The imperative of the standardisation of Aro publications

Ogbonnaya Akoma

According to the Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition of the New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (of 2010), the English word, ‘standard’ has about ten different meanings. But for the purpose of this article, the relevant meanings will be chosen – numbers four and five will be relevant here. Definition number four says: ‘Any established measure of extent, quantity, quality, or value.’ Number five says: ‘Any type, model, or example for comparism: a criterion, for excellence; test: a standard of conduct or test.’

In publishing anything that is to be read, it must be done in a way (or ways) the material will be readable. By this I mean the published article, book, periodical, newspaper, magazine, name it, must be subjected to many variables including proof-reading, proof of corrigenda and errata; before any publication is pushed out to the reading public, it must have been proof-read by publishing experts and edited properly by the relevant professional editors working in such publishing outfits. The beauty of any publication is that the reader reads the published material with ease, expects to learn from the piece that is being read, expecting to flow and reason with the writer; and noting that there are less and less errata and corrigenda; that clumsy and incorrect spellings and typographical mistakes (including frequent use of colloquial expressions) are reduced to the minimum. Above all, the standard use of English words must be observed.

But most times, a majority of published books, magazines, periodicals, booklets, fliers, et cetera, that circulate in Arochukwu contain so many of the above. Such publications, therefore, are not always readable; the presentations don’t follow ‘standardised’ ways. For example, the common-noun word ‘daredevil’ is a word (not two) that should not be written ‘dare devil!’ At other times, Igbo words are never italicised or written differently (choosing one accepted standard-style or the other in doing so.) But these lgbo expressions often appear in roman and, thus, forcing the non-lgbo reader to lose the meaning of what he reads in Aro publications!

Captions on photographs are made to guide the readers and for explanations/identifications. In many Aro publications, many photographs and other pictures are never captioned – they are left like that, thus the readers are left to guess and goof over the inserted pictures! This is what amateurish publishers can do!

In many Aro publications, American English usages hold sway and are often employed interchangeably and alongside those of British English instead of the British English that should be used throughout, as we are basically trained in the use of British English (as Nigeria is a former colony of Britain.) This confounds the readers who read and become more confused. Again, many common-noun words that should not be capitalised are often capitalised. In some other Aro publications, the quotation makes of both the British English and American English are interchangeably used to the confusion of the readers.

In standard publications, every page of the concerned materials is always thoroughly edited by expert-editors. In many Aro publications, clumsy expressions, bad English usages, numerous typographical errors and obvious mistakes in the use of the MA’s standardised usages are usually absent – such as commas, full stops; unacceptable grammatical expressions are always there; whereas these publications have personnel brandishing one editorial position or the other in them! In many Aro publications today, two versions of the word ‘Ezeogo’ usually appear as ‘Ezeogo’ and ‘Eze Ogo’ in many pages in each edition; no consistency!

According to Prof Otto Groth, no one man should write and publish public documents alone. That is why we usually have board of editors – those who edit public documents such as books, speeches, newspapers, journals, newsletters, etc. No one man should feel because he has a PhD (many holders do not even know how to write well the abbreviations of the degrees they parade these days) he can go ahead to write anything and push same to others to read. Degrees don’t actually write articles or scripts. Chinua Achebe wrote his classic novel Things Fall Apart while studying at Government College, Umuahia, ditto Chukwuemeka Ike and Kenule Saro-Wiwa who wrote novels while in the same college. James Ene Henshaw and Anezi Okoro (both medicos) wrote novels while they were trained in medicine; ditto Cyprian Ekwensi. Most of these writers wrote while they were mere students! Pita Nwana wrote Omenuko while working at Methodist College Uzuakoli (my Alma Mata) as a carpenter-student – in fact, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka never studied for any master’s degree programmes in their life!

So, anybody can write once there is effective teaching and learning; once there is interest to do so, and after which the scripts will be worked upon by expert-editors before publication. So, it is wrong for anybody to pick up his pen and write anything and go ahead to publish same himself and push out for public consumption because such an individual has obtained his PhD, or M Sc, or MBA or MED, or MA and BA. No; the Bible says that no matter what anyone knows, he knows in part; not the whole. So, that somebody has obtained a PhD does not automatically make him a good writer or mean he has known it all on how to use the English words better than others and edit himself.

What I mean here is that all Aro publications must be subjected to thorough editing, thorough proof-reading, and critically examined before publication. Let me go ahead to suggest that Aro publications should be handled by reputable publishers; they should not be handled by mere business centre operators because of issues bothering on sentimentality or ownership – we have overgrown this really. When any publication that bears ‘Aro’ on it turns round to contain numerous errors, corrigenda and numerous mistakes in spellings, narrations, usages and presentations, the reputation of every other Aro man is at stake, not only those ‘doctors’ who write and publish such unreadable works, brag and go ahead to call them ‘Aro’ publications they undertake because they live in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar and London, et cetera and have access to computer sets they can manipulate at will.

The services of well-educated and experienced Aro writers and editors (even outsiders) must be employed in publishing those ‘things’ we associate with Arochukwu; greenhorns  and neophytes must never be used alone in doing this based on their PhD’s or M Sc’s, as experience is never acquired through degree-acquisitions but through practice  over a period(s).

Yes, Aro publications must be of international standards before they are pushed to the reading public in order not to continue to force readers of these Aro publications to continue to think all Aro people as half-educated or illiterate people. This is where the rudimentary type of formal education acquired and the professional training received come to bear. Sentiments and mere possession of doctorate and master’s degrees mean little or nothing here. Writing is an art that can be acquired through practice and training, with or without degrees, especially when we understand that we have been known to have high level of  educational attainments, and had gone ahead to produce the first university graduate in the whole of Igbo land – Alvan Ikoku – in 1928!


About author

Ogbonnaya Akoma

Public health practitioner/public affairs commentator
Trans-Amadi Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State

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