First Culture

Find Out What These Africans From Across The Continent Think Of Their Names

Find Out What These Africans From Across The Continent Think Of Their Names

By: Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke

Not only are African names a testament of our distinctiveness, they also are a big part of who we are. They cradle in their syllables layers upon layers of meaning and in their rhythmic words, a string of anecdotes one cannot help but be thankful for. But are we all thankful our names? Do we look upon them with the eye of gratitude or with the perceptiveness of one handed a burden to sustain?

I recently asked a few people from around the continent on Facebook what they think of their given names and this feature was born.

Keem Tunde: Names are tags and for every name is a story. I grew up being called ‘Biola’ which was too popular. I once shortened my surname ‘Adekunle’ to ‘Dekunle’ and at a time, I added ‘jnr’ to Dekunle because my dad always called me Junior. I bear same name with him. But when he died, Dekunle jnr somehow felt like a weight. I stopped using it. My present Facebook name is Keem, I removed the A before the K though, but I wanted to always remember my dad. Babatunde means I have been here before, I like it.

Enyene Raph: I love my names. All three of them. I like how my first name is Ibibio and the other two are foreign. I used to enjoy lying to people that my grandpa was half Nigerian and half German. Lol. It’s not all glam though. Enyene is not a popular name, so I have to battle with oversabis who want to change it to something they’re more familiar with, like Inyene. It’s why I dread having to tell people my name.

Uzochukwu Cecilia Klemetsrud:

While in the Philippines I never allowed anyone call me Uzochukwu because it got mispronounced. My second reason was that I was so tired of trying to correct them. I settled with my middle name and it worked fine. It was only after I met my husband that I started telling people my name was Uzochukwu because he told me he liked my name. At first he couldn’t pronounce it well but now he’s doing a great job. Everyone that met me after him knows me as Uzo.

Collins Ekhoe Amadasun: I wasn’t really comfortable. Only My Dad, grandma, mum and other old family members called me by Native Name ‘Ekhoe’ a shortened form of Ekhoemagbomwan’aiwusokpenehikhare. At first I never wanted anyone to call me by that name because I felt it was too long and people would laugh at me when they hear it. But as I grew older I just didn’t care anymore if anyone laughed at the name or not. Now more than ever I am so proud of my name and that gives me a sense of identity.

Michael Ogah:

Mine is Michael Inalegwu Ogah. For so weird reason, I reserve the middle name, not because I’m not proud of it, on the contrary I love it, but because I feel it helps me separate my inner circle from my outer circle.

Akan Imoh: It’s my surname I hated. ‘Emmanuel’. I just feel it’s too common. I can’t even stand the name. More so, I don’t like English names. I prefer native names. You call me Emmanuel, I’ll answer you with a frown. But, I so love my name. It’s actually ‘Akanimo’. Just one name. When I finally dropped ‘Emmanuel’, I picked my name, added an ‘h’ to it, broke it into two and it has become my official name since then.

Ovie Akpoveta: Joshua was too Biblical. Akpoveta was too ‘strong’. Ovie, in Delta, was too rampant. One of my favourite people on this planet is Jesse Jagz aka Jago. He said Jago was an acronym for Jesse Abaga Garba O(O was just to complete it). I was like, well, I could do that too. So I put together the first letters of my names and became Jago.

I’m not comfortable when people call me any of my birth cert names. Jago, I’ve always been and have always been called since as far back as I can remember. KI Jago. I’m pretty, preeeetty comfortable with that even when nine out of ten people stop to ask, “Whish kain name be dat?”

MystiqueSyn Osuchukwu:

Creative Director at 25pointzero, a creative agency for SMEs and startups

I have a lot of names. It has become a problem especially with branding. Do I use one and leave the other? Which do I leave? Which do I use? I don’t know. Sometimes, I answer everything. Sometimes, I just share parts of it to different people. One thing though: I love all of them. I am fiercely proud of my name. It has meaning. It has life. It is a reflection of me.

Here they are: Onyinyechukwu- God’s gift. Nkiruka- The future is better. Adadioramma- The daughter that is good to her people. Cynthia- Goddess of fire. Syn- an anglicised version of Cynthia. Shortened because of my craft.(I write erotica. It rhymes with sin). Maria-Rosa Mystiqa= Like Mary, the Mystical Rose. Mystique is the short version of this. Uriella= The female version of the fourth Archangel.

Each name is a piece of me. Completely legal, too. They can be found on my documents, writings and other creative dealings. I am glad to call them mine. Wouldn’t change them for anything.

