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Governor El-Rufai advises his wife Hadiza on how to deal with Twitter trolls 
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241 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Nigeria
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Nigeria: Where Titles Turn You Into Royalties

Nigeria: Where Titles Turn You Into Royalties

I was with a Muslim friend some days ago and I teased him that he has refused to go to Mecca and become an “Alhaji”. He said that even if he goes there, he won’t answer “Alhaji” because it is not a title.

The word “Alhaji” simply means someone who has for gone for Hajj. A lot of Nigerian Muslims fancy that word “Alhaji” for the male or “Alhaja” for the females. Titles play a big role in our daily lives in Nigeria. Those with such titles are highly respected in the society. To those who have not gone and are aspiring to visit the holy site, it is an achievement.

Titles is the Nigerian own way of showing achievements. In the 80s and 90s, those who were known for being addressed with titles were mainly those in the medical and academic line of professions. A medical doctor was addressed as Dr. ABC and also an academician who has a doctorate degree. Those in the legal profession came up with “Barrister” as their own title and till date lawyers preferred to be referred to as Barrister DEF.

Every professional in Nigeria have adopted titles for themselves for identity and societal recognition. A pharmacist is now referred to as Pharm. GH while those in the construction industry goes by the title Buildr for builders, Engr for engineers, Surv for surveyors etc.

In Nigeria, a chieftaincy title can turn an unpopular man into a recognized and well-respected “Big Man” overnight in his community. He is seen as royalty in traditional functions. And if he has some “change” to spare then the sky is the beginning for him when it comes to recognition of the illustrious sons in the society.

In developed countries, a professor will write his or her name as Mr. James O’Neil, Professor of Nuclear Energy but in Nigeria it is the opposite. In public functions, you will see a Nigerian professor fuming with anger because he was addressed as Mister (Mr.) instead of Professor meanwhile; this is a man who has not done anything meaningful. We just acquire titles for status and nothing more. There are no impacts on society.

In our religious settings, titles have also emerged and have played vital roles how worshipers want to be addressed within religious circles and the society at large. In Islam, leaders preferred to be addressed as Alhaji ,Alhaja, Shehu,mallam etc. In Christianity that’s where a lot of titles flourish such as deacon or deaconess, Bishop, General Overseer etc.

The political enclave is full of title bearing politicians. Those in the senate preferred to be addressed as Senator and the lower houses are honorable. There are those politicians who also want society to know that they have acquired so much in academics that they love to be addressed with all their academic qualifications such as Hon. Rev. Dr. JKL. (Honorable; Reverend, Doctor) or Senator.Prof.Surv. Engr. MNO. Chieftaincy title is another one that a lot of politicians chase after. In some regions, these chieftaincy titles have become a money making venture for some kings. There are chieftaincy titles that cost millions of naira in well established and recognized kingdoms.  

Most Nigerians are more interested in these titles than the achievement in real terms. Nobody cares about what the impact of your work has on the society. A lot of Nigerians are title-driven than knowledge driven. We run after certificates and not on how to use the acquired knowledge for impartation.

It is the trend in Nigeria and it is a form of creating status and recognition. To be well respected you need to create a title for yourself.

Writer Kome Ibagere

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