Meanings Africans Attach To A Name

by Odimegwu Onwumere

Name bearing has been a thing of great concern to mankind; especially it is hidebound to the people of Africa. It is so important that naming ceremonies are hosted for a newborn child. In some traditions, they consult divine powers to seek the name the child shall be given. They would want to identify the child.

Today, name, apart from being an identity, has turned into a fashion. Some people feel that the name one is bearing has great effect on the person and controls the person’s destiny in life. And if that may be true, then, Nigeria has to be changed to a new name because a lot of uglies have been recorded in the country.

But that subscription is dicey in the sense that the white men bear some shoddy names that an African can’t imagine, let alone giving them to their wards, yet they prosper more than those whose names are similar to that of the great man of morality, Jesus Christ, in Africa.

It is heartwarming to know that ‘our destinies are in our hands’ but disheartening to notice that a lot of Africans see anything that has to do with Africa as Satanic and evil. A lot of people would not want to be associated with any tradition or culture that has African flavour except they are directed by a white man or the white man’s agents to do so.

Africans feel inferior so much about their way of living; they are biased so much in the sense that the untold hardship and poverty racking the continent are attributed to the misdeeds of their forefathers and the African religion they held with morality.

This fact leads to the Christians’ ‘land deliverance’ in all the climes of African sub-regions. The fear that ‘whatever your father did shall pass from one generation to another’ has become pestilence in the heart of many Africans. People run helter-skelter these days for divine intervention. People are delivering the land but hardly any person wants to deliver the heart.

The heart is where all the evils ransacking Africa are nurtured, not in name. Is it the so called misdeeds of the forefathers’ that covered the minds and hearts of today’s African leaders to be gluttonous and misrule Africans with scorpions? Who in Africa has done what the white man’s forefathers did? Yet they are prospering.

Anywhere in the world you go today, there are people of African descent who cannot trace their root, an act occasioned by the wicked act called slave trade introduced by the white man. African mentality is so colonized to the extent that it needs another kind of colonialism to decolonize it.

Bearing a name in Africa is causing a lot of havoc! Women are the culprit. None want their children to be associated with Africa, thereby naming their children names they don’t know the meaning of – English or Latin – all in the name of Christianity.

But if a child is named Chidi, Sola or Musa in the church as his or her baptismal name, won’t the clergy accept that? How many white men bear the name from Africa or even the so called Christian names? No matter how Malcom X tried to trace his origin in Africa, his name still remained Malcolm X and not Lekan, Chidi or Bola.

It is time Africans decolonized their heart! It is time Africans traced their root and know that the name given to a child explicates the significance of what happened or transpired the period the child was born and not to determine the child’s destiny. Do white men not answer Bush, Wood, Toad, Frog, and so forth yet they prosper?

Africa’s names have metamorphosed from epic to modern African names and now to European. African languages are also on the verge of extinction, if not in oblivion, for the white man’s.

A lot of Africans do not feel proud to speak their mother tongue in the public. When asked their names, they call names that are even irritating to the ear starting from the pronunciation instead of their native given names. An African may write under the foreign name but has to be called by Africa’s local name because name is not a fashion but an identity.

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Amobi July 22, 2011 - 10:56 pm

bros one love. i am in short of words. Udo dili gi!!

LAwanda September 2, 2008 - 9:59 pm

This is a powerful article but do not believe that slavery is only a white man sin. For thousands of years human kind has enslaved people of different race, different economic status or just who ever they could conquer. Whites enslaved whites, black enslaved black and so forth. Slavery is evil but what other country tore itself apart and fought brother against brother to see its end ?

michael Isaac July 12, 2007 - 6:13 pm

I really like your article, and I am in the process of changing my name. I could never understand why so many blacks descendents of Africans hate to identify with Africa. Nevertheless, your article did shed light on this matter.

Uduak Ekanem June 26, 2007 - 1:35 pm

This is a very interesting article and this topic should be taken very seriously.

I am always very puzzled and sort of dissappointed when I see our African people going out of their way to give their children European names. This is just another aspect of the colonial mentality that we still have and is a form of "Mental Slavery".

As anyone ever thought what it will be like if we Nigerians all beared English names? First of all we won't even be able to identify our tribal origins. East Africans and also Ghanians are known to have European names but I am glad to see that most of we Nigerians bear ethnic tribal names. I have met some Nigerians here in the U.S that are ashamed to bear their ethnic names and instead tell their co-workers and friends to address them with an English name or Americanize their names i.e Seun-Shaun, Tokumbo-Toky, Abiola-Aby.

I am always asked "Is that the name you bear at work?" and I proudly tell them "Yes". What name do you expect me to bear. I am not going to change my name for the convenience of others who are just ignorant to realize that not everyone bears Mary, John or Peter.

A lot of Americans and unfortunately even some Africans give the excuse that Nigerian or African names are very hard to pronounce. That's just an excuse!!! I have heard so many complicated Eastern European and Asian names – Schwazenegger – As long as you can pronounce that, you should have no problem pronouncing any African names. If we are ashamed of our ethnic names, how do we expect other people to respect us as a people. No wonder other races (mostly Europeans) keep looking down on us because we keep on trying to adopt their culture. Have you ever heard of a European person bearing an African name? Please ask yourself that question the next time you are considering giving your African child a European name. With the introduction of Christianity in Nigeria came the adaptation of Christian (I still consider them English names) names and African names being neglected.

A name is an identity – It traces your roots. A name lets you know your ancestry and origin. We shouldn't be ashamed of our unique Nigerian names at all and should stop adopting European names. We should be proud of who we are as a people.

I would like to commend this writer for bringing out this topic for discussion.

Dele June 23, 2007 - 10:36 pm

Good and hard hitting article. Our people are doing away with the only treasures we have left. Our culture and identity. Point of correction, Malcom X was given the name Omowale when he visited Ibadan, Nigeria in the Sixties.


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