No, I.G is not my real name…

Away from the daily depreciation of the Naira, Dasukigate and other pressing issues, it’s amazing how the Germans in my office pronounce my name better than most Nigerians. After one or two attempts, they get it and it sticks. I tell a fellow Nigerian my name and the usual response is; “Don’t you have an English name?”. No I don’t, I don’t even have a middle name. No, Joy isn’t my middle name, it’s the meaning of my name. No I don’t know why the name starts with 2 consecutive vowels, ask an Ian that also. No, it’s not pronounced the way it is spelled. No, I don’t know what Gavar means, I doubt that my dad does. Yes, it’s a Nigerian name.

I grew up in Benue thinking Iember was a common name till I got sent off to University in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. Then the ‘murder’ of my name began. I cringed whenever an attendance list was called out during classes. Anytime it got to the name before mine, my classmates would prepare for a bout of laughter. I got called everything from Lemba to Lambey. I can’t fathom why the ‘I’ was always replaced with an L. I got tired of correcting people, and made do with being called I.G. Maybe that would explain why I went from the noisy naughty person i was in secondary school to somewhat of a recluse in university. I hated social situations where I’d have to introduce myself. I hated the questions that followed whenever I said my name. My friend Tola told everyone who cared to listen that I was from Congo. Very silly girl, that Tola. 8 years later and I left Zaria with an MSc certificate that reads ‘Lember Cava’ instead of ‘Iember Gavar’. How this error came about is simply beyond me. Thank God for court affidavits.

I lived and worked in Lagos for a bit after university. It was there that I heard for the first time that my name sounded exotic. Lagosians and their love for the term exotic though… That’s a topic for another day. I remember going for a job interview while I was there and the interviewer told me when my name was given to him, he expected a Dutch guy. I laughed at his ‘joke’, but what I really wanted to say was “Sorry dude, Tiv babe coming your way.”

Tiv names and their funny spellings though. My friend Zainab has this Tiv neighbor, Kwaghter pronounced Kwaa-tay, or something close to that. Zainab got home one day and met a note from her neighbor. She immediately called Kwaghter over the phone with so much urgency in her voice that Kwaghter started to panic.

“Hello, Kwaghter!” 
“Hi Zainab. Is everything alright? You sound worried. Did you get my note?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m calling.”
“Hello, Zainab are you still there?”
“Yes. Your name  has G.H.T in the spelling!?  Kwaghter, why in God’s name are there three consecutive consonants in your name!?” 

No, it wasn’t the note that bothered my dear friend. I doubt that she even read the note. It was the spelling of Kwaghter’s name that was the issue. I’m surrounded by dramatic friends. I truly am.

Away from my dramatic friend, i wonder if my name really is so difficult to pronounce. I understand if you get it wrong when it’s written down, but if i say it out, by all means please make an effort to pronounce it instead of asking cynical fulani questions especially when you’re as much Nigerian as i am. We can’t all be Bose or Mary or Emmanuel or Ada or Halima.

Anyhoo, this is part rant and part shout out to my fellow Nigerians who like me may never find their names on a coke bottle with not-so-common names. We love our names all the same.

Of ghosts of erstwhile lovers (1)

I’ve always been your easygoing girl-next-door kinda girl. Lazy some say, but let’s just say I have a wide comfort zone ; ). One of the perks of being laid-back was that i never really had the drive to pick a fight or be mistrustful of other people. I found those things energy-draining. Whenever people made statements like ‘don’t trust anyone’, I felt they came from another planet.
Fast-forward almost three decades into her life, and your girl-next-door has ‘hired’ a friend to help investigate her new ‘love interest’. When did I become this person that gets a panic attack because someone saw someone in her man’s car? Hey, before you judge me, let me give you a background story.
The first blow life dealt me in the area of trust was subtle but numbing. It was sometime in 2011, during my NYSC. Orientation camp was thick with ‘relationship fever’. Every girl wanted a boyfriend. Single girls, married girls alike. For the guys, it seemed they all had a common goal; to get in between as many thighs as possible in the three weeks that camp lasted. As for me, I wanted no part in all that frenzy, I hated every minute of camp! I couldn’t get past the dirty toilets, the boring lectures, the endless military-style marching, oh the endless marching! And don’t even get me started on the ‘illiterate graduates’. Grammatical errors flew left, right, centre like missiles during a war. What sort of graduates are our Nigerian Universities churning out? My heart bleeds for our education system. But I digress.
How I met this guy on camp, I honestly do not remember. Was he in my platoon? Did I randomly bump into him? Did I see him with a book and ask to look at it? It seems my brain simply refused to store that memory. Anyway let’s call him Johnny. He came around and warmed his way into my heart. Suddenly camp didn’t seem so bad after all. I even started to catch the relationship bug, but I had a criteria any potential ‘camp boyfriend’ must meet; it’s either he schooled abroad or he had a Masters degree. Why? Just because.
Johnny schooled in Malaysia, so even with his not-so-good English laced with misplaced Ls and Rs, I entertained his presence. We remained friends even after camp, and started to date a few months after we met. I wasn’t in love with him, but his persistence won me over. My instinct told me I had no business dating him, but I always told myself I was single and bored, so I stood to lose nothing. Little did I know i was setting myself up for the seed of mistrust to be sown in my life. I should have listened.
Things went well with Johnny. There were occasional dates and visits. I went with him to his church most Sundays. After every service I would throw a tantrum on our way home, but the next Sunday, yours truly will get dressed again and wait for Johnny to come pick her up. You see, it was a few months to the 2011 general elections and I found services in Johnny’s church rather political. Every service felt like being present at the manifesto of a political party. In retrospect I wonder if my tantrums were justified. But once again I digress.
My cousins and friends liked Johnny. It was hard not to like him, with his calm endearing nature and all. I never really nursed thoughts of him being ‘the one’, but I got very comfortable with him. Comfortable until a certain name ‘Joyce’ started appearing too frequently on his phone. Comfortable until I noticed his phone was always on silent mode when I was around. Comfortable until I noticed Johnny’s phone that usually lay carelessly around his living room was now always hidden in his pocket. I decided to do some investigation on his Facebook profile, and I was able to match the name to a face. I confronted him, and was told some cock-and-bull story. Naive as I was, I believed him.
I got to work early one beautiful Wednesday morning and decided to browse through my Facebook page while I waited for my colleagues to arrive. The first thing I saw on my timeline were photos Johnny had put up of himself and Joyce hand in hand, with that smirk typical of new lovers plastered on their faces. Wow, i certainly didn’t see that coming. STRIKE ONE!
I moved on after Johnny, met and fell in love with this amazing guy, Uzo. He was the perfect gentleman, mature, and did I mention tall, dark and handsome? We had our little disagreements of course, but these were nothing to be compared to the good times. It should have been the perfect relationship. Perfect if I wasn’t constantly nursing the fear that someday Uzo would pull a ‘Johnny’ on me. Uzo handled my mistrust with a lot of maturity, and we got along fine till I got a job elsewhere and had to move to a new location. Neither of us put in enough effort to make our long-distance relationship work, and we eventually drifted apart.
I moved on with my life, new city, new job, new toasters; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the dude that dealt me STRIKE TWO! He belonged in a category of his own. Let’s call him Abel. Ah, where do I start from with this one!?
Our meeting was boy meets girl at the bus stop, they connect instantly, share a cab, and then…
To be continued… una too like gist
DISCLAIMER: This may or may not be fiction…