Professor Nolue Emenanjo


Professor Nolue Emenanjo was the man who influenced the Igbo nation in all spheres of life. First, he made the Igbo language recognizable. Nolue Emenanjo is synonymous with Igbo linguistics. Do you know about the authors of the Igbo modules you read in your Primary school and secondary school days? Could you still recall the story of a kite known as “Egbe Na Ọnwụ Nne Ya” found in the primary three Igbo Macmillan reader that the Government wrote at its cover: “not for sale”?

What about the “Atụrụ Nzuzu Abụọ, the story of two stupid sheep facing each other on a single-trunk-bridge, each refuses to go back to allow another pass, on the process they begin to fight and end up inside the river, because they cannot swim, they get drowned?” What about the songs:

            Onye mụrụ nwa na-ebe akwa
            Egbe mụrụ nwa na-ebe akwa
            Weta ụzịza weta ose..

           Kpụkpụ ogene.....ogene ogene nta
           Kpụkpụ ogene.....ogene ogene nta
           Onye na-eti ogene....ogene ogene nta....
             Okereke okereke....dudu kaịkaị
              Okoroafọ Okoroafọ....dudu kaịkaị...

           Nwa na-eku nwa ....ayambe
           Nwa na-eku nwa.....ayambe...?

Could you still recall those Primary school Igbo songs usually used during moonlight play events? Here is the man who made such possible. The Exam Focus in Igbo was written by him, Nolue Emananjo. Now let us go to the full details of our business.

About Professor Nolue Emenanjo

Nolue Emenanjo was born on 21st April 1943 to the Igboụzọ titled parents: Obi and Obi Emenanjo of Ụmụeze Igboụzọ (Ibuza), Delta State. He had an honors degree in English at the University of Ibadan. After graduation, he taught immediately at Warri and went back to Ibadan for his PGDE. At this point, Professor Kay Williamson of the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages was looking for a research assistant for the Igbo dictionary project she was compiling and met with Emenanjo.

Emenanjọ abandoned his PGDE and joined Linguistics Department in 1972 as a research assistant. At this time, Igbo was newly introduced into the curriculum of Linguistics where Yoruba was already been taught. Emenanjọ became a great asset in teaching Igbo despite the fact he originally did not study Igbo. He did his postgraduate Diploma in Linguistics and embarked on a Master’s Degree in Linguistics with Igbo as his base language.

Read also: Walter Okafọ Okerulu Nwatakwọchaka Amobi, Founder of the Amobi Dynasty in Ogidi by Nonso Uche Nnajide

Professor Nolue Emenanjo as Editor of Oxford University Press

Emenanjọ became an Igbo editor to Oxford University Press. It was at this time Tony Uchenna Ubesie began to write extensively. Emenanjọ took him as son and friend. Emenanjọ recommended Tony Uchenna Ubesie to Oxford University Press after Ubesie told him about the books he had written. He influenced a change in the structure and volume of Igbo and other Nigerian indigenous literature.

Before he joined Oxford, all publishing Igbo books were novellas and novelettes, the size of Omenụkọ (1933, 93pp), (1952, 56pp). Emenanjọ as an Igbo editor in Oxford Press caused the editorial policy of the company towards literature in indigenous languages to be changed. He started with Tony Uchenna Ubesie’s Isi Akwụ Dara n’Ala (1973,206pp). Now Igbo novel has meet up with the Forster’s (1927) imposed standard of 50,000 words minimum. All Tony Ubesie’s works, Prof. Nọlue Emenanjọ edited them and ensured their publications.

Professor Nolue Emenanjo as a Lecturer

Dr. Betram Iwunwa Ọsụagwụ of the Department of Igbo, Alvan Ikoku College of Education begged him to come over and help them out to teach and develop Igbo. Emenanjọ left OUP and editorial services and joined in teaching Igbo.

At Alvan, he became prominent very fast and became the Head, Department of Igbo from 1978-1980; he became the Dean of the School of Arts (1981-1983). He obtained his PhD in Igbo Syntax from the University of Ibadan in 1981. In 1984, Emenanjọ joined the services of the University of Port Harcourt as a senior lecturer and rose within a few times to the post of a Professor of Igbo Linguistics. He was appointed the Provost, College of Education Warri.

At Warri, the Federal Government of Nigeria appointed him the first Executive Director, National Institute of Nigerian Languages, Aba. He was known as one who had exhibited maturity and dynamism of leadership, promoting academics generally.

His name in Uniport attracted many Igbo and Linguistics scholars from all walks of life.

Professor Nolue Emenanjo as a Biographer

Professor Nọlue Emenanjọ was a great biographer. His “F.C. Ọgbalụ: His Times, Vision and the Igbo Language: An Overview” (1995) was a classic. He called for articles in Honour of Tony Uchenna Ubesie known as : “Tony Ubesie: The Man and the Artist” (2001). H

e was a great poet: His six published poems 3 in Ụtara Ntị (he edited) and 3 in Nkemakọlam (he edited). His poems are very sarcastic, satiric and critical of the society and government. He was a grammarian, having written many grammar books like: “Elements of Modern Igbo Grammar: a descriptive approach”, 1978; “Auxiliaries in Igbo Syntax: a comparative study”, (1985).

He published a gigantic grammar book in 2015 entitled: “A Grammar of Contemporary Igbo”, a 638 page work which Professor Ozo-mekuri Ndimele called a magnum opus. He was a great cultural advocate. He wrote “Igbo Language and Culture”, 1973. He was a great Linguist and had the national interests in mind. He wrote: “Multilingualism, Minority Languages, and Language Policy in Nigeria”, 1990.

