THE END OF NUPE NAMES
Traditional Nupe names are fast disappearing from among the Nupe people. It is quite evident that Nupe people are no more interested in bearing Nupe names.
Nupe parents are today not proud of their children bearing Nupe names. And in fact even the Nupe children are made to get this idea right from the beginning that bearing a Nupe name is a sign of backwardness in the modern Nigerian society.
Nupe people now felt that to be a Nupe man, or to bear a Nupe name, is a stigmatizing sign of inferiority associated with the o-called minority tribes of Nigeria. Nupe is now considered a minority tribe in Nigeria and Nupencizhi are therefore ashamed of being identified as Nupencizhi anywhere in the public.
Instead a Nupe man will do anything in the public to hide his Nupe identity a first step of which, of course, is to hide Nupe name – that is of his parents had even given him a Nupe name in the first place.
Now the wrong assumption is that Nigeria is dominated only by the three major tribes of the Hausa, Yoruba and Ibos and so the Nupe man prefers sharing the Hausa, Yoruba or even the Ibo majority identity than his true Nupe identity. And it is in this regard that we now see Nupe people proudly bearing Hausa, Yoruba and even Ibo names while at the same time these same Nupe people are ashame to bear their own Nupe names.
In place of Nupe names, Nupe people are now proud of bearing Arabic, English, Hausa, Yoruba and otherwise names.
This is, of course, a national disaster for the Nupe people.
The Nupe Nation will definitely go down in history and may face the sociocultural curse of extinction if this dastardly practice of not bearing Nupe names by Nupe people is not checked or reversed. This s one of the greatest disasters ever to assault the Nupe Nation, yet most of us are not aware of the impact of this subtle disaster.
There is no way the Nupe Nation will go back to regaining its historically documented past glories if the Nupe people do not go back to bearing Nupe names in a proud and dignifying manner. And the Nupe Nation will definitely lay prostrate before others – including the Hausa, the Yoruba and the Ibo – as long as the Nupe people continue to bear the names of these others with pride.
Any people who lost the pride in their own ethnic identity and, instead, found pride in the ethnic identity of other people are definitely on the path to ethnic extinction. Such a people will, of course, also face the shame of being ethnic slaves to others even before they eventually become ignobly extinct.
No More Nupe Names
Historical lessons have taught us over and over again that what the Nupe people are doing today, of not bearing their Nupe names, is a major step in the gradual extinction of many tribes that have become extinct today.
Not bearing their tribal names is one of the cardinal signs that a tribe of people is headed for national extinction.
It is now virtually impossible to find anybody bearing true Nupe names as his first, second and surnames in the whole of KinNupe and even beyond.
What we see today is that every Nupe person is either bearing an Arabic name, an English name, a Latinised or Hellenised form of a Jewish name, an Hausa name, a Yoruba name, and so on and on. But no Nupe man is bearing a truly consummate Nupe name today.
Most of what we call ‘Nupe names’ today are actually not even Nupe names in the first place. Names like Nda, Nna, Baba, Mama, etc, etc, were originally not proper names, they used to be descriptive words or terms that have metamorphosed over the ages into Nupe names simply because the true Nupe names of ancient times have become extinct due to their not being used by the Nupe people.
The Nupe Nation has practically lost almost all of its original Nupe names to the past. As we shall discuss in some details later, the loss of Nupe names not a recent phenomenon – it is an ageold catastrophy that has been emaciating the Nupe Nation for so long. This process of the ‘de-naming the Nupe Nation’ has been ongoing for almost a millennium now. We shall discuss the historical details of this very lengthy period in a latter section of this present work.
For now let’s be aware of the fact that the Nupe Nation is bleeding profusely under the talons of this hawkish practice of Nupe people not bearing their Nupe names; of Nupe people rejecting their Nupe names in favour of the names of other tribes and ethnicities and races that they deemed are superior to them the Nupe peoples.
Nupe names are the blood cells of the Nupe Nation and here we are accosted by a ghastly sight of a Nupe Nation bleeding to death as the Nupe people refuse to bear Nupe names anymore.
This is a national disaster for the Nupe Nation. There is no doubt about that.
Names Are the Building Blocks of Language
Names are the building blocks, and at the same time the fabrics, with which ethnic or tribal identities are built and languages are woven into sociocultural entities respectively. Names are in effect the quantum blocks into which the traditional values and facets of the general sociology of a language, tribe, ethnicity or people are preserved.
