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What’s in a name!

By Debbie Ogunjobi
A name is a label for a noun normally used to distinguish one from another. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context.

A name identifies a specific unique and identifiable individual person and in ancient times and even now names were and are thought to be extremely powerful and to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. A name is an association or a claim to ownership of a thing or a being. In some parts of the world people are named for their geographical locations and even ancestors.

In this part of the world names are more often than not a direct link to ancestors and their beliefs. The deities that were worshipped in particular families and clans are immortalized by the adoption of those names by the families and subsequent generations; hence it is possible to have a person bear a name that bears no reflection on personality, belief and location. For most people it is almost like a heritage that may not be liked or even subscribed to but is nevertheless accepted as a sign of respect for their history and heritage.

Very many years ago, my younger sisters on entering the universities changed their names!! I was appalled. In my mind your name is not negotiable; your parents gave you as they saw fit and it was a sign of respect to them that you continuously bear it. I fully expected my parents to go draconian and be outraged but was surprised to find it didn’t bother them at all, it wasn’t an issue. I was actually surprised to discover that my father had in fact changed his names completely.

He had been named Akande Abere-Ifa and on getting older he had changed his name legally to Emmanuel Adeyemi Ogunjobi. He had decided his old names did not reflect his new religion and personality. His former surname reflected his heritage as the son of a powerful Ifa priest and he wasn’t at all keen to keep the association. Well my sisters had only changed their (Christian) given names so he was okay with it.

I had never been crazy about my given name; Deborah was quite a mouthful in a sea of Sola’s, Sade’s, Titi’s and Funmi’s. I gave some thought to changing mine as well but after thorough investigation discovered the name was quite apt. It literarily means Bee and some translations even say it means Blessed of all… I am a strong believer in the power of the spoken word so I kept it, nothing wrong with being a bee and enjoying the blessings that I believed the name connotes.

The 1st Deborah in the Bible was mentioned briefly in Genesis, she was the nurse of Rebecca. The more celebrated Deborah was a prophetess and a judge; she was one of the few women celebrated in the Bible and was a role model I was very happy to be named after.

In the course of one’s life, you get to a place where you either make your peace with all that you have or make the changes that put you where you want to be.  A couple of years back I did away with all the associations I believed were not productive or reflective of my person, personality and beliefs. For so many years, I was friends with people who weren’t really friends, I tolerated excesses and just gritted my teeth when people took liberties and hurt me.

I had discovered a new and wonderful word: No!!! I said no to disrespect, no to being taken for granted, no to being part of a crowd. It was initially very tentative and even scared and some people thought I had completely lost my marbles but the upside was amazing. I became somebody I liked, I didn’t back down from confrontations anymore and while I wasn’t violent and aggressive, I started standing up for myself and standing my ground.

The most sense of independence I ever felt came when I dropped the shackles of pleasing everybody. The truth is that while living that life, I didn’t please everybody and I displeased myself more.

So over time, I am walking the road of life on terms I define, taking responsibility for my failures and successes. I have held my breath over a particular decision that’s been decades in the making. I nearly did in my twenties and once again a few years back.

It was actually the present I was going to give myself for my birthday last year but that period was so awful and so many events kept on propping up till I just plain forgot.  It’s a decision that has been many years in the making, It‘s one my father started and which I will hopefully complete. My surname Ogunjobi literarily means one who was borne of the god of Iron (Ogun).

It’s quite a popular name and I have met many people with the name over the years, we have never been related because it was a name my father took that had no biological link. On my terms I choose to be identified by my core belief and faith. If you investigate the ancients you will find that a name can be an invocation of spirits, demon, deities and ancestors.

The only name I would like to invoke would be that of Jesus and since I also love my language and culture, I formerly and legally repeat the step my father took and change my surname to Olujobi. (It means one borne of God). So let me ask again:

what’s in a name? I’ll answer: it’s the defining identity of an individual; it says who they were, what they represent and more important, whose they are!!!


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