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How inferiority complex made my Nnewi people to change their names

By Azuka Onwuka

There was a time it was an unofficial crime to speak the Nnewi dialect. Only “bush men and women” spoke it. Refined, well-travelled and educated men and women would speak the Onitsha dialect or Aba or whichever one.

Speaking the Nnewi dialect in the gathering of mixed Igbos would elicit derision.

Gradually that feeling of inadequacy affected how Nnewi people wrote their names. They just wanted to be seen as people with some class and exposure.

So, to sound cosmopolitan and exotic, Uhuagu Nnewi was officially changed to Uruagu Nnewi.

Uhu Umudim Nnewi was officially changed to Uru Umudim Nnewi.

The apex socio-cultural body of Nnewi was officially registered as Nzukọ-Ora Nnewi instead of Nzukọ-Ọha Nnewi.

Ironically the apex Igbo socio-cultural group was registered as Ohanaeze Ndị-Igbo (not Oranaeze Ndị-Igbo), making the attempt by Nnewi people to sound more Catholic than the Pope ridiculous. Nnewi felt that its use of “h” in Nzukọ-Ọha sounded local, but Ohanaeze used it and sounds cool. This life is funny!

This attempt to sound foreign did not stop with communal names. Personal names faced the same fate.

Ohamadike was changed to Oramadike.
Ohamasionwu became Oramasionwu.
Ohizu (Ohuizu) became Orizu.
Ohanekwu became Oranekwu.
Ifedioha became Ifediora.
Ahanotu became Aranotu.
Ohaka became Oraka.
Obioha became Obiora.
Ahinze became Arinze.
Halueke became Ralueke.
Nkihuka became Nkiruka.

It is almost impossible to see any Nnewi person whose name has an “h” today. It is that bad. The “h” in our names has been made a crime!

As if that was not enough, some of those whose names have “l” changed it to “r”, so as not to sound too “Nnewish”. So Chinyelu became Chinyere. Ebele became Ebere. Chinemelum became Chinemerem.

We thank God that some refused to jump on board the bandwagon. That is why we still have those whose names are Iloka, Ileka, Ilechukwu, Iloegbu, Iloegbunam, Ọlụchukwu, Nnọlị, Ajụlụchukwu, Obiajụlụ,

Even though Igbo Izugbe exists to centralize and standardize the writing of Igbo, it does not affect the way any town should write its name or the names of its villages and associations.

“Ọra” is neither the central Igbo word nor the Nnewi word for “the public.” It is “ọha.” If the Igbo socio-cultural group can bear the name “Ọhanaeze”, there is no justification whatsoever for the Nnewi socio-cultural group to be known as “Nzukọ-Ọra” up to this day.

The letter “r” does not exist in the Nnewi dialect. Anywhere “r” exists in other Igbo dialects, Nnewi has “l” or “h” for it. For example, when some Igbos say “ọrụ” (work) and “ire” (tongue), Nnewi will say “ọlụ” and “ile.” And when some Igbos say “iru” (face) and “ọra” (the public), Nnewi will say “ihu” and “ọha.”

I pray that I will live to see the day my great Nnewi people will discard this linguistic inferiority and officially change the name Nzukọ-Ọra Nnewi to Nzukọ-Ọha Nnewi.

Similarly, I pray to be alive to witness the day the great Uruagu people will discard the strange name Uruagu and officially adopt their natural name Uhuagụ. Uhuagụ is the land of brave people. That is why they are called “Ọ̀bà ejighụ ebunu ma enighu dike”.

I pray that I will live to witness the great Uru people discard that strange name Uru and adopt their true name Uhu. There is a reason they are known as “Uhu hudolu Chukwu”. That moniker did not come by chance. It was an act of bravery and wisdom that gave it to them.

As usual, those who excel in mediocrity will say: “It does not matter”. But those who know the importance of paying attention to details know that those who don’t take care of small things get overwhelmed by big things.

Individuals can choose whatever they like as their names or write their names as they wish. But the name of a town or its villages or cultural societies should reflect the uniqueness of such a a place. It is not negotiable.

Taadụna wụ gboo!

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