Names are the gravel stones, so to say, used to form the foundation concrete-mix upon which a language, a tribe, or an ethnicity is built.
All these in essence meant that no language, tribe or ethnicity can survive without the integral maintenance of its names – its building blocks, if we may say so.
Without meaningful personal names no ethnicity, tribe or even a language can survive the vagaries of change and transformation that attend the passage of ages. And the Nupe language is not an exception to this rule.
The national philosophy, traditional values and sociocultural dicta are preserved and frozen inside the traditional and ancient names of all nationalities and peoples. That is why the moment a nation of people began to drop their names or stop the usage of their traditional names the particular people began to lose their traditional nationality and, in essence, embark on the journey to national extinction as a people.
The disappearance of Nupe names among the Nupe people will certainly spell nothing but death for the Nupe ethnicity, tribe and language in the long run. That is unless concrete and active steps are taken to recollect and revive Nupe names.
And in order to correct this mistake that the Nupe Nation is currently enmeshed in, we will need to go back to the root of the problem. We will need to take a look at the cause and origin of this present unsavoury situation whereby Nupe people are now ashamed of bearing traditional Nupe names.
It was the missionaries – both Christian missionaries and Muslim proselytizers – who came about with this wrong idea of imposing foreign names on Nupe individuals while at the same time rejecting and condemning traditional Nupe names.
How Arabic Names Replaced Nupe Names
When the Muslim proselytizers first arrived KinNupe they insisted on imposing an ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ name on any new convert they got into the Islamic fold. And as they identified the new convert with a ‘Muslim’ name they vigorously frowned on the use of the convert’s former Nupe name. That was how the Islamic missionaries came and dealt a death blow to ancient and traditional Nupe names.
It soon became the vogue, and a pride, for the new Nupe convert to Islam to drop his traditional Nupe name and to adopt a new ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ name.
This was such that as early as the middle of the 17th century we saw even the Etsu Nupes dropping their traditional Nupe names in favour of Islamic names. First there was Etsu Muhammadu Wari who became the Etsu Nupe in 1652. This Etsu Muhammadu was then succeeded in 1661 by Etsu Abullahi Waliyi.
And by the time of the rise of the Dendo dynasty of the Fulanis in the middle of the 19th century the grand extermination of traditional Nupe names and their wholesale replacement with ‘Islamic’ names was well underway.
This was how traditional Nupe names began to drop out of fashion and vogue. Nupe people began to identified themselves with and be proud of bearing ‘Islamic’ names instead of their traditional Nupe names.
And because Nupe names are the foundation of the Nupe traditional values and the overall Nupe Identity the loss of Nupe names facilitated the conquest of the Nupe people by the Islamic Jihadists.
The loss of Nupe names facilitated the disappearance of Nupe traditional values and cultures.
This was the story of the gradual phasing out of Nupe names and the gradual overwhelming of the KinNupe with Islamic names.
How Judeo-European Names Replaced Nupe Names
Interestingly enough, the story above of how Islamic missionaries came and gradually replaced Nupe names with Islamic names is the same story we see replicated in the case of how the Christian missionaries came and replaced Nupe names with Christian names.
Just as was the case with the Islamic missionaries, the Christian missionaries came and insisted that their converts should adopt Christian names in lieu of their traditional Nupe names.
The first Christian missionaries to arrive KinNupe – including people like Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Reverend A.W. Banfield, and others – all insisted on giving ‘Christian’ names to their converts whom they encouraged to drop their traditional Nupe names.
The replacement of Nupe names by Christian names also led to the gradual, and ongoing, extinction of the Nupe language – exactly what happened with the replacement of Nupe names by Islamic names.
So is it that both Islamic and Christian missionaries came and drove Nupe names into extinction as they replaced them with ‘Islamic’ and ‘Christian’ names respectively.
But the interesting point here is that both the Muslim and the Christian missionaries have no any canonical sanction to replace traditional Nupe names with Islamic or Christian names. In other words both Islam and Christianity did not canonically stipulate that traditional names should be replaced by either Islamic or Christian names.