Mfoniso Udosen: I’m from two tribes, I have two indigenous names from those tribes respectively. At some point I hated the fact that I had no English name so I told people that my name was a modified translation of one of my native names; Lucky. Mfoniso means Good-luck. I grew past that phase and transitioned into loathing the length of my name, my surname especially. ‘Nna-udosen Ekenedilichukwu Mfoniso’. I shortened it to Nna-udosen ‘Ekene’ Mfoniso. Soon, I removed the ‘Nna’ from my surname and decided to go with just ‘Udosen’ which is how it’s supposed be, except my father had so much love for the igbo tribe that he added ‘Nna.’ Physically, I’d tell you my name plainly. My name is Nna-udosen Ekene Mfoniso.

Lilian Nwobashi: If my father had succeeded, maybe I wouldn’t have liked my name. He took a look at his beautiful daughter and named me USULOR NDIDIAMAKA PATIENCE. He traveled when it was time to baptize me and my mum renamed me Usulor Lilian Ndidiamaka. She couldn’t understand why her daughter will be Ndidiamaka and at the same time Patience. Growing up I wondered why he chose two names that sounded like ‘long suffering’ to me. I asked and he told me he always wanted a daughter (lost his only sister when he was small, making him an only child). He’s the only one that calls me Ndidiamaka, when we have  serious personal gist, so i bear my name with pride and everyone is happy.

Aliyu Jalal:

My surname is actually “Jalaluddeen” although “Jalal” is acceptably the shortened form. I felt at a point that the former was too long especially when a Yoruba teacher at primary school had to double the “la” and it would give a funny sound and classmates would laugh at it. So I changed it to “Jalal” at secondary school because I didn’t want to correct people. Now I’m happy I use “Jalal” cos many people say it’s sexy. But if I had remained “Jalaluddeen”, I think it could still be sexy. Because I’d always define my name.

 Spirit Being: At birth, I was named Marline by my mum’s friend, who was a Hebrew woman. It is the name given to every first daughter in a Hebrew town called Magda. It is synonymous to Ada in Igboland. This became my first name. My grandma then named me “Kemjey”. This is a Banso name, which means ” my own is different .” Banso is a tribe from North East Cameroon, where my mum hails from. My grandma named me thus, because my dad is Igbo and they disliked Igbo people. So, in essence, my own is different . My mum named me “Leinyuy”, also a Banso name, which translates as ” God is the caretaker.” These are the names you’ll find on my birth certificate and first school leaving certificate. Emmanuel Marline Kemjey Leinyuy.

I came back to Nigeria when I was almost 14 and while enrolling into a secondary school in the east, they insisted that I must bear an Igbo name. So, I took up the general family surname, “Okoh” and an Igbo name, “Oluchi”, which means God’s handiwork. I adopted the name because I admired Oluchi the model. So, Ofcourse, I officially dropped all other names and only retained my first name. I’m now officially Okoh Marline Oluchi.

Peter Ayodele Adesanya:

As an Actor, I used to think Peter Ayodele Adesanya was too long because of my desire to have a name that would easily stick on people’s minds. I opted for Peter Adesanya instead and then one day I realized there was a Nigerian born Hollywood Actor called Akinwale Akinnuoye Agbaje and that was how the name was spelt for every movie he did. That’s when I decided to keep the middle name. My role on Tinsel had Peter Ayodele Adesanya.

Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye: I idolize my name. Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye. It’s like an obsession, the way I emphasize on it, emphasize on the fact that when coming out in print, the hyphen must always be there and it should be just as I write it. I really really love my name, like really really.

Timi Nipre:

My name Timi-nipre is actually my first name. I used to feel so awkward saying it completely and besides why say it all, when Timi was what everyone called me at home. Funny still was the fact that I still felt uncomfortable with the Timi because it reminded me of Timi-nipre. And most people would go ‘What’s the complete name, it can’t be just Timi’ and I’ll find myself stuttering through it. By the time I was in secondary school it became worse because my friends would rather tease me calling and making caricature of my name Timi-nipre. I’d get offended and curse at my name.

But because I have also been very defensive of anything that makes me uneasy I began to get defensive of my name. I’d ask for the meaning of their supposedly fly names, especially the foreign names. Some also had funny sounding native names and I’d laugh to a pulp too, making mockery and jest of their names too. I began to fall in love with my name especially because of the story surrounding my birth and why I was called Timi-nipre. It began to make me feel special.

So today I don’t even attach any other names to it. Not my English names or even surname. I also write with just this name now. So when next you see me and call me Timi Nipre just know you’re asking me to ‘Stay for you.’

