I was not always Bobo Nkiti. Maybe I was, but that wasn’t my government name.
I was born the fourth of five children: sister, sister, brother, me, sister.
I was argumentative as a child and was always getting into it with my brother, and that earned me the nickname ‘Zik’ after Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Thinking about it now, that wasn’t such a bad thing being likened to one of our founding fathers who fought for Nigeria’s independence, but back then it made me see red.
My brother saying something like “Zik how now?” or “You dey follow Zik argue?” would send me into a rage that I could never express for fear of the beating that would follow from mama. I’d just be there swelling.
When I turned thirteen, or fourteen, while my brother and our friends played football and took care with how they looked – mostly because of girls, I was more likely to be found with my nose buried in a book, without a care if my hair grew wild.
My brother took to calling me Bobo Nkiti. I never understood why he started calling me that, but it stung worse than being called Zik. I guess it was because of its ironic connotation that I was bourgeois when I was bohemian if anything at all. The neighbourhood children joined in and the name stuck. As I got older I embraced it until I owned it and it stopped hurting.
When the time came to choose a name for our son, even before he came, Cynthia and I went through a lot of names and their meanings before deciding on what to name him. I checked online for “English” names that I liked and discussed them with Cynthia. Her only contribution was that his native name would be his first name. I thought this was ironic as she rarely used her Yoruba name. When we settled on the names, we took care that the initials spelled out another name which we planned would be his nickname.
Cute, I know.
We asked his grandparents for names as well, and my mother was reluctant. “When I gave birth to you I named you,” she said, “and the name has served you well. Name your child. I will join you in praying for him.”
I insisted and she relented and named him after her father.
When people asked his name and we told them, they would go “ah” with a knowing smile because his first name was Igbo. What they didn’t know was that Cynthia gave him that name, and insisted it be his first name, and I loved her more for that.
Weeks have turned into months, and for all the thought that went into selecting his names, the name he reacted to; the name he answers to, is Bobo.