WHAT IS IN A NAME? BY PROFESSOR FRANCIS EGBOKHARE

Ethnics
Credit: tourbrokersinternational.com

I gave a seven year old the following names: Braimoh, Stephen, Uzor, Segun. I asked him to say which of the persons is most intelligent. He picked Stephen. I then asked him to pick the most successful of  the underlisted names: Marion, Bilikisu, Okon, Chukwu, Osaghaede. Marion turned out to be the most successful. Joke and Bimpe were chosen as more beautiful than Bilikisu and Ngozi. Anumakaza was chosen as the chief in a list including Ope, Osa and Okon. In terms of strength, Chukwu was chosen because according to the child who is not Igbo, Igbo bones are very strong. If you have some time, conduct your own test and you will be amazed to see that even at that tender age, names matter a lot. If a Nigerian child sees a white kid as more intelligent and a White-man as more successful, who can blame him. T.V. characters and heroes are white. Their parents travel abroad and speak of such countries as paradise. It will be interesting to find out how children perceive other ethnic groups in Nigeria. What does a Yoruba kid think of the Igbo or vice versa? This is not a study I am willing to do because I am afraid of the result. Don’t blame the kids, they see and hear their parents.

Talk about stereotypes. In every ethnic group there are stereotypes about others. For instance, Yorubas to some cannot be trusted. The Igbos are greedy, the Fulani are cunning; or the Hausas are hard-hearted, Ijaw are unruly, Edo are wicked, the Ora are witches, name it. All the nasty things are said about other groups. But if we try, we will find good things about other groups and lots of bad and shameful things about our own people. All, these, notwithstanding; there is some truth about stereotypes. They are often founded in our attempt to read other cultures through our own looking glasses. Consequently, to a culture that favours direct language, loading meaning in nuances will amount to deceit. On the other hand, where nuances and indirectness is the cultural reference, being too direct is perceived as aggression. So, the Igbos see themselves as hardworking, but in a non-republican setting, especially one that is communal, being independent may be perceived as greed, stinginess or selfishness. We need to be more scientific in our evaluation of other people. There is no Nigerian language without label for a thief, cheating, witch, wickedness, etc. This tells us that these vices are also native to our own group. Next time you are tempted to counsel a people, look at your language for the equivalent label. If you find one, know you are also guilty.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Festus says:

    When I was 14, I asked my 11 years old brother that, “if Mummy Daniel, Mama Dada and Iya Dauda were given moin moin (Bean puddle), who will eat it with bread, pap or garri (cassava flakes) among the women?”
    Like I would have said, he chose bread for Mummy Daniel, Pap for Mama Dada and Garri for Iya Dauda. Simply because “mummy” is to believed sophisticated, “Mama” should be semi – literate/semi- exposed/ semi-civilised and “Iya”, a stack illiterate!
    Unfortunately, we were wrong! It is their economic power, taste or disposition and not their names or title that would have determine their choices.

    Like

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