Names commonly connote a form of identification by which a particular person, animal, place or thing is known. In the same vein, its denotative meanings are likely to include:

For Persons
– ORIGIN: Where a person is from,
– BELIEF: What a person believes in,
– GENDER: Whether male or female (as in some cases).

For Places
– ETHNICITY: Which people live there and what language they speak,
– HISTORY: Their historical antecedents,
– INDEPENDENCE: What their independence status is (i.e. conquered or free).

Now let us treat these one by one:

For Persons

By merely mentioning the names: Shekwolo, Sim and Didam, one can easily identify that these persons bearing these names are Gbagyi, Hyam and Tyap/Gworok/Jju speaking persons respectively. Names identify a particular person with a particular or specific geographical location.

A name tells either of the philosophical affiliation of one’s parents or their religious belief.
In terms of philosophy, there are parents who give their children names with negative meanings and other names with positive meanings either based on past events, or mere thoughts, etc.
In terms of religion, persons answering the names Ezekiel and Abdulmubarak are likely to be Christian and Islamic affiliates respectively.

There are names which are
– monosexual (i.e. they are traditionally being borne by only a particular gender)
(for males): Adze, Agidi, Aroma, Bodam, Gyet, James, Kabi, Kpop, Kyola, Mba, etc.
(for females): Asibi, Ataah, Esther, Grace, Kuntyin, Lis, Nna, Sim, etc.
– Then there are names which are bisexual (i.e. they are borne by both male and female genders.
e.g. Awetu, Chat, Favour, Onomso, Nyinom, Kuyet, Yimi, etc.

For Places

This talks about which people live in a place and what language they speak. A land owned by a particular ethnic group is expected to bear their name. When a particular set of people are living in a particular place and the name of that place is in another language other than theirs, there is bound to be a questioning about the authenticity of the ownership of those people over that place.
For example:
i. By mentioning place names likes: Dung, Haar Kwain, Njeng, Nok and Zheik, one easily knows that the people living there are Ham people.
ii. By mentioning place names like: Ravora, Uhucha, Uner, Usam and Wogon, one easily knows that the people living there are Tinor (Netkun) people.
iii. By mentioning place names such as: Agban, Tafan, Tum, Uchyio and Zali, one can easily know that the people living there are Oegworok people.
But when you mention: Gidan Dare, Jema’a, Kurmin Doki, Ungwar Rimi, Zango, etc., what comes to your mind at first? That those places are being inhabited and/or are owned by Hausa people isn’t it? Why? Because those places are named in Hausa language! It is as simple as that.

People name places based on historical events that occurred in the past.
e.g. Watyap or Wot Atyap (Hausa: Kaura) in Asholyio Chiefdom got its name when the Atyap were migrating all the way from the Jos-Bauchi plateau. They were said to have temporarily settled there before proceeding northwards to their present homeland. In Tyap language, “wot” means “for something to leave” and the “Atyap” is the name of the people, hence the name “Wot Atyap” (shortened as “Watyap”) – meaning “(the) leaving or exodus of (the) Atyap”. Other names such as Zantarakpat (Hausa: Ungwar Rimi (Bajju)), Gbantu (Hausa: Gwantu), Haar Kwain (Hausa: Kwoi), Chikun, Zonkwa, Ajure (Hausa: Kajuru), etc. also have their own historical antecedents which resulted to their namings.

As earlier stated in No. 4, the language in which a place is named in tells of the independence status of the people who own it. In a situation where a people are living in a place whose name is in another language other than theirs, such a people can be thought to be either a conquered people, being governed by such a people in whose language the place is named, or it can be thought that the language of the people living there is same as the language in which the place they live in is named.

Such a people whose land bears a foreign name cannot be said to be independent even if they literarily are, all because their land (and people) bear a false identity.

