25 November 2007

Title(s) – a must have

Lagos is intriguing, period. Actually, Nigeria is. A 'must-have' is a title. For many people, a title is non-negotiable. If you commit the mortal sin of addressing such people without their title or rather the full array of their titles, you will be fed with the history of when your parents met.

I have come to appreciate the reason why a title is important to many people. In many quarters, you will certainly not be given the time of day if you don’t have a title or have something to prove you are somebody. So people do everything within their means to acquire one. No longer contented with the old and tired 'Chief'; new and improved titles have sprung up including ‘Asiwaju’, ‘Yeye’ and ‘Erelu’.

‘Otunba’ is now standard issue for Governorship aspirants or Governors in the South-West. In the South-East and South-South, it is ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ - issued by the Catholic Church. Alhaji has always been prevalent in the North. Some Governors acquire honorary doctorate titles from their State Universities.

Church Deacons, Pastors everyone identifies themselves with a title even in non-professional situations. Not to be outdone, many professionals in Nigeria have adopted titles like 'Tpl' (Town Planners), Builder, Arc, Barrister, Surveyor, Engr., Pharmacist etc.

Some serving State Governors who had been Senators in the past still use the ‘Senator’ prefix to address themselves. The Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria precedes his name with the ‘Ambassador’ title (inside Nigeria).

I once asked a Surgeon in England why he was addressed as ‘Mr’. He explained that in the distant past, doctors never performed surgical operations. Apparently, barbers did. So they were not addressed as doctors. That tradition has been maintained over the years so much so that a doctor reverts to ‘Mr’ when he becomes a Surgeon. I will be surprised if there are many Surgeons who keep to this tradition in Nigeria.

Having and flaunting a title is part of our culture - as Nigerian as the oil under our ground. It has however gone beyond the ridiculous becoming not only a way of differentiating themselves from the masses but also a means of proving they are somebody.

You will find below a list of the 36 State Governors in Nigeria and their respective titles.

Abia - Chief Theodore Orji
Adamawa - Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako
Akwa Ibom - Barrister (Chief) Godswill Akpabio
Anambra - Mr Peter Obi
Bauchi - Alhaji Isa Yuguda
Bayelsa - Chief (Hon) Timipre Sylva
Benue - Rt Hon. Gabriel Suswam
Borno - Senator (Dr) Ali Modu Sheriff
Cross River - Senator Liyel Imoke
Delta - Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan
Ebonyi - Chief Martin Elechi
Edo - Senator (Prof) Oserheimen Osumbor
Ekiti - Engr. Olusegun Oni
Enugu - Mr Sullivan Chime
Gombe - Alhaji Mohammed Goje
Imo - Chief Ikedi Godson Ohakim
Jigawa - Alhaji Sule Lamido
Kaduna - Arc. Mohammed Namadi Sambo
Kano - Malam Ibrahim Shekarau
Katsina - Alhaji Ibrahim Shema
Kebbi - Alhaji Usman Saidu Nasamu
Kogi - Alahji Ibrahim Idris
Kwara - Dr. Bukola Saraki
Lagos - Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN)
Nassarawa - Alhaji Aliyu Doma
Niger - Dr. Muazu Aliyu
Ogun - Otunba Gbenga Daniel
Ondo - Dr. Olusegun Agagu
Osun - Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola
Oyo - Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala
Plateau - Air Commodore Jonah Jang
Rivers - Rt Hon ROtimi Amaechi
Sokoto - Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko
Taraba - Pharmacist Danbaba Suntari
Yobe - Senator Mamman Ali
Zamfara - Alhaji Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi

Just this week, I read in ‘Foxes in the Vineyard’, a fantastic book written by Sean Akinrele, this story about a ‘title’ incident and I have reproduced same here with permission:

"Certain guests were to be recognised and invited to the ‘high’ table at a wedding reception. The Master of Ceremony announced the name of the first man thus: “We recognise the presence of eminent lawyer and industrialist John Oyo ‘Esq.’” He announced the second person also a lawyer, in the same manner. He then announced the third person thus: “We recognise the presence of Chief (Dr.) Sam Osun, a prominent businessman and industrialist. There was no response.

He announced the name again and still there was no response. He was however, informed that the man was around. So he appealed that if he was around, he should rise for recognition and proceed to the high table. Whereupon a visibly angry man rose up, strode to the front and snatched the microphone, publicly demanding to know why he was not properly recognised like his two friends. According to him the three of them had been members of the old school choir and therefore he was also entitled to the suffix ‘ex choir.’" PostCardfromLagos


Unknown said...

Well, that is one of many things that I as a Nigerian still could not fathom. I remember attending a wedding ceremony here in London, and the MC made a concerted effort to introduce one of the people on the high table properly, but he made a simple mistake of not adding that this particular person was the "first" military governor of one of the southern states. This former governor was so mad that he took the mike off the MC and made him apologize publicly. And I have personally witnessed a former civilain governor slapped a young chap for calling him an ex governor, even though he was an ex governor then.

Unknown said...

This is aother nice piece. Well written even if the conlcusion seemed a bit more like a joke. All said, I hope we will see these stories in a book form available on shelves on day.

Having said this, we need to know that the same mentality permeates through the whole fabric of the nation. Even professors in Nigeria think the title is for ever! We must understand that majority of us are bush people and we struggle everytime not to imbibe modern concepts but to carry our "bush mentality" to the city! It affects us evereywhere we go! The bad news is that even the youths are outdoing the old in this respect.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that anyone requiring or requesting something from the government have little or no choice in the matter but to buy or steal a title otherwise he or she will forever remain at the bottom of the waiting list.

What about you? Are you indirectly informing us of your intention to buy one title? (May be you already have one). We'll wait and see how long before we discover yours, Otunba Gbenga .... How about this 'Returnee Badejo.'

Richard & Hannah said...

This was very interesting. I live in Korea where titles are everything. If you own a business, you will be a "Sajang-nim" - literally "Mr President" or "Mr CEO". If you are an elder in a church you would be referred to as Elder so-and-so, while another would be Deacon so-and-so. Korea comes from a Confucian culture where your value is largely determined by what you do - typically soldiers and leaders at the top, and businessmen and entertainers at the bottom. As such it is very important to have a title because it places you in a certain echelon of society.

I guess that's the same anywhere - some cultures now may put businessmen on a higher pedestal than soldiers, perhaps, or entertainers higher than politicians... but one way or another it's an attempt to belong and also to exclude.

In the church I find this somewhat offensive. In the church we all belong to God, and some have been given different callings to others. Respect should be accorded to everyone, regardless of rank or title or race, as we are all children of God, heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and ambassadors to the World.

Anonymous said...


I am new here..First post to just say hi to all community.