An African President named Goodluck
Monday, August 20 2012
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Practice rescue: Soldiers conduct a drill for an emergency rescue in an earthquake during a parade for the 50th anniversary of the Defence Force at Ch...
THE EDITOR: For those who are not interested in the rest of the world (as, say, most Americans) the mention to them that President Goodluck Jonathan met with Khafra Kambon might evoke in their minds that someone from the West had paid a visit to some tribal African, and not the other way around as was the case.
The irony of the name “Goodluck” is that there are lots of Nigerian names that mean or are equivalent to it: Uhunmwundoma is a Nigerian name which means Lucky child; Otabomen means everything held prosperity for me; and Onyechi means God’s beloved. Not only that, but the Nigerian name Naibi means patience and so the First Lady also might have opted for something more indigenous to them.
Long before the internet made such esoteric names accessible to us by the flick of our fingers, I did three books, A dictionary of Hindi names; A dictionary of Muslim names; and A dictionary of African names — which were intended to ease the search for nice-sounding names with exemplary meanings for members of those communities who had no definitive source to tap into in that regard.
Although those books have not received any national recognition, not only do I still come across lots of persons who admit to me that they used my book for the naming of their children, but I also still get requests for copies of them.
What is quite satisfying about the book of Hindi names in particular is that on quite a few occasions I saw pandits open their red cloth knapsack (like the ones the SCs use) and therein was my book stashed among their sacred paraphernalia.
Anyway, while we in the diaspora might feel it is a sacred act to carry the names of our ancestors and learn their language as well, not only the Nigerian president has trivialised that obsession of ours, but I recently read a book, Marrying Anita by Asian/American writer Anita Jain who in search of a husband back in India came across young people there who spoke mostly English, knew more about Bob Dylan than Mohammed Rafi and had no interest in Bollywood movies.
It reminded me of an interview of Sunil Gavaskar (I think it was) who casually admitted that he hardly knew a word in Hindi. Fact is, English is India’s national language.
While some booksellers and a good many ordinary people have suggested I re-issue those books of names, when I think of Goodluck and Anita Jain and Gavaskar, I wonder if to do that I might just be trying to turn back the hands of the clock.
L Siddhartha Orie