I, as a dyed in -the -wool follower of Chelsea football club of England alongside my three year old son, Master Naetochukwu Nnadozie, we sat in the sofa in our common room watching a scintillating/pulsating match between our team and Liverpool last weekend with incredible tensions.
In the midst of the evolving tension created by the last minute equalizer secured by a former Chelsea fc player Mr. Sturridge, yours faithfully intentionally looked away from the television set into my phone with the objective of self-distraction and to move my attention momentarily away from the gathering storms of uncertainty created by the goal against Chelsea Fc when we had hoped for at least a 1-nil defeat against one of our fiercest rivals, I then saw on the social media a caricature of the misfortune of another equally tough rival team in the English premiership known as Manchester United football club.
This joke about Manchester United’s poor beginning of the new football season was made by some persons who ‘renamed’ the team as ‘Amaka United.’
In the thinking of this clown who made the caricature of the non-performing team coached by one of the World’s most flambouyant but successful coaches – Jose Morinho, the joker may have been instigated by the fact that in the last three decades, this is the first time that this top rated team has started a fresh soccer season with successive poor results coming in in torrents.
The latest defeat that this colourful team called Manchester united FC suffered in the hands of west ham united football club, compounded the misfortune of this globally respected team.
So in the mind of the creators of this joke about the team from Manchester in the United Kingdom, they are now known more for their disappointing turn of events and change of temporary misfortune to an extent that for this person on social media, the team can be termed a disappointment.
However, those who are circulating this caricature of Manchester United FC as “Amaka United FC of England,” were motivated to do so from the song that was recently released by the musician and song writer in Nigeria known as 2Baba or Tuface. He is originally named Mr. Innocent Idibia. He hails from Benue State, North Central Nigeria but his Ethnicity shares many things in common with the Igbo speaking people of South East of Nigeria from where he picked up the character in his latest release called Amaka. Amaka is the short form of the very famous Igbo name known as ChiAmaka. By some estimate, ChiAmaka is the most glamorous Igbo name East of the River Niger. There is hardly an Igbo family out of the over 50 million Igbo speaking nationals that does not have a female child bearing the name ChiAmaka which means in very literally way that God is beautiful. Igbo people are deeply religious and their names take root from the profound African philosophy and metaphysics of many epochs.
But this musician used the name of a girl known as Amaka to depict someone who is so full of disappointments and known for making exaggerating claims of whom she is not. To the performing musician this Amaka is a social fraudster.
The singer conveyed the impression that the Amaka of a girl gave him high hopes that she was going to keep a social date with him, only to keep him waiting endlessly.
The name of the song is Amaka just as the chorus goes thus:
“Amaka dissapoint me
O tiyeneke confusion
Amaka dissapoint me
Nyom kem dissapointment o
Amaka dissapoint me
Nyom kem confusion
Amaka dissapoint me
O tiyeneke dissapointment o”.
These jokes of Amaka that has gradually become somewhat infamous with millions of users of social media in Nigeria must be corrected without further delay.
That is what this piece is meant to achieve.
First, I must confess that I am also a lover of good songs.
As someone who grew up listening to several songs by popular musicians and as someone who recognizes excellence in whatever creative enterprise any young musicians puts into a popular songs, I must say that although the musician known as Innocent Idibia did not intentionally set out to distort the real meaning of the name Amaka or Chiamaka, but thousands of those listening to his song have become delusional to an extent that they are beginning to view the name Amaka as that which symbolizes disappointment.
But this musician, and his followers, I must confess have set in motion, a phenomenon that has got the whole essence of the name Amaka nearly screwed up and this must never be allowed to hold water for far too long.
It is therefore in an effort to correct this distortion that I hereby state that Africans must not continue to present the picture of a race that lacks philosophy. Africans have an illustrious history, self-determination and a unique identity. The African personality is profoundly rooted in African philosophy and metaphysics. We who are students and followers of Philosophy must not allow this distortion of such a beautiful and spiritually embellished name CHIAMAKA to continue without any attempt to correct the misconception and properly let the audiences understand that the character represented in that Song by Innocent Idibia also known as 2Baba should not be confused with the philosophical symbolism and essence of the name which has deeply rooted spiritual meaning.
What this kind of song is doing to Africans is to repeat the idle talks of some Western thinkers who believe that Africans have no brains and lacks intellectual gifts.
Reading through the 2006 edition of the Thomson Gale’s encyclopedia, we are told that Many of the greatest thinkers of the modern era, including David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Jefferson, considered Africans and their descendants to be so intellectually handicapped as to make them philosophical invalids, incapable of moral and scientific reasoning. Thus, prior to the twentieth century, the idea of African Philosophy was, for most educated Europeans and Americans, an oxymoron (Eze 1997, pp. 4–5).
This writer stated that to most of these aforementioned Western originated thinkers, the notion of African philosophy was provocative (in a way that the notion of British or French or German or Chinese philosophy was not) because the cultures of sub-Sahara Africa had no indigenous written languages in which issues were traditionally discussed and examined.
The writer of the commentary published in the encyclopedia aforementioned also made reference to the historic reality that other than the Egyptians and Ethiopians, most African cultures developed a written script only in response to Islamic and European influences.
