Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, Director, Igbo Renaissance at the Gregory University, Uturu (GUU), Abia, said on Saturday that the university would soon introduce the Igbo language as a compulsory course in the second year.
Mr. Madubuike announced this at Uturu during the 6th edition of the Igbo (Uturu) Cultural Carnival, which held at the university.
"By the next two years, the university plans to introduce the Igbo language as a compulsory subject for all students in the second year.
"Whether you are Yoruba, Hausa or Efik, you must take Igbo as a compulsory subject, in spite of your area of specialisation," he said.
Mr. Madubuike described the Igbo language as the "soul of the culture of Ndigbo," adding that the disappearance of the language would mean the ultimate death of the culture.
Earlier, the traditional ruler of Oko in Anambra state, Laz Ekwueme, called for concerted efforts by people of the South-East to save the Igbo language from going extinct.
Mr. Ekwueme, who was the chairman of the carnival, expressed regret that the Igbo language was under serious threat, due to the decline in its usage as a means of communication in various families.
He noted that many families of Igbo origin preferred to communicate in foreign languages, especially the English language, with their children.
"More often, nowadays, you find many parents communicating with their children and relations in the English language, rather than the Igbo language," he said.
Mr. Ekwueme regretted that the development was capable of endangering the Igbo language, if not promptly checked.
The monarch, who was a former Minister of Education, commended the Chancellor of the University, Dr. Greg Ibe, for initiating the carnival.
"Anything that is done to encourage the sustenance of the Igbo language and culture would be encouraged," he said.
Mr. Ekwueme noted that the event would add value to similar efforts designed to re-establish and reinforce the Igbo culture.
He urged governors in the zone to rally support toward the sustenance of the culture and the language of Ndigbo by identifying with the carnival.
Prof. Barth Chukwuezi, a director in the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, expressed delight that the Igbo cultural heritage and artefacts could be found in abundance in Uturu.
Mr. Chukwuezi, who is the Head, Educational Services and Training, said that the commission often encouraged the people to communicate in their native languages during its outreach programmes.
He noted that the Igbo language ranked among the few native languages in the country facing serious threats of possible extinction and called for urgent steps to stem the tide.
"Once a people's language and culture go extinct, then the people literally cease to exist," Mr. Chukwuezi said.
He advised parents to encourage the use of the Igbo language in their homes, as a major means of communication with their offspring, to save the language from dying.
The initiator and sponsor of the carnival said that the objective of the yearly event was to provide a platform for the transmission of Igbo culture from one generation to another, among others.
He said that the theme of this year's carnival: "Ibu anyi danda" (meaning "resilience and the indomitable spirit") of Ndigbo, underscored the numerous challenges and struggles faced by the Igbo man.
Mr. Ibe noted that God had always rewarded the Igbo man with huge success in his vocations and determination to succeed in life.
The Chancellor explained that the ceremony was organised as "our contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind".
He described the celebration of a people's culture as "the celebration of their history, civilisation and the totality of their way of life".
The lecture on the theme was delivered by a renowned author and publisher, Chinedum Ofomata.
Highlights of the ceremony included cultural dances by various dance groups from 16 states of the federation.
Different kinds of masquerades, including "Ijele" and "Atu" from Anambra, took turns to perform at the event, which attracted a large crowd from within and outside the country.