Wetin bi Agbasa box?

Edwin Eriata Oribhabor

When over a year ago I embarked on the unfamiliar endeavour of a writing style that promotes Naija (aka Nigerian Pidgin) in an interesting mix with the English language, I was not oblivious of the fact that many would be wondering about its rationale in terms of effectively communicating with my readers. I also appreciated the fact that it will not only be branded as “distasteful” but a complete infringement on the familiar simpul an koret inglish stail that we all know. Som go ivun se, a no go fit hold mai said fo dis kain stail; some would doubt whether I could hold my own in this novel style of writing. This conservative position supports the status quo that says; English language must remain the only official lingua franca in this country.

Drawing from the above, there’s no gainsaying the fact that in Nigeria, some of us still “talk down” on Naija langwej by the kind of comments we make like; “No bi pidgin?”, “No bi brokin?”, “Wetin konsain mi wit pidgin?” and the like. Majority are yet to fully appreciate the language from an unbiased standpoint. The popular belief in this regard can be summarized as “brokin na brokin an notin de hapun”; which is to say, “Pidgin English” will ever remain “Pidgin English” and there’s no hope of it developing into a fully fledged language. Consequent upon this parochial disposition, little or no attention is being paid to various inputs/entries coming from the nation’s rich socio-cultural, ethnic and traditional backgrounds. Hardly do we realize that as a dynamic language, Naija gets richer and stronger by such diverse inputs. Therefore, as a Promoter of the language, I owe it as a duty to dig up old unpopular words to avoid their extinction. For example, agbasa box as used in the title of this piece will no doubt sound strange to many. This has necessitated the question as captured; wetin bi agbasa box?

In the Warri, Sapele and Ughelli axis of Delta State, Agbasa box is used for musical speakers with output that’s hardly pleasing to the ears. Na dat kain spika we de du gbo gbo gbo. Whenever you hear a supposedly beautiful music coming out from a musical speaker and you felt strongly that it was not di ril tin, na agbasa box bi dat. This contrasts sharply with high quality musical speakers found in reputable club houses, lounges, hotels etc. The quality of the play out from a speaker determines whether it should be called an agbasa box oo koret miuzik spika. Any club house worth its name would never go for an agbasa box or cheap musical loud speakers because it will tell negatively on its image. Some high profile functions were in the past messed up by the kaid of yeye musical loud speakers used. Credible event planners usually go the extra mile in ensuring that they hire high quality microphone or loud speakers in all of their events. Against this background, pesin we de du pati sopoz nou se, beta sup na moni kil am. Agbasa box na spika we no de trowe miuzik di we i sopoz bi.

The subject matter reminds me of the days of Rediffusion, when eni miuzik yu hie fo redio, yu go tek am laik dat. No tunin. You will find an old-looking musical speaker strapped to the wall with music coming out for the sake of listening while the quality of the output was never an issue. These days, we have smol smol modern speakers that perform fantastically to the admiration of any audience. This contrasts sharply with doz des when musical speakers were valued based on their sizes.

The name Agbasa box has its origin in a town called Agbasa in Warri. It is not in popular usage nationally and like most words in Naija, it’s hard to say who coined it. Why it is so addressed remain unclear to me especially when the old Warri Radio Station is located along Bazunu Road and not in Agbasa (all in Warri.)

The meaning of Agbasa box is not restricted to low quality musical speakers with poor output. It could be used as a disapproval of the audibility of a voice of someone expressing him/her. In other words, it’s a form of yabis for one with a husky voice. Finally, it’ could be used in expressing one’s disagreement with a comment made by another likened to telling one that he/she sounds Greek.

The following is a summation of an exchange between two friends:
James: Wetin yu de tok so?
Dickson: Na wetin yu de hie?
James: Na propa Agbasa box!
Dickson: Na yu get yo “ear”.
Agbasa box na miuzik spika we de trowe miuzik fo di kain we we no koret. Anoda na di we pesin vois de komot. Di fainal won na wen pesin yan wetin pesin no laik.

Edwin Eriata Oribhabor
Mr. Oribhabor is a Promoter of Naija (aka Nigeria Pidgin) and resides in Abuja.

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