Sylvia Eguzoro: I’m Chijioke. I hated that name because few girls go by the name. When I was to start my secondary school education, I was asked to shave my hair because the school was a public school. It didn’t help that my chest was almost flat too. It wasn’t enough that I knew I looked like a man, some teachers decided to emphasize it. It was so bad that during WAEC registration, they put male as my sex. Took a while to change it too. In the University, the lectures still expect a male to stand up when my name is called. It took a while to accept it. It really did. But I had to and now I love the name. Very.

Ps, I like to think my parents had a premonition I’d be the only child. So they gave me both male and female names.

Kayode Somtochukwu Ani: First Kayode was the problem because it gave me an identity that wasn’t mine. I was certain I would change it but then I realized that despite the fact that it made people think something of my ancestry that wasn’t true, it was still my name and aside from the constant questions, I did like the name and can’t imagine replacing it with anything else. Then it was Somtochukwu. That became the problem. Pronouncing my full name to myself just felt off because of the syllabuses of that name.

Not to mention that I’m not a fan of the meaning. But then it balances out my other name cause it gives my name Igbo anchorage. I guess. I don’t think I’ll ever fully like my full name or dislike it. I think because of the horror of bearing Kayode growing up, I’ve completely become emotionless towards my name.

Favour Chidera Okeke:

I used to have issues with both names. I was angry with my mom for a long time. Why would she give me two female names ? People didn’t also make it easy. First of all, I was assumed female if I wasn’t present. Second of all, if I’m present, I’d have to give a lecture as too why a male can bear Favour and Chidera. At some point I thought too take up a more ‘manly’ name like Edward. Micheal. Chiedozie etc. But now, I love my name. The love is so much that sometimes I take a full scalp sheet and fill it up with my name. I go to my timeline and admire my name. When asked why I’m bearing female names, I let the question rot without a reply.

Zainab Haruna: I have always loved my name. I can remember when I was very small (I was in primary one) that I used to thank God for giving my parents the wisdom to give me such a beautiful name. The only other name I would have ever wanted was Aisha but that was second to Zainab. I also gave myself a middle name just before my WASSCE and NECO exams because I didn’t want to be confused with any other Zainab Haruna. The day my dad saw the middle name, he laughed long and loud then called my mom to witness.

Mazi Nzubechukwu Okoye:  My full name is Okoye, Hilary Nzube. For a long time I went by Hilary. I have used Hilary for so long that I feel the name has become synonymous to my persona, my certificates, my official documents, everything has Hilary etched in ink across it.

But I found books, and I learned better that my name is my identity. My name is more than what my parents gifted me at my birth. It is more sacred than the credence bestowed on it as the priest sprinkled holy water on my forehead, slowly enunciating it at my baptism. My name is who I am, and who I am, or will be is dependent on my name.

That’s why I decided I am going to drop Hilary from my name, my ancestors didn’t bear Hilary, Hilary is the name of a slave being shipped on the high waters of the Atlantic to the west. Hilary is a devotion to a patron Caucasian saint who lived a life of awe and wonderment worth emulating, a life that several of my ancestors had lived but are not recognized as saints because Christianity came late to them.

Hilary is neocolonialism creeping back into the fabrics of our culture to tear apart the culture of names our ancestors built and left as a legacy for posterity. Hilary is not my name, I dropped Hilary the moment I decided to decolonize my mind, and embrace wholly the essence of my existence as an African, because I realise that there is more to the politics of naming.

Glorian Olisenekwu: For some reason I never were, in high school I had a fight with some friends and thought the reason for the fight was because they no longer consider me cool. In a bid to do something about it, I added the name ‘Confidence’ to be my middle name instead of Oghenefijiro which it was, went further to registered my WAEC exams using ‘Confidence’ and today that name is one of the biggest mistake of my life, it reminds me of a time when I didn’t love me.

Oluwadunsin Deinde-Sanya: I’ve always loved my names, it has never been a problem for me. My sister’s and I do not have English names and when we asked our parents, their reply was “are you an English person?” You’re an African, from the Yoruba tribe, so you’ll bear only Yoruba names. Lol, so we embraced our names. As a matter of fact, I wish I had the Yoruba indigenous names like Asake, Atoke, Apinke etc, would have loved that more.

Chijioke Ngobili: Names, in African thought, are not merely nominal identities; they’re summarized histories, summarized memories and summarized values.


Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke

Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke

Senior Editor working out of East Africa.

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

We Remember

Find Out What These Africans From Across The Continent Think Of Their Names

by Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke time to read: 11 min