Contrary to the frenzied obsession with ‘Islamic’ names that is the vogue today, the truth is that the Islamic religion has never ever, in its entire canonical system, required that a Muslim must drop his traditional name and replace it with an ‘Islamic’ name.
As a matter of fact there is hardly anything like an ‘Islamic’ name at all. What can be referred to as an Islamic name is any name that does not convey an idea or an ideal that is contrary to the teachings of Islam – and that, of course, will include an overwhelming majority of traditional Nupe names.
In fact the Prophet Muhammad himself never condemn, reject or drop the traditional name of any convert to Islam – unless that traditional name categorically conveyed an idea or an ideal that is contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Almost all the Sahaba Companions who converted to Islam in the very lifetime of the Holy Prophet himself never got their names changed or replaced with any new Islamic name. Umar, Ali, Usman, Bilal, Khadijat, Zaynab, Salman, and almost all other Sahabas in constant and continuous touch with the Prophet Muhammad retained their pagan, traditional names even after their conversion to Islam.
Almost all the Sahaba Companions of the Prophet Muhammad converted to Islam and continued bearing their pagan, traditional names unchanged by the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
The overwhelming majority of the Sahabas at the time of the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, over two hundred thousand in number, were bearing the same pagan, traditional Arabic names they bore before their conversion to Islam. And it is these ancient, pagan, and traditional Arabic names of the Sahabas that most people wrongly refer to as ‘Islamic’ names today.
Names like Usman, Umar, Ali, Zaynab, Aisha, Khadijat, and so on and on were ancient pagan, traditional names common and popular among the Arabs long before the birth of Prophet Muhammad. These were the names of the Sahaba Companions of Prophet Muhammad before and after they became Muslims. These names have nothing to do with religion whatever. They are religiously neutral names borne by pagans and Muslims alike. Yet these are the same names that are today referred to as ‘Islamic’ names.
And these names – these ancient, pagan, Arabic, traditional names – are the same for which Muslims zealots insisted that traditional Nupe names should be dropped and replaced with.
If there can be any truly Islamic names at all they will be the names of the prophets mentioned categorically in the Qur’an itself.
In the case of ‘Christian’ names the situation is even slightly defendable. At least a significant number of the so-called ‘Christian’ names can be seen to be Biblical names directly contained in the Bible. Biblical names like Benjamin, Ruth, David, John, Solomon, Michael, Gabriel, and so on and on can be directly found in the Bible.
But then an overwhelming majority of the so-called ‘Christian’ names today are actually ancient European names that have found their way into Christendom throughout the ages. Names like Arthur, Kenneth, Malcolm, Duncan, Frederick, and so on and on are not Biblical names and are actually ancient pagan, European, traditional names.
Interestingly these non-Biblical names flooded early Christianity for the simple reason that the Christian religion did not canonically stipulate that a new convert to Christianity must drop his traditional name for a strictly Biblical, actually Judaic, name.
This perfectly explains why almost all the Church Fathers bore names that were glaringly non-Biblical.
St. Augustine of Hippo, Jerome of Stridonium, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, Maximus of Smyrna, Polycarp the Confessor, and almost all other Church Father retained their ancient, pagan and traditional names even after converting to Christianity.
That the Church Fathers, the very founders of modern Christianity, retained and bore their ancient pagan, and traditional Greek, Latin, African and otherwise names is telling enough – to the early Christians, the founders of Christianity, there is nothing like a true ‘Christian’ name. A Christian can retain and bear his traditional name even after conversion to Christianity.
Yet Christian missionaries imposed these non-Biblical names on Nupe Christian converts and encourage them to drop their traditional Nupe names in lieu of these ancient, pagan, European traditional names in the name of Christianity.
The Modern Trend
This general practice of replacing our traditional Nupe names with the ancient, traditional names of the Arabs and the Europeans all in the name of religion is evidently due to the general ignorance that most lay Muslims and Christians on the streets have regarding the details and finitudes of the subtle aspects of their religion.
Most lay Muslims and Christians are truly not aware of the fact that Islam and Christianity did not place any emphasis on the irrelevant subject of the so-called ‘Islamic’ names or ‘Christian’ names.
In Islam, for instance, the Prophet Muhammad never talked about any ‘Islamic’ names and neither did the Khulafa’un Rashidun, the Sahaba in general, the Tabi’in, the Taba’a tabi’in, the Aimat Mazhabs, and on and on.
