NAMES! by Adéwálé Ṣóbọ̀wálé

Yorubas are a wonderful set of people because of their culture. In fact, there are so many of their ways of life that make them a unique set of people.

Let’s look at names for instance.

The Yoruba do not just name their children. Rather, they do with a sense of history. Probably, that is why they say, one has to consider the peculiar characteristics of the family before naming a child.

When a family gives a child names which include ‘oye’, a visitor from Mars should know they are from a family of chiefs. In the alternative the father could just have achieved some recognition. For instance, a newly elected bishop named his next child Abioye.

Also, when a child is named with ‘ola’ included in his name, definitely the father is wealthy. So you have Abiola, Folasayo,etc.

Some names are prayers of what and where the parents want to be. Names like Olawunmi come to bear here.

Some names tell people who did not know the professions of the parents. Names like Ayanwole are relevant here.

Some names reveal the beliefs of the parents. Names like Fatoki are such.

Of course, there are times when a person’s belief coincides with their profession. A person can not be a babalawo without believing in Ifa, for instance.

On most occasions, the duties of naming infants are given to the grandparents. Even the larger families are free to give the children names individually. That is why aa child, on being named, may not have less than ten names.

A person whom I will ever respect as a thoughtful manufacturer of names is a popular playwright.

His first son was named, Olaokun. If one removes the second ‘o’, it becomes Olokun, god of the oceans. The second child, a female, is called Omoremilekun. When it is shortened it becomes Moremi. If the ‘o’ and ‘e’ are Anglicised, it becomes the name of an important Yoruba goddess.

About foreign names, I really don’t believe in those names because one may not know the implications of those names.

For instance, as smart as the name, David, is, as great as the man was, the fact is that he was a murderer. but for the grace of God.

Or would anybody want to be Solomon? There is no removing the fact that he was very wise and rich, but how many wives and concubines did he have?

A former head of state was named Matthew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun the son of Obasanjo. Let’s dissect the names.

Olusegun means God is a winner. The man is a retired general. He took part in the civil war. He had the unique opportunity of accepting the surrender documents of the other side.

Okikiola means popularity of wealth. Is the man not popular? Is he not wealthy?

Matthew is supposed to be his baptismal name. The original Matthew, one of the twelve disciples of the Redeemer, was a tax collector. However, once he met Christ, he abandoned his initial calling.

Obasanjo was head of state twice. The last time I checked, tax collection was a duty of the executive. So, as head of state, he was the chief of tax collectors.

Obasanjo renounced the name Matthew because, according to him, the original bearer of the name was a tax collector. Oh, well, he could have said that again.

But the old man is said to be a doctoral student of theology!


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