Take an instance – In an occasion where traditional rulers are recognized in a national or international function, and it is mentioned that the “emir of Jema’a” from Kaduna State is present, those who know geography well would know that there is a Local Government Area called “Jema’a LGA” and would mistake him to be the ruler of the entire land constituting the LGA, not knowing that the “Jema’a” is only the small Hausa population, and that the real owners of the land are the Atyuku, Fantswam, Gwong, Nikyob-Nindem, and a good population of Bajju and Oegworok, not the Hausas who are mere settlers like all other Nigerians, but who have made themselves a king, anointed of the British colonialists, in a land they never fought and conquered, betraying the confidence of those who gave them shelter to nest in.

Let us go back to history. The present day Turkey (formerly Byzantium) was once a land under Byzantine Greek occupation and control, not until the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century AD, then later, the Ottoman Turks who completed the conquest in 1453. The Byzantine cities, towns and villages were all renamed in Turkish language. Adrianople, Antioch, Constantinople, and Smyrna were renamed Edirne, Antakya, Istanbul and Izmir respectively. Apart from this instance, there are so many other instances worldwide where such occurrences happened. The Arabs, British, Danes, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spaniards, just to mention but a few each renamed a lot of places they conquered either
– by completely changing the name,
– by establishing a newer settlement, naming it and incorporating it with the older settlement, or
– by partially altering the original name to take the form of their language.

Here in West Africa, within the Middle Belt (Central) Nigerian territory, most of the indigenous names of places were changed to Hausa names whereof the Hausas never fought and conquered in most cases.

When the European explorers and colonialists came, they inquire of the names of these places obviously not from the indigenous people, but from the Hausas who gave them the names of these places as called by them. These names together with those gotten from the White missionaries sneaked into the European maps and got established therein.

There is a need to revisit that development today! The names which our forebears gave to our settlements must be brought back to show ‘the world’ that we truly own and are in control of our land.

Take a look at Southern Kaduna; almost all of the names of our Local Government Areas bear Hausa names. Compare those names with those of our kins in Plateau state. It is a total opposite of what is obtainable in Southern Kaduna.

When one goes further into Southern Kaduna villages, one begins to hear names like “Ungwar this”, “Ungwar that”; “Kurmin this”, “Kurmin that”; “Gidan this”, “Gidan that”, and a right thinking mind would begin to wonder where the indigenous names have travelled to. There is indeed a need to redeem our identity and the integrity of our people and languages.

Names of places have a way of reminding people of their history and what brought about the establishment of a particular place, and we must not lose our history to any foreign identity whatsoever.

Already, our people of Southern Kaduna are carrying out the renaming of their personal identities, it is very obvious. The Gbagyi, Bajju, Atyap, Ham, Adara, and Agbiri-Aniragu amidst others are rejecting the usage of the names given to them by the Hausas i.e. “Gwari”, “Kajje”, “Kataf”, “Jaba”, “Kadara”, and “Gure-Kahugu” respectively. That is a good step! If we should extend that exercise to affect the names of our hamlets, villages and towns, that would complete the circle and one more thing will need to be done to authenticate our ownership of our territory, and that is to institutionalize the use of our languages in our schools, courts, places of worship, etc. side-by-side the national official lingua-franca, English, for wider communication.

At the end, when the world map is reviewed, the world sees Ajure not Kajuru, Uhucha not Kubacha, Zantarakpat not Ungwar Rimi, Mabatado not Zangon Kataf, Fantswam not Kafanchan, Gworok not Kagoro, Gbantu not Gwantu, Haar Kwain not Kwoi, Wogon not Kagarko, and so on.

This renaming exercise is very important and must not be taken for granted. At the end, the generations to come would appreciate this generation for giving them a greater reason to be proud of who they are and not feel inferior or like second class people amidst others both nationally and worldwide.


Written By:

Levi Kambai Akau

One Response to WE SHOULD BRING BACK TO USE OUR ORIGINAL NAMES: We Are Not A Conquered Territory!

  1. […] holds the history of a people, even when it is not written. One thing I discovered about our names or names generally is that they house the story of a person at the time of one’sc birth. It […]

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