By Frank Garriba in Abuja, Nigeria
What’s in a name you might ask? In Nigeria, a name means everything. Apart from easily identifying where you come from, it can define your destiny in life.
Olusegun in the name of two times Nigerian President Oluṣẹgun Mathew Okikiọla Arẹmu Ọbasanjọ means “The lord is victorious”. He “won” power as Military ruler 1976-1979 and again “won” power as elected president from 1999-2007.
Most Nigerian babies are given three or four names at birth and each of them is particularly significant. According to writer Tamie Dehler writing for The Tribune-Star “Each name tells something about the child and the family. The first name is the child’s personal name and may reflect the circumstances of the family. The second name is a descriptive name that expresses the personality of the child, expresses what the child might become, or is an attribute that the child is hoped to acquire. The third name relates to the child’s kinship. It could be the name of the earliest ancestor, a famous ancestor, or the name of items that are sacred to the family”.
When they grow up, Most Nigerians choose two of the names given to them at birth and add a third name that might be that of their father, grand-father or great-grand father.
When a woman gets pregnant each time in Nigeria, the family clan has nine months to name the baby to fit their given family circumstances. Their final choices eventually make leaders like Olusegun Obasanjo.
Hey, What’s my Name?
|In Nigeria joking around with people’s names and titles could cost you dearly. Journalists have to be extra careful when writing people’s names or using their titles, ensuring that names are not misspelt or titles left out. The great importance attached to names and titles is mainly by the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups, who make sure that such importance is upheld from childhood. Forgetting to mention the “chief” title in a man’s name has landed many journalists in hot waters.
“Abadom”is a male Igbo name, which makes reference to a situation where the family was chastised, hence a plea not to be chastised any longer. The name means the bearer brings good tidings
. “Chinualumogu” the middle name of Late Nigerian writer Albert Chinualumogu Achebe means “May God fight on my behalf”
This was reflected in the life of the late Achebe, who was critical of the Nigerian government and even refused honours offered him by different regimes.
Yoruba names and their meanings
It is interesting to note that most Yoruba names are of West African origin and are used across the region, with the meanings either varying slightly or are the same.
Abeni is a female name of Western African origin, which in Yoruba, means “we asked for her, and behold, we got her,” while Abidemi is a male name of the same origin, which in Yoruba, means, “born during father’s absence.”
On the other hand, Ayokunle, Babajide, Babatunde, Bamidele and Bosede mean “joy has filled the home,” “father has returned,” “father has returned,” “follow me home” and “born on Sunday,” respectively, while the female names Bolanle, Bada and Dayo are interpreted as “finds wealth at home,” “curly hair” and “joy arrives.”
The Yoruba are one of the ethnic groups in Nigeria with tongue-twisting and sometimes musical names. The female Omolara, Oni, Simisola, Titilayo, Yejide and Yewale names mean “a child is family,” “born in sacred abode,” “rest in wealth,” “eternal happiness,” “image of the mother,” and “mother has returned,” respectively, while the unisex names Opeyemi and Temitope mean “I should give praise” and “enough to give thanks.”
Hello be thy name!
It goes without saying that once you choose the name of your little baby, the baby will carry that name for life, even though in certain cases, a name can cause laughter and mirth. Many countries, including Nigeria, have a law that at the time of registration of a child’s name, the state can object to it and prevent its registration if it is found inappropriate.
Nkem in the name of one of Nigeria’s most famous comedy actors Nkem Owoh simple means “Mine” or “my own”. That’s probably why he is his own man!
We mostly knew him as Olusegun Obasanjo but we now know the “Olusegun” name his parents gave him at birth (which means The Lord is Victorious) probably led him to seek power and that helped shape the destiny of Nigeria for 11 long years.