He was a great essayist, powerful literary and social critic with a multifarious career in publishing, teaching, writing and criticism. He has published numerous books in Publishing, Editing, Igbo, Mass Communication, Linguistics. He wrote numerously on Spelling Rules System of the Igbo Language.

Professor Nolue Emenanjo Disagreement with Professor Chinua Achebe

Emenanjọ disagreed with Chinua Achebe at the launching of Emenyọnụ’s “The Rise of the Igbo Novel” (1978) and Emenanjọ’s “Elements of Modern Igbo Grammar (1978), who uttered what he deemed as unpleasant remark on the processes of Igbo studies growth.

Before Emenanjọ, there was no drama texts and poetic anthologies in Igbo. With him, Igbo had the first drama book entitled “Udo Ka Mma” (1974) and Igbo first written anthology entitled “Akpa Uche” (1975) and it was Oxford University Press that published them. Emenanjọ cleared the road for Igbo writers, now Igbo could boast of over 400 novels, 230 plays, 65 poetic anthologies despite the 30 wasted years of orthography controversy (1929-1961) and the civil war (1967-1970) which quenched the light of Igbo studies growth.

Professor Nolue Emenanjo and F.C Ogbalu

Ọgbalụ never took Emenanjọ for granted. As the one grounded in linguistic knowledge, an astute scholar and consummate researcher , he appointed him the Secretary of Igbo Standardization Committee in 1972. His committee was in charge of looking into problems facing the Igbo language, creative literature and other aspects of Igbo Culture. He was also co-author with Ọgbalụ in the Society’s book of reading: “Igbo Language and Culture”. He took active in organizing the various workshops of SPILC in the 1980s which resulted in the production and publication of the Metalanguage Volume of SPILC and Nigeria Educational and Research Development Council (NERDC)

After the death of Ọgbalụ in 1990, his successor Chief Chukwuma Nwokoye who was not an Igbo scholar and refused seeing the need for yearly seminars, conferences, meetings as avenues for Igbo growth led Igbo into orphan. ISA was formed in 2004 by Prof. Inno Ụzọma Nwadike and Prof E.N. Emenanjọ was appointed the Chairman and President till 2016 when something tragedy struck.

Organizations Professor Nolue Emenanjo was a Member

Emenanjọ was a member of the following organizations:

  1. Member, Society for the Promotion of Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC).
  2. Member, Igbo Studies Association.
  3. Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL)
  4. Fellow, Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN)
  5. Fellow, Modern Languages Association of Nigeria
  6. Knight of St. John International (KSJ)
  7. Ibuza Development Union (IDU)
  8. ONIA Welfare Association.

Emenanjọ delivered the first lecture series of Odenigbo. The caption of his lecture was: “Olu m Efula”.

Imo State Government highly recognized him at the Ahịajiọkụ lecture series of 2001. Emenanjọ was the lecturer and delivered this topic: “Igbo or Igboid: Igbo Language and Igbo Civilization”.

Emenanjọ has been given numerous awards, National and International awards. He published over 100 books, articles in countless numbers.

He was an oracle in Nigerian Education System. He stood as nnukwu mmọnwụ in the Examination syndicates like WAEC, NECO, JAMB, Ministries of Education, NUC. He had been an external examiner and moderator in many universities and colleges of Education.

I was a child when I started reading Emenanjọ’s books. I am privileged to have met him. I traveled to Uniport in 2011 when I was a university fresher to meet him. At the University of Nigeria, during a conference, I sat with him, discuss, chat, smile, and laugh. I was privileged and once recognized at the high table at a conference where I sat quietly at the right-hand side of Prof. Emenanjọ, that’s after I published my first Igbo book. Emenanjọ recognized my books. He called me “the present-day Tony Uchenna Ubesie”. He told me how Ubesie started at a younger age. He encouraged me to continue writing. I noticed he had a deep affection for Ubesie.

During the meeting for the preparation of the ISA conference 2015, my little humble self was with Professor Nọlue Emenanjọ, Professor Sam Ụzọchukwu (the first African philologist), and Professor Ịnnọ Ụzọma Nwadike. I felt highly privileged to be in their midst. Professor Nwadike my mentor told me before that time to stay behind. We went to CEC where they lodged. I joined in their discussion. The message that sank into my skull was: “Ogbonna jisi ike”. I could remember Emenanjọ and Ụzọchukwu’s question that I had no answer for: “Ogbonna have they employed you in the Department?” I replied that I had just graduated a month earlier.

I never knew that would be the end. I received a call early a year later that Professor Nọlue Emenanjọ was dead. I doubted. I picked up my phone and called him, but no one picked up my call. My heart was beating fast and panting. I called again, but it was off. I called Prof Inno Uzoma Nwadike who told me Emenanjọ was dead. I almost fainted because I was working on a book he had accepted to write me a foreword. Emenanjọ died.

Emenanjọ is dead but his impact on me, to ndị Igbo, to Igbo scholars, Linguists, media houses, publishing firms, education, ministries, examination bodies, universities, colleges of education, NUC, etc cannot be overemphasized. No Nigerian Linguist will finish up any writing, be it academic paper, literature, multilingualism, language structures, Language Policy in Education, Language of minorities, etc without mentioning Emenanjọ. I missed Prof. Emmanuel Nwanọlue Emenanjọ. I missed his sweet voice and vibrancy even in his old age, he attended and organized all the conferences. Imagine what his death caused!– ISA conference has never been held for years now because Emenanjọ has died just as SPILC had stopped functioning since Ọgbalụ died. His works speak for him. The name stands for time. Nọlue Emenanjọ is the name that alerts me all the time.

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