“Following the model of European and North American philosophy, one group of contemporary African philosophers has contended that philosophy requires a tradition of written communication, and that African cultures must evolve beyond traditional conceptions expressed in oral forms if they are to develop the levels of critical exchange required for sophisticated scientific and philosophical activities” (Wiredu in Mosley 1995, pp. 160–169; Hountoundji 1983, p. 106).
The commentator reminds us that but others have argued that African philosophy should be sought in the values, categories, and assumptions that are implicit in the language, rituals, and beliefs of traditional African cultures. In this view, African philosophy is a form of ethno-philosophy—such as ethno-biology and ethno-pharmacology—one of the many subject areas of ethnology.
For the purposes of seeking to totally debunk the belittling and the many idle distortions made about the name Amaka in the song by 2Baba, this writer will fully subscribe to the philosophical analysis made in the aforementioned encyclopedia.
I will therefore say that it is an act of intellectual cowardice for any African to seek to destroy the essence and metaphysical import of an African and/or Igbo name just to create some momentary social entertainment.
In Igbo cosmology as well as most of African cultural concepts, names carry greater metaphysical significance and must not be distorted.
This must be so in an attempt to safeguard our claim to an authentic African philosophy and to educate Western audiences about the wholeness of African philosophy.
In most African family, naming ceremonies have spiritual meanings.
This means that parents make sure that the kind of name to be given to their baby has a whole lot of good virtues and carries a lot of values. Names are usually arrived at after constructive engagements by the family.
From the Harvard Business Review’s publication of 2013, John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney and Howard Raiffa stated that “making decisions is the most important job of any executive. It is also the toughest and the riskiest. Bad decisions can damage a business and a career, sometimes irreparably.”
The above is same with naming a child in Africa. Name a child a terrible name, it is generally understand that disaster await such a person with a mischaracterized identity.
Responding to the question “What is in a name”, the African service of the British Broadcasting Corporation wrote as follows: “naming is part and parcel of the African heritage. It reflects one’s ethnic background, country of origin or simply hope and a parent’s aspiration for a child”.
From the same famous BBC, a reporter Adelaide Arthur writes that “Traditional African names often have unique stories behind them. From the day or time a baby is born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influence the names parents choose for their children. Whichever ethnic group you look at, these local names reveal a wealth of information about the bearer.”
The BBC Reporter also observed that among several ethnic groups, picking out names can be influenced by positive or negative circumstances the family finds themselves in around the time a child is born.
Often, such names are complete sentences, the reporter noted. The reporter gave a litany of examples of African names and their philometaphysical backgrounds.
Ayodele (joy has come home) is a unisex name for a baby whose birth brought happiness to their Yoruba parents in Nigeria; Yetunde or Yewande (mother has come back) is a Yoruba name given to a girl whose grandmother or other female relative died before she was born; Adetokunbo (crown/wealth has come back home) is a unisex Yoruba name often given to a child born abroad; Ajuji (born on a rubbish heap) is a Hausa name given to a baby after those born before it failed to survive.
The BBC reporter also noted that in some African cultures, It is believed that giving the child a “terrible” name will deceive evil spirits into thinking the child is not loved and as a result, allow it to live; Kgomotso and Pumza (comfort) are given to babies born shortly after a death or tragedy in Sesotho and Xhosa families in South Africa; Kiptanui and Cheptanui are often given to babies whose mothers may have suffered extreme difficulties during childbirth among the Kalenjin ethnic group in Kenya; Kimaiyo and Jemaiyo are names sometimes given to baby boys and girls whose births coincide with men drinking locally brewed beer (Maiywek) among the Kalenjins; Misrak (east) was given to an Ethiopian baby girl whose father was in Japan at the time she was born; Lindiwe (we have waited) is an isiZulu name often given to a baby girl after a long line of boys.
In his influential book, African Religions and Philosophy (1969), Professor John Mbiti reportedly elaborated the view that implicit in African cultures were different concepts of causality, time, and personhood.
Experts quoted John Mbiti as affirming that every event had both a physical and a spiritual cause, traceable to the influence of a continuum of spiritual beings (consisting of the living, the ancestral dead, deities, and God).
This philosopher averred that the above background information is key to understanding this African metaphysic and underlying this was a concept of time that consisted of an endless past (the Zamani), a living present (the Sasa), and a truncated future that returned to the past.
Mbiti says that those who had recently died continue to interact with the living for as long as they were remembered, and then they too returned to the Zamani.
Researchers say that one of the major expressions of philosophy as ethnology was negritude, a principal exponent of which was Leopold Senghor.
Senghor they noted had argued that Africans have a distinctive approach to reality in which knowledge is based on emotion rather than logic, where the arts are privileged over the sciences, and where sensual participation is encouraged over cerebral analysis.
For Senghor, the European analyzes reality from an objective distance whereas the African embraces reality by participating in it aesthetically and spiritually.
This difference between African and European cultures was, for Senghor, physiologically based and inherited (Senghor 1962). However, for Aime Cesaire, the other principal exponent of negritude, though the differences between African and European cultures were real, they resulted primarily from historical circumstances rather than biological differences (Arnold 1981, p. 37).
Whether biologically, culturally, or historically determined, many have claimed that the African contribution to civilization was invaluable because it was unique and peculiar to Africans.
These philosophical realities must be respected even as performing musicians must not be permitted to embark on the self-destructive journeys of distorting; defacing; demeaning the philosophy behind African names. CHIAMAKA is not a characterization of disappointment.
I so submit.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com; www.huriwanigeria.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.