Yet, and out of general ignorance, the entire Nupe Nation have unanimously adopted the unsaid and unwritten practice of rejecting traditional Nupe names into extinction while simultaneously replacing them with traditional Arabic and European names wrongly referred to as ‘Islamic names’ or ‘Christian names’.
The ugly trend today is even a step ahead of the conventional practice of deriving these Arabic names from the very names of particular and individual Sahaba Companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Now the ugly trend is that of Nupe people adopting blatant Arabic names that have never been answered by any known Sahaba Companion of the Prophet Muhammad.
The practice of naming Muslims after the Arabic names borne by known Sahaba Companions of the Prophet Muhammad is a practice that is rightly encouraged in the Islamic world in order for the child or convert to get the blessings and sanctification of the Sahaba Companion after whom he is named. A child named ‘Abubakar’, for instance, is hoped to get the blessings of the great Caliph Abubakar who was so recognized as one of the closest Sahaba Companions of the Prophet Muhammad that he was unanimously elected as the first Caliph to succeeed the Prophet Muhammad.
So, there is nothing wrong with naming a child, even a Nupe child, after the Sahaba Companions or any other known or recognized Islamic figure.
But the ugly trend today is for Nupe mothers to flip through a booklet of Arabic names, so-called ‘Islamic’ names, and pick any exotic sounding Arabic name that have no any real or tangible connection with Islamic historiography or theology whatever!
Now we see Nupe children bearing strange names like Asrah, Fadi, Hala, Irfan, Aida – utterly exotic names that will be ridiculous to even a typical Arab man on the streets of Riyadh, Damascus, Cairo or Dubai.
Interestingly we see this same ugly trend among the Christians too. Typical Biblical names are now being considered to sound too Judaic or even archaic and, instead, it is very exotic names from Europe that are now being adopted, as a fashion. Instead of Biblical names like John, Michael, Solomon, David, and so on, it is now utterly European names like Bryan, Atkins, Bradshaw, Cameron, that are now gradually becoming fashionable – and all these in favour of our traditional Nupe names!
But This Is Not Canonical
And so was it that in both Islam and Christianity ancient, pagan, traditional names – Arabic and European respectively – were imposed on Nupe converts who were coaxed into dropping their traditional Nupe names.
In the name of religion Nupe traditional names have been condemned, rejected, banished and replaced with Arabic and European traditional names!
The painful aspect of this unfortunate situation being the fact that both Islam and Christianity did not sanction the replacement of traditional Nupe names with traditional Arabic or European names!
It was just out of over-zealousness that both Muslim and Christian missionaries came to reject traditional Nupe names with traditional Arabic and European names. It was not Islam or Christianity that canonically stipulated that traditional Nupe names should be replaced by traditional Arabic or European names.
But this unfortunate development have led to the wanton termination of Nupe names and the gradual extinction of the ancient collection of traditional Nupe names that, once upon a time, form the foundation upon which the entire Nupe sociological system is built.
This, of course, is a colossal and catastrophic loss to the Nupe Nation.
The extinction of Nupe names is a gradual and ongoing process that has been on for a very long time – ever since the advent of Islam into KinNupe somewhere around the 11th century unto the Christian Era – that is over a millennium hitherto.
Imagine how many traditional Nupe names must have disappeared over the lengthy period of a millennium under the onslaught of Muslim and Christian proselytizers hell bent on replacing traditional Nupe names with traditional Arabic and European names that they refer to as ‘Islamic’ names and ‘Christian’ names.
The truth is that almost all Nupe traditional names have gone into extinction over this lengthy period of time. The remaining number of Nupe names forms just a tiny fraction of the originally large body and collection of Nupe names that was the case at the beginning and before the onset of the onslaught by the missionaries of both Islam and Christianity.
With the virtual extinction of Nupe names came the gradual fall of the Nupe Nation. The Fulanis, the Europeans and now the Nigerian hegemonists – the Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo hegemonists – have all come to overwhelm and subjugate the Nupe Nation because the Nupe Nation was already a prostrate emasculated by the loss of the Nupe names that formed its skeleton and backbone.
In the wake of the end of the Nupe names comes the defeat of the Nupe Nation.
[This article is a summary of my book titled ‘The End of Nupe Names: The Congency of Saint Augustine’s Moniker]