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.