Name of Book: Glossary of Nenwe Names (including an appendage of the meanings of the General Igbo names)
Author: Silas Nwanya
Date of Publication: 2011
Preview by: Cyril Oleh
A new book on Nenwe is set to hit the book shelves and libraries. Titled, Glossary of Nenwe Names, the book is a new study in the origin and philosophy of common names in Nenwe. As the cliché goes, what is in a name? The author, Silas Nwanya from Uhueze Nenwe through detailed research and documentations, tries to show that for the Nenwe man, there is so much in a name. Indeed, he shows that by name, it is easy to identify the part of Nenwe a man or woman comes from. However, this identification by name can sometimes be a source of confusion for friends of Nenwe. The author’s encounter in 2002 with Monsignor Tim Buckley, an Irish priest who served many years in Enugu and lived in Awgu from where he evangelised in Nenwe, points to this possibility.
According to the author, he was inspired to write the book after introducing himself to Rev Fr Buckley who then was a Catholic Priest in Emene, a suburb of Enugu. Fr Buckley had insisted that because the author is Silas Nwanya, he must have come from Amoji village in Nenwe. This is a confusion which understandably arose in the mind of the Irish priest from his earlier association with the Nwinya family of Amoji Nenwe. If a priest from the republic of Ireland could try to associate a name with a particular village in Nenwe; it speaks volumes that there is something in a name after all.
Mr. Nwanya compiles names that are common in Nenwe, gives a contextual meaning of each name and explains the philosophy behind such a name. A few illustrations will suffice. On page 111, he explains that “Olovo” for instance is a name meaning “Compound”. He says that such names are given to the first male child by his maternal father who is happy that his daughter having been married out has established another Olovo elsewhere. Similarly he explains that Ogbodo is a name given to a male child who comes after so many females have been born into the family and their mother faces eviction for not bringing forth male children. Even though it sounds like an Efik name, Ogbodo is a short name for Ogbodo Ogori Nwayi L’ibe di ye (He who has prevented the sack of a wife from her husband’s house, page 99).
The author painstakingly differentiates real names from pet names often given to wives by their husbands at marriage. This is one more example to justify the argument that the Nenwe man is a good husband, any time, any day. Take a look at these names: Oyiridiye, Ogodiye, Nwannediye, Ihudiye, Ocholehudiye, etc. Who says there is nothing in a name?.
There is also a section on names that suggest the Nenwe man’s attachment to his deities, Nwenya – born after consulting the Agbara nwenyanwu,(pg 84), Nwagbara – born after consulting the Agbara deity (pg 77), Nwogidi – born after consulting the Ogidi deity (pg 89). Also the circumstance of a child’s birth determines the name given to that child. Nwidu – born in the bush (pg 86) and nwamoo – child of the spirit or hope (pg 80) to mention only two.
In his foreword, Professor MO Maduagwu, Senior Fellow, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Jos Nigeria explains that it is erroneous for people to mistaken their foreign names as their baptismal names. He further explains that there is “something unique about the traditional Nenwe names” which is why special events accompany naming ceremonies in Nenwe. Maduagwu adds, “In those days unlike modern times, Nenwe people name their children after their ancestors. This is based on the belief in reincarnation”. But even then, the Nenwe man believed in a Supreme Being, hence names like Ikechukwu, Chukwubike, Anayochukwu, Chibueze abound in the town.
This book divided into three major sections including, Nenwe Names and their meanings, Interview section in which some elders from the four villages in Nenwe – Uhueze, Emudo, Amoji and Agbada - were consulted to explain the philosophy behind these names. There is also a pictorial on Leaders of Nenwe and Custodians of Nenwe Cultural Heritage. The book concludes with an appendage on general meanings of some Igbo names.
Glossary of Nenwe Names is a wake up call to our elite who feel shy to give their children native names but prefer to adulterate Igbo names to maintain a perceived social status in the society. Names like Chukwubike are corrupted as Chuks or worst still Chuck, Amaobichukwu – Maobi and Azubike - Zubby. Not only do these names lose their original meanings but those who bear them in these corrupt forms become unfortunate citizens of two conflicting worlds. Although the book is unconventionally not divided into Chapters, it makes for easy reading because the names are arranged alphabetically.
The book is a priceless addition to the growing literature on Nenwe town by Nenwe people which was heralded by MB Chukwubike’s The History of Nenwe Town (1984). I recommend Glossary of Nenwe Names to every Nenwe person who desires to understand fully who we are and why we are who we are. Friends of Nenwe will also find the book a useful addition to their library. Glossary of Nenwe Names is an answer to that question, “What Is in a Name?”.
(mail from Chief C. Oleh)