The Tsunami of English Surnames Among The Igbo Of Nigeria: A Disease That Must Be Cured

The Tsunami of English Surnames Among The Igbo Of Nigeria: A Disease
The Tsunami of English Surnames Among The Igbo Of Nigeria: A Disease

Over the years I have taken acute interest in certain first names and Surnames which we the Igbo people bear. I am always marveled at the metaphor and proverbs that could be embedded in one’s family name. A family’s surname says a lot about where they are coming from as a people and the experiences they have had in life. It is a trade mark!!!

But one thing that always left me in utter bewilderment was the use of English names as Surnames by Ndị Igbo both home and abroad. I do not understand how an African would throw aside his/her ancestral surname (identity) and boldly put on that of a European, or sometimes an Arab.

A lot of people might want to term it “slave mentality” but I think that’s putting it mildly. I once met a lady in Nigeria whose name was Mary Michael. I was forced to ask her where she was from, since she spoke sound Igbo. She said Imo State. And I asked her: Nnem are you sure you are from Imo State? Are you sure you are even Igbo? She got angry and wondered why I was asking like she wasn’t sure of where she came from. I told her since she didn’t bear an Igbo surname then her origin is in doubt because she had shed her identity; and secondly anybody can learn and speak Igbo.

It is heartbreaking that some of us from the recent generation do not know the consequences of using an English name as our “surname.” They blame it on urbanization and assimilation into broader and multi-racial society.

But I have always told people that urbanization is not an excuse for losing your identity – I do not see English men dropping their Scott and answering Okoro.

It then falls on the elders to teach the youths right from wrong – the importance of having an Identity. But what we find are weak Igbo parents who run into churches, throw away their ancestral names, with the excuse that it is cursed or seems fetish.

They then force their kids to walk around with English Surnames looking like foreigners in their own father land.

 As an Igbo man, if you do not like the meaning of your surname (handed down to you) then by all means change it to another Igbo name, not an English one. Dalụ nụ.

Article Written By Chuka Nduneseokwu


  1. Very interesting article and thanks for sharing. I have had similar discussion with my social media audience in recent time. I talked about how Africans have abandoned their African names in favor of either European or Arab names. It generated heated conversation for days.

  2. You are most welcome. Funny thing is that those who have changed their first names and surnames find nothing wrong in that.

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  5. Always wondered where names like Victor Moses, Isaac Success, and Rita Dominic came from. I always believed Nigerians were the world’s proudest people; proud of their language, identity and heritage. Then came those names and my heart sunk.

    I agree fully with the author and would gladly invite fellow Africans to strip the false, even denigrating, foreign identity we have adopted.

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