country side, how to learn a second language and names of food items.

Lesson IX, introduces us to ‘Learning a foreign language (zini beeli (Izon) tolumo yemi), more names of food and other items, parts of the body, wide vowels and narrow vowels and vowel harmony, while Lesson X teaches us, under the title Chartering a taxi (takizi aki gho nut nghi bara) how to charter a taxi, how to count in the local currency, the pricing system, and borrowed words-mótó; tákízí.

The subject matter of Lesson XI, is Traditional way of welcoming guests’ (Izon otu kimi beriya yerai bara). Here we are taught title taking in gatherings, the formation of plurals, aspects for seniority in age, and the Izon culture on how to address a gathering.

In Lesson XII under Preparing local dishes’ (Izon fiyai tuo yemi bara) the author introduces us to more on how Izon dishes are prepared, items used in preparing Izon dishes, types of izon dishes – keke fiyai (kkf) and qualifying forms of numerals.

We are introduced to ‘Preparing for the village market (Ama-ogbo fou paanghi dou) in Lesson XIII and here we learn how to bargain at the market; the phrase of husband and wife in Izon, possessives, and short forms of pronouns.

Lesson XIV takes us to Another village market (Zini ama ogbo fou paa nghi dou) and we learn here how to haggle; more numerals and their qualifying forms and how to call peoples’ attention (male and female).

The author in Lesson XV, XVI and XVII deal with the subject matters of ‘Visiting another village (Zini kala ama gho mu yemi; at Mothers farm (Yenghima lari la dou) and departure (wai beke ama gbo mui yemi) respectively. Lessons to be learnt from these 3 chapters include more on family relationship-mother and father-in-laws, more on local dishes, more on the Izon ways of welcoming visitors, forming plural words from singular words. Crops in the farm, how presents are given at party ceremonies, more loan words, types of farms and plantain farming, and parting.

The author’s biography depicting his wealth of knowledge and experience in research, teaching, training and writing in Izon language is provided in the last 2 pages of the text.

The Izon-fié, Audio CD complements the textbook. All that is contained in written form in the text (except probably the exercises and a few explanatory notes) are replicated in the Audio CD plates for more effective study and understanding.   An Appraisal There cannot be a better way of appreciating the relevance of this laudable project other than drawing attention to remarks made by many on the present status of the Izon language as sick, dying, endangered or dead. Reports from a socio-linguistic survey (Zenetubo 2011) reveal that.

Only 24.7% of the entire Ijo literate population living within and outside, can read and communicate effectively in the Izon language.  Of this population, 48% are of the age brackets 60 and above; 32.8% are between ages 35 and 59, 18% between 18-34 years and 1.2% are of children below 15 years.

The Izon fié Book and Audio CD has come to us at a time that we all must be determined to salvage this situation of near mass cultural dislocation and linguistic extinction.

The text is unique in its simplicity, style and completeness. It is a one-stop resource material for Izon alphabets, drama, grammar, culture, communication skills etc.

The cover page is very attractive, the printing is superb, the illustrations are just lucid and colourful; the sound quality of the Audio CD is impressive.  The content is error free. Infact, I could not discover one single spelling or grammatical mistake in the entire text.

No doubt, the author’s long working relationship with the mother of Izon language, Late Prof. K. Williamson and the unequalized expertise  injected into this project by the Founder and Managing Director, Niger Delta Books (the Book publishers) Mrs. Oyintarela Ebiere Umeri (nee Diffa) made the difference we are all witnessing today.

The conversational style (dialogue) adopted in this text truly portrays language as a social phenomenon and stimulates the real life of the socio-cultural situation of every day discourse in the manner intended for each theme in the text.

The exercises included in all the lessons (chapters) would serve extremely important pedagogical purposes. They could also facilitate self-study.

Permit me to use this rare and golden opportunity to reiterate a position I have canvassed at several fora, that the Izon language project cannot be fully and successfully accomplished until we develop a standard common Izon orthography and phonology (similar to the union Igbo, Yoruba and the Queen’s English. As homogenous as Bayelsa State seem to be, we have several Ijo dialects out of which Epie-Atissa, Kolokuma, Nembe and Ogbia have been chosen for radio broadcast and use in public religious and secular places including schools.

I want to challenge the Publisher/Managing Director of the Niger Delta Books to take the lead in the direction of producing a standard Ijo Dictionary with dialectical cross referencing, and core ijo language text books for pupils/students in all subject areas including the Sciences, Mathematics, Arts and the Social Sciences. In this task, you need to be guided by such criteria as highest degree of intelligibility, availability of secular and religious literature, richness in vocabulary, largest population of speakers, absence of borrowed words from other languages and the adoption of consonants and vowels common to all (Okaba, 2008).

Be that as it may, I wish to recommend the Izon fié Book and Audio CD as a treasure that must be kept in all Ijo homes, home and abroad. It is a useful companion to pupils, students, parents, teachers/instructors, media practitioners, people in business, tourists, Ijaws in Diaspora, non-Ijaws and all other categories of persons seeking proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and teaching Izon language.

I therefore congratulate the Author of this master piece – Mr. O. A. Egberipou and Mrs. Oyintarela Ebiere Umeri (nee Diffa), the Publisher/Managing Director, Niger Delta Books on this great feat. To this audience, I say thanks for being part of this wonderful day.

To God be the Glory!


Egberipou, O.A. (2013). Izon fié.  Abuja: Niger Delta Books.

FGN (2004). National Language Policy, Abuja.

FGN (2004). National Policy on Education, Abuja.

Okaba, Benjamin (2008). Use Ijaw Language and Culture or Lose it.  Being text of my lecture delivered on the occasion of the 2008 Boro Day Celebration in UK on 11th August.

Zenetobo, Thompson (2011). “Socio-Linguistic Survey of Izon Language of the Niger Delta.” An Unpublished Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Language Arts, Abia State University, Uturu.