Nigerians And Names




Just yesterday, I was opportuned to discuss with a good friend of mine who I respect so much because of his level of reasoning and approach to issues. We talked about a lot of issues affecting us as Nigerians. But there is one that really caught my attention and got me thinking for a very long time.

We raised so many reasons people, especially Nigerians, change their names. Gradually, our family names are going with nobody talking about it. Let us start with women; women are no longer original in everything they do, not only in the area of beauty and lifestyle, but also their names.

It is now very fashionable for a woman to drop her husband’s family name and take up just the man’s name. I know you don’t see anything wrong with this, but it is one reason women no longer see themselves as part of the man’s family. To the modern day woman, marriage is just to her husband and not his family as the Nigerian culture implies.

Look at it this way; assuming Okeke has three sons and each of them got married to women who feel they are too educated or polished to add the family name to theirs, what happens in the next three generations? Some of these ladies will add the man’s name first before the family name. Assuming the three sons, Idowu, Musa, and Obinna, have their wives with their names before the family name, for instance, Yemi Idowu-Okeke or Aisha Obinna-Okeke; what happens if in the third generation, their wives decide to go that same way? Your guess is as good as mine; the family name will be forgotten someday. Then we will have names hyphenated like Yemi Iyke-King-Idowu-Okeke. Does this make sense?

Men should discourage their wives from this mistake in the name of civilization. My friend took a step further to ask a woman her reason for putting the husband’s name before the family name. According to her, there is no good reason, she is just being stylish and flowing with the trend.

A lot of women may not like me for saying this; but I don’t know why we have to copy everything bad and anti-African all in the name of civilization. I was brought up to believe a woman drops the father’s name the moment she enters her husband’s house. But these days, even ladies with no big names want to keep their father’s names while telling their husband how much they love them and their family. Why settle for the man if you think his name is not powerful enough to open doors for you? It is even understandable when that lady is a public figure and has made a name which she has to keep with the approval of the husband.

We are gradually losing our family names and the parents are not saying anything about this. It is very rampant among the Igbos because I have come to the realisation that the other Nigerian tribes are proud of their names as against Igbos who change their names with just one trip to Togo.

I know some people will criticize me as usual for saying this truth, but it doesn’t matter; I am familiar with that. But before you crucify me, take some time out and take a mental census. How many Yoruba girls have changed their names from their native names even when they are CNN presenters? Think of all the names like Beyonce, Jennifer, Genevieve and Amy; are they not all Igbo girls? I don’t know if we have Shakira and Rihanna, but soonest they will surface among us.

Now, let us let the girls be; what about my brothers? Why should any reasonable man decide to drop his family name just because he wants to gain acceptance in a particular environment? I get confused these days when I try to guess people’s ethnic groups. We used to use names to identify people in Nigeria, but with what is happening, you can’t even tell who is a Nigerian.

Have you taken out time to look at the names we have on Facebook? I see Yorubas and Hausas chat in their local languages wherever they are, but when you meet your fellow easterner, the first confusion that sets in is with his name as you can’t even tell where he is from. Even when you succeed in knowing his tribe, try speaking to him in Igbo language and the next thing you hear is grammar.

Why should a man be foolish to the point of forfeiting his family name? We now have names like Macloyd; MacDaniel, MacAnthony…It is sad, really sad. Whenever you see a Nigerian man who has these names, please think and see a man who is low in self-esteem and is in a serious battle with complex. A real man will never forfeit his traditional or family name for one oyibo name. You don’t have to end it there, please go a step further by changing your skin colour and possibly your nose and hair like Michael Jackson; I hope you are not getting close to your grave.

Can I even ask you a question; do you know the meaning of all those Jennifer, Beyonce, Curry and Thyme, you have as names? Isn’t it safer and better going on with your native names that you can easily tell people the meaning? I am not ready to change or abbreviate my name because someone somewhere has to pronounce it well. They have never changed theirs to suit me and so it would be stupid of me to change mine for them.

I see some people take up their pastor’s surname as theirs all in the name of religion. I remember during the time of Reverend King; people dropped their family names for his. Then you see my Igbo brothers and sisters with names like Ijeoma King, Ikechukwu King…na waoh. Some even have their ministry’s name as their family name. You are saying one thing; I am not a part of my biological family.

We also have to be very careful about the names we give to children all in the name of Christianity. I look at some names with certainty that the children are going to change them once they get to the university because they can’t afford to turn themselves to laughing stock among their peers.

I have heard names like Shekinahglory, Divinetreasure, Divineark; what do you think will happen to these names in the nearest future? Let us stop being too spiritual with the names we give to our children. Give them good names, but please try to be discerning in the process. Give your child a name he or she can comfortably and proudly keep when he or she is in the university because if you don’t do that now, a day will come that you will get to the school gate and be asking for Shekinahglory only to find out that the girl changed her name some weeks before.

I prefer calling my children their Igbo names and I have no regrets about it. We should do everything possible to take these children back to their roots. I know they sometimes come up with some funny things. I remember my daughter telling me to write to the school to change her name to Chelsea. Lovely name I said, but I am sorry I won’t do that because I don’t know the meaning. Let them know the meaning of their native names and constantly remind them that that is their first name. I suggest we stop all these abbreviation of names as that would help stop us from losing the true meaning of names. What will your child say is the meaning of the name Kamy, Kenny, Amy , Kora and so on?

Let us go back to our roots and regain our lost identities. Travelling out of the country shouldn’t make you drop your native name for a foreign name. It only says one thing; he is not proud of his root.


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