ENUGU DECLARATION 2021
Name Giving, Identity, Language And Culture: Ohanaeze Youth Council Rejects Foreign Name Among Igbos.
-Foreign Names In Igbo Land: A Sign of Slavery.
It is often said that our identity is our inheritance and one of the ways we can identify ourselves is through names. Our natives names depicts or speaks volume about our originality but unfortunately that is fast eroding since the advent of the missionary who ushered in English culture into our native system and we began to name our children after their English names whereas they retained their own traditional name. Before the missionaries came into Alaigbo, during 1850s till 1990s, you hardly see an Igbo man bearing an English name except those who migrated and later came into our land.
Words are expected to have meanings, including names as a feature of human identity. Even from names picked from Bibles or religious books which Igbo natives choose, its also wrong, even God charged his children to Worship him in a language they understand, meaning that God promote native language of different people. Many of the foreign names they bear have no connotations and/or meaning in the Igbo language; so why do we use them? Why not resort to the language we have that has a lot of meaningful names that cut across everything we want to represent -praise to God, communal effort, circumstance, mockery and what have you.
Therefore Ohanaeze Youth Council(OYC) led by Igboayaka O Igboayaka as the national president took a stand at NIKE- ENUGU on 22nd March 2021 call upon all Igbo race in the World to quickly key in into the realm of native abode of what Igbo names stand, and henceforth reject, abolish and change their Foreign names to Igbo names. This is the first step to unchain Ndigbo from mental slavery.
Names is universal for all cultures, differences exist from one culture to another in how names are given. In Igbo culture, names are determined according to very definite and specific rules. Children may get their names from the deities, totems and family trees of their parents; events that took place when the mother was pregnant may also determine the names they give to their children or names may be divined through magic and incantation, often times named after who reincarnated the baby, although there is misconception of reincarnation. In some cases, the name given at birth is only the first of several names a person will bear throughout life as the father, mother, grand parents have each a name for the baby. Through adulthood, the individual acquires additional names, often given to mark important milestones in life, or for titles taken, or to ward off evil spirits by tricking them into thinking that the person with the old name has disappeared.
The importance and value of mother-tongue/indigenous languages in the upbringing of the child and in enculturation processes and in the education of the child cannot be disputed.
By name giving and acquisition of an identity, it is like the child has entered into a symbolic contract with his/her society. It is widely believed that name giving is one of the most potent tools to preserving one’s native language and for us, this is a step towards sustaining the Igbo language as language and culture are entwined. However, the Igbo language currently faces threat of going into oblivion with the new trend of Igbo parents’preference to give English names to their children, neglecting our native names. As noted earlier, the language of any people forms part of the culture and is psychological because language is the tool for socialization, social cohesion and integration. Therefore, our indigenous language should be appreciated as a means of preserving our culture through name giving.
The crux of the statement above is that language forms an integral part of the culture and it is ‘psychological.’ An Igbo child who answers Patrick, Mirabel, Cletus, Linda and Bonaventure will be propagating whose culture? The names are not his mother tongue so it will probably take the child up to his adolescent age to start seeking to understand the meaning of the name he/she bears or where it was taken from.
Name reminds a child of his origin and identity every time it is mentioned. A child who has no native name will most likely not give his own children names from his own language. Is the language not dying by so doing? When languages are not used, or transferred to children, the language goes into extinction.
Ndigbo must wake up and ask why English names, German, Greek, French and others dominated our Igbo name, while they are not bearing Igbo names over there.
Slavery and colonialism has gone, but bearing of foreign names among “Umuigbo” is particle of slavery
In conclusion, according to UNESCO (2003), language embodies the unique cultural wisdom of a people. With the loss of language, the culture, norms, values and history of the society that uses the language is also lost. We can therefore reason that every time a language dies, there cease to exist ways of understanding its patterns/structure and its function(s) in human society. Above all, for speakers of these languages, it translates to loss of their language and original ethnic and cultural identity. A language is in danger when its speakers cease to use it or when they do not use it in an increasingly reduced number of communicative domains, and cease to pass it on from one generation to the next. That is, there are no new speakers, adults or children, the language completely dies.
Ndigbo, let us do well by giving our children Igbo names in order to preserve our culture and prevent our language from going into extinction.
Comrade Chukwuemeka Chimerue Ucheagu
Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the OYC National President.