From Henry Akubuiro, Lagos
TITLE: NIGERIAN INDIGENOUS NAMES
AUTHOR: JOY IJENEME
PUBLISHER: Zamar Solutions
REVIEWER: CHIKA ABANOBI
The 71-page book written by Joy Ijeneme, makes for an exciting, unforgettable socio-cultural journey through Nigerian native anthroponyms, starting with Yoruba and ending with Edo. A 10-chapter take of short and uneven chapters, if you exclude the introduction and conclusion, it is packed with a hitherto unrevealed trove of socio-cultural information on indigenous names, with a list running into about 600 of them. In the book, some of the distributions are as follows: Hausa, 80; Yoruba, 190; Igbo, 50; Edo, 100; Igala, 20; Ijaw, 139; Urhobo, 39 and Efik, 37.
Abimbola (Yoruba) means “born into wealth.” So when Babatunde Raji Fashola’s wife or any other Yoruba bears the name and it ends up working for them, you should understand. Folashade (“use wealth as a crown”) reminds you of Folashade Mejabi Yemi-Esan, Nigeria’s current Head of Service. Gbemisola (“carry/lift me unto wealth”) sheds more light on the name of Gbemisola Ruqayyah Saraki, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Transportation. Oshiomhole (“God is the owner”), should be a fair enough warning, I guess, to all those who are opposed to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the former National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Is Iretiola Doyle, Nollywood popular actress still anticipating wealth or is she already comfortably settled in it? Her Yoruba name, Iretiola, according to Ijeneme, translates as “anticipation of wealth.” Chibuike, an Igbo name which stands for “God is strength” should remind you of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Minister of Transport) while Chidera (Igbo for “you can’t change destiny”) brings into sharper focus the name of Chidera Ejuke, the Nigerian professional footballer who plays forward for Russian Premier League Club, CSKA Moscow. Ebubechukwu (“God’s Glory” sometimes shortened to Ebube (Glory) makes you appreciate more the name of Ebube Nwagbo, the popular Nigerian actress of Igbo extraction.
Like other languages, Hausa names also have some interesting socio-cultural stories attached to them. Some of the names focused in the book include Bako – a male child born after the arrival of visitors in a household; Bara, a first male who was born after female siblings. Bara, the author notes, in the Hausa language means “to beg, it means they begged him out”; Bawa – a male child who was brought up by another woman that was not his mother and Ango – a male child who was born during a marriage ceremony in a household or family (remember Prof. Ango Abdullahi).
Others include Ariza – a male child whose mother underwent severe labour before he was eventually born; Shekarau – a baby who stayed up to a year in his mother’s womb before he was eventually born. A female child of such a phenomenon is called Shekara. So? As you can see, Ibrahim Shekarau, the son of a policeman who, during the time of his administration as governor of Kano State, created the fearsome religious police called Hisbah Guard, now busy destroying cartons of beer in Kano metropolis, has always been a troublemaker, right from his mother’s womb.
In a politically polarised polity such as Nigeria, divided along ethnoreligious fault lines, this book shows how we all share common humanity through our native names. From the explanations given by the author on native names, you understand that Anuoluwapo (Yoruba) and Chidiebere (Igbo) essentially mean the same thing: “God is merciful”. Ibukun (Yoruba) and Ngozi (remember Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration), also mean the same: Blessing (or God’s blessing).
Chizuruoke (Igbo) and Oluwatofunmi/Oluwatomilola/Oluwatomini (Yoruba) translate as “God is sufficient/enough for me”; Obiageli (remember Obiageli Ezekwesili) and Omobobola also mean the same: a child who came to meet/enjoy wealth; Nnenna (Igbo), “her father’s mother” and Yetunde (Yoruba) mean the same. Ayo (Yoruba), Inemesit (Efik) and Anuli (Igbo) all mean Joy/Happiness; Kosisochukwu (Igbo) and Boluwatife mean “as it pleased God/as God wanted/destined it” and Ife (Yoruba), Ifunanya (Igbo) Eguono (Urhobo) and Ima (Efik) mean “Love.”
Interestingly, the name “Okoro: means “man” or “male” in both Igbo and Urhobo. The same goes for “Oyibo”. The word means “Whiteman” in both Igbo and Urhobo languages and even in Nigerian Pidgin English. But more linguistic research will need to be conducted to help settle the broader issue of who borrowed from who among the speakers of the two languages when it comes to loaned words.
The author sees her effort as her contribution towards the revival of our dying culture in a globalised world. “There’s been a drastic nosedive in the use of indigenous names in Nigeria today,” she observes. “This development” she warns, “will not only rob us of our indigenous names and languages if allowed to linger but also send to the gate of extinction the names, value systems and the discourses by which we know our world and recognize ourselves.”
Born to Edo parents in Yoruba land (Surulere, Lagos) and married to an Igbo man, Joy, from Etsako West Local Government Area, used to bear Princess Taiye Amina Egbeagie Momodu. A true Nigerian, she is the product of a home where the indigenous language was spoken, taught and strongly encouraged. Her dad, an ex-police officer, she said, put in place disciplinary measures to ensure that all his children, including Joy, spoke their native language by forbidding English speaking at home. Little wonder she ended up the poster girl of that ideal.