One of the early signs of decay of a people and their society is the clear lack of thoroughness and attention to small details. A majority of the people just carry on as if nothing really matters; as if nothing is that so serious to have to pause a while to pay some serious attention to it. They just roll in incompetence, mediocrity, carelessness and fleeting attention even to what should be sacred and held as inviolate.
I regard the incorrect spelling or deliberate or careless mispronunciation of a person’s name as a form of violent rape of the man’s person and personality. It is as if you are saying, whoever he thinks he is, I do not care much at all. Such an attitude is disrespectful, disdaining, disregarding and ultimately disheartening. It is also a sign of our poor breeding. There are some misguided souls in our society who think that clumsiness in the spelling and pronunciation of a person’s name are a sign of sophistication and superiority. It is a way of looking down on persons from some group they think is inferior to theirs. They look at your name, think it is unspellable or unpronounceable and proceed to murder it with careless disregard and laugh at their non-effort.
They seem to be saying, ‘’how can you expect me, a high personage like me, to be able to correctly spell or pronounce such ‘’primitive’’ names as I am compelled to render? To me, this is a sign of clear inferiority complex because these same type of people try hard to render English or Arabic names as correctly or as best as their tongues can carry them. Why not try with African or Nigerian names that are closer home?
I am fed up and with the attempts by many Nigerians both high and low to murder and desecrate my holy name and I can hold it no longer. I must cry out now. My name is Mr. Idang Alibi and is spelt and rendered as set forth here. And I am thoroughly disgusted with especially Nigerians who spell my first name as follows: Ndang, Idiong, Idong, Aidang, Idiang and very rarely, Idang that it correctly is. Many render my surname as Alibe, Alabi or Alihe or as a lady lawyer friend of mine has chosen to do, she anglicises it and calls me ‘’Mr. Elebe’’. My pains know no limit because on a very bad day I may suffer a double grievous injury of being called Idiong Alabi, Idiang Alihe or Idong Alibai or Ndang Alibi
Commonsense should tell us that if you come across a name that is not from your ethnic group, pause a little and pay some attention to how it is spelt. Do not render it from your own understanding. That is carelessness and stupidity. Names mean a lot to those who bear them and any attempt to be careless with it in whatever form is offensive. It is a major part of human identity and any unserious effort towards recognising that is contemptuous. I always remember the case of the music legend James Brown who insisted that he must be correctly addressed with the title ‘’Mr.’’ Slavery may have depersonalize my Black brother and the only way he thought he should be affirmed is to call him with the little title ‘’Mr.’’ attached or pre-fixing his name. Do not laugh at this. It certainly meant a whole lot to a man suffering a deep psychological wound of being de-personed.
In my case, the misspelling of my name is completely inexcusable because I have spent years writing and building this name. Whether you do not care very much about me, please care about the number of years I have spent building this brand. This set of glorious name, Idang Alibi, has been in print since 1984. Every week or nearly so since 1984, I have written articles and published in some of the leading newspapers and magazines in the country and abroad yet, many seem to take delight in rendering my name as Idiong, Idiang and Ndang or something in between or far apart.
In fact, when I recently celebrated my 6oth birthday, someone wrote in tribute that he thought I was in my 8os because he has been familiar with this name in print for so loooooooong. It is either that those who ought to, do not read or when they do, they do not bother to pay sufficient attention. I am angry because I was told that when my father blessed me he said he wanted a child in me who will popularize or announce his name to the whole world. Without sounding immodest, I think I have discharged my obligation to my dad who died on November 11, 1971 at about a 12o when I was in Primary 4. Today, the name of Alibi Ajor Ani of Gakem in Bekwarra LGA of Cross River State pops up in the Internet if you Google it. I feel fulfilled.
While some men spend some of their time praying for money, position and things, one of my earnest prayers to God is that he should help me make my name such a household one that no one on earth will have the temerity or stupidity to misspell or mispronounce them. Add your accent to the pronunciation of my name but try hard to show that you would have called it properly if we all do not have an accent when speaking in a second language.
What is the cause of this uncharacteristic outpouring over a matter that looks like a trifle? Well, the Federal Government recently blessed me with an appointment but a careless secretary who typed my letter did it from her head and not from the reality presented to her by rendering it as ‘’Idiang’’. When efforts were made to get in touch with me, the men and women in charge ran ‘’Idiang’’ on Google and predictably, drew a blank. They would have been saved all that trouble if the name of the son of Alibi Ajor Ani of Gakemland was simply written Idang Alibi. Little things matter and we Nigerians, as individuals and as a people of a nation, must learn to pay attention.