On the 17th day of August 2019 will continually be remembered by all indigenes of Abavo in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State in particular and Ika nation as a whole. It was the day the Dan Usifo-led Onu Ika Nigeria held its 21stOgwa Ika and the 17th Ikakamma annual lecture. The theme of the lecture was “Ika Names and Their Meanings” and the guest speaker was no other person than a distinguished Ika son and Professor of Theatre Arts, Professor Sam Ukala.
As was expected, Ukala left no one in doubt as to his mastery of the English language and paper presentation. The lecture was a mixture of intellectual display and high-blood-pressure destroying humours and riddles.
The Mbiri-born University don opened the eyes of attendees to new knowledge and history. Some of these though appeared to be minor, yet were weighty enough to make many highly educated folks look like illiterates. For example, he referred to a section of Owa-Alero as Ebo quarters. Before the lecture, every other person I have come across referred to that same place as Idumu–ebor quarters. After the lecture, it dawned me that Idumu means quarter and therefore referring to that area which is currently having ChiefArthur O.U Okowa (JP) as Okpara-ukuamounts to tautology. It is the same type of mistake that people make when they refer to the joint between Dr Ifeanyi Okowa road and the old Lagos – Asaba road as “Ebu-Owa” junction instead of “Owa” junction or simply “Ebu–Owa” since “Ebu” already connotes junction in Ika language.
By reason of this new knowledge therefore, there should not be anything like Idumu-ebor quarters, Ali-oye quarters, Ali-Ihame town, Ali-Ifekede town, `obodo ogba quarters, Idumu-ugbo quarters and so on. As has been stated earlier, this is because Idumu, obodo and Ali mean quarters,community and town respectively.
According to the professor, he chose to speak on “Ika Names and Their Meanings”instead of “What is In A Name?” which the organizers of the event originally wanted him to speak on. His reason for this was that someone else has also written and perhaps spoken on the same topic and would not want to be caught in the web of plagiarism. This is also commendable, given the fact that we live in the part of the world where people’s intellectual works are dubbed without any atom of fear.
The eloquent speaker tested the meanings of Ika names with two theories of proper naming –the Descriptivist and Direct Reference theory. Two of them failed to explain the meanings of Ika names. He then resorted to suggesting nine principles behind human naming in Ika land and how meanings are derived from these principles. He went further to recommend these naming conventions to young Ika fathers and mothers in order to make the names of their children meaningful.
According to him, “In all, I find nine (9) principles of naming in Ika and the meaning of each name is explained by the principle by which the name is chosen.”
The Professor stated these principles to include;
Make a philosophical statement or give general advice (2) shield the child from harm, especially death (3) appeal to the child or pray to God for a desired future for him/her or prophesy that future. (4) commemorate days or places or events (5) comment on the appearance or behaviour of the newborn (6) respond to the circumstances of the child’s birth (7) show reverence to a great personality whom the namer wishes the child to be like or a personality or deity, in whom he has faith for protection or guidance (8) appreciate God for the gift of a child or extol the benefits of children or lament the pains of having them (9) comment on the human behavior or on the world into which the child was born.
The erudite scholar went further to list some Ika names and their meanings according to the naming principle behind their choice.
Brilliant as Ukala’s paper was, it failed to address the fears being expressed in some quarters about the imminent threat of extinction being faced the Ika language and culture through our present- day naming style.
For example, while illustrating the descriptivist theory of proper naming, he proved the ease with which a lady who bears EwereUkala can easily be traced to him (Professor Samuel Ukala) as her father. It will not be as easy as illustrated if the lady was known as “Ewere Samuel”. The point being made here is that “EwereUkala” has made it easy to identify the lady not only as the daughter of Professor Ukala but also as a person from Ika land.
Ehiedu and Chinedu mean the same thing. But it will be difficult for a man from Eastern Nigeria who have lived carried out his business activities in Agbor for “dunky“ years to give a name like Ehiedu to his child. And yet an Agbor man who has lived all his life at Agbor Obi can easily name his child Chinedu. This is the crux of the matter!
On the whole, one must appreciate Ukala for new knowledge and insight into Ika naming principles as presented on the 17th August, 2019.