Igbo Names: So Meaningful !!!

Ukachukwu Sebastian A. Onyeabor
350 N. Silverbell Road, Unit # A-21
Tucson, AZ 85745
Email: ukachuks@gmail.com
9th April, 2008

God's grace, peace and love be with all, now and always. Amen.
I thought it wise, once and for all to enter this article into my blog page so I could simply refer persons to this blog for further reading. This was triggered by people's expressed interest/curiosity, asking for the meaning of our Igbo names as well as mine. I have always found it an opportune moment to state with "pride" that our Igbo names have lots of meaning and significance. As found in Holy Scriptures: there is power in the word and/as in a name: they are significant. Which biblical name has no significance associated with it? When God enters into a covenant with His people or their leaders, there often follows a name change. Abram became Abraham and Jacob became Israel. In the New Testament Peter got a "new name" after his great confession. After the Resurrection, when Jesus called: "Mary !!" Magdalene knew exactly Who called her.

To those asking of my name: my first name is UKACHUKWU which could take either of these meanings = related to the Supreme Being (God); concern of the Supreme Being; business of the Supreme Being; issues of the Supreme Being etc. Till date, most of my Igbo people believe in the existence of many deities as well as the Supreme Being. One is aware that this is not peculiar to the Igbo people of Africa. St Paul encountered this in Athens. The small deities are called "chi" in Igbo, while the Supreme Being (God) is qualified with the word UKWU which means GREAT OR ALMIGHTY. So the Supreme Being is CHI-UKWU; however in writing GOD in IGBO language, we drop the first vowel "I" so we now have CHUKWU. Incidentally the Igbo word for PRIEST is Ukochukwu. Note the difference UKACHUKWU and UKOCHUKWU. To perform the role of an UKO is to be a go-between, a mediator, a middle person. At my priestly ordination my people said: "Ukachukwu aburula Ukochukwu" which means Ukachukwu has now become a priest of God. My family name (last name) ONYEABOR literally means: SECOND PERSON. This could be translated to mean either "a companion"; "a helper"; "an assistant"; "an associate"; "other half"; "an auxiliary" or "a back-up" It makes good sense when my people say: otu onye a naghi aga nta, which translates: "no one man goes hunting". For a successful gaming/hunting session, you need a companion so while one person is at one end, the other is at the other. No one person can be at both ends at the same time. "The crowd begins with a second person". My Igbo people do not generally acquiesce with a lone-ranger mentality; this is because they believe that power is in the group. "Igwe bu ike"

The Down Side: It was very very unfortunate that colonialism as well as a generality of early missionaries to Igbo land and other parts of the colonized/evangelized world felt/thought their language and/or religion was better/superior to those of the people they came to colonize or evangelize. Is there any doubt most of these places were taught to drop their language in favour of the language of the "white" man? One recalls when you were penalized for speaking in the vernacular; you could receive corporal punishment lest the teacher be fired by the "white" manager of schools. Later this took the form of financial fines. It is interesting to note that some very wise cultures who foresaw the effects of this, fought the white man's superior mentality. Such peoples insisted on their language and culture; today we see and read literature in those peoples' language and not first in English and then later in theirs.

Offended? This article is not meant to offend/upset anyone; by no means. Incidentally, we are victims of the English language seen as an easier means of expression. I could write faster in English than in Igbo language. The good news is that today a sizeable number of Igbo families in diaspora are waking up to be proud of the Igbo language. Some struggle to speak/teach to their children in their mother tongue. My Igbo people keep the flame of what we cherish - our Mother Tongue, burning bright. Peace to all, especially to those who read and appreciate this article.

Ukachukwu S. A. Onyeabor (Rev. Fr)