Nigeria's Obsession With Indigenous Naming 

''A whisper of breathe as slight as a name can hold a child's destiny in its exhale'' Enuma Okoro.

''Oh daddy! Why can't she change her name to that'' I murmured as I unloosed my black tie and strenched my hand to get a chilled water from the fridge. It was one sunny Thurday afternoon, my sister and I had just came back from our baptismal class- where we were having conversation about what name she'd like to be penned on her baptismal certificate. Basically, if my parent had given her a proper biblical name, apart from Comfort which she hates; maybe because of the way it sounds when pronounced as a noun and not a verb or the fact that the name doesn't have a direct affiliation with anyone in the bible. There wouldn't have been need for this conversation now. For me, I don't have issues with my name/names because my parent were no more apparently suckers in the Christendom when I slid out of my mother's womb on a quite April morning at home in Lagos. Apart from one. Yeah! one. One recurring note that stucked with my high school folks and the people that know me is my surname-Aboderin. You'd be long interrogated if you are looking for Opeyemi without adding Aboderin in my high school days. Everytime, they make jokes of how my ancestors aren't brave enough to hunt for themselves and this have led them to become hunter's followers (as my surname implies). I'd believe they were wrong. But in retrospect, they were actually right. Looking at the fact that I couldn't singurlarly draw a lady to my nest without the help of my friends.  

In most part of Nigeria cultures, the processes of making and choosing a name for a child takes different and diverse forms. The day, circumstances attached to the genesis of a child's birth, the impact his/her birth has to a family, the God or gods the family worship and what a parent hope for the future of a child determines the name that will be given to a child. In Yoruba culture, all this processes can give you a hit into where a child is coming from and what possibly will become of his/her future.  For instance, the name ''Bose, Abiodun, and Odunayo'' means those who are born during the week/festive period. Those bearing Yetunde, Babajide, Iyabo, Babatunde are believe to be a reincarnation of a dead grandma/pa. In recent times, I've been playing with the meaning of my friends name in my head. Damilola (created for riches), Ayodele (Joy cometh home), Toluwani (Belongs to God), Oreoluwa (gift of God), Titilayo (forever joyous), Abolaji (wakes up with riches), Ojekunle (masquerade fills home), Ibukun (blessing).  

 My mother was sitting on  ''apoti''- a wooden brown stool, chit chating with us on the need to be mindful of the name we give our children in the future when I told her I'm going to name my future daughter ''Eisteinne''- female version of Albert Eistein. The conversation was becoming intense before Mama Arike; our neighbor knuckle hit our iron door. Holding a pawpaw she must have plucked from her husband's farm. ''Who knows the news she has for us this time'' I whispered.''  Hallelujah! echoed the room when she broke the news about one of her colleagues who has been looking unto God for the fruit of the womb for years and her prayers have just been answered. Her colleagues has just given birth to a baby girl. As she dipped her hands into her purse to reach for her phone to spread the good-news of the birth to Baba Arike, Arike's voice interrupted the process. ''This child has started again with her cry cry'' mama Arike grumbled.  Each time, Arike's shoulder goes up and down when her mother offers her biscuits without a sweet when going to school. And each time her mum told her she couldn't afford what she asked for. She bursts into tears. Neighbors have questioned why her parents named her Arike (Able to care for) when they know they wouldn't be able to care for her. And this have led her parents considering calling her by her other names. 

This must have been what my dad was holding on to that sunny afternoon when we debated the name my sister is going to have on her baptismal certificate. A childs' name is a determining factor to what will become of his/her future. But, how true is this believe to you?

Photo credit: Pixabay



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