By Evans Eguavoen
In the mid 1980s, Kris Osagie Okojie, sportswriter and editor, heard the Nigerian national football team players singing an Edo song on the team bus on the way to a match. The cheerleader was Zakari John, who played for a Yoruba team. Okojie asked him who taught him the Edo song “ebai no ton gbe Josiah o” (hot eba killed Josiah o). To Okojie and the readers’ surprise, Zakari John said he was an Edo boy. To cut a long story short, Zakari was not his real name. His surname was actually Nosakhare, but at school in the west, they called him Zakari because they found Nosakhare too difficult to pronounce.
As recently as in 2005, a promising young Nigerian footballer and future national team captain had his name all mixed up by the football federation and the passport authorities just before the FIFA U-17 World Cup. That was how John Michael Obi became one of the most decorated Nigerian footballers of all time under the name John Obi Mikel.
These two anecdotes came to mind on June 12 2020, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, when the corruptible Professor Ayuber Oshi, acting on a script written from above, disqualified a great candidate because his name was “missing an ‘i’”. We have since learnt that it was Ayuba Oshi who was missing an “i” or even two eyes, for that matter. Thank God reason prevailed and Ayuber Oshi was fired. The loss of a great candidate only made his fate worse.
What other harm was Ayuber Oshi planning to cause had he not been stopped in his tracks? Remember the great writer Wole Soyinka? Ayuber Oshi was planning to write to the Nobel Prize Committee to withdraw his prize because his name is missing three letters O-l-u. Ayuber Oshi was going to tell the Committee that the real Soyinka actually is called “Oluwole,” therefore they had mistakenly given their prize to an impostor who goes by the initials W.S. instead of O.S.
Ayuba Oshi had even focused his eagle eye on another African, the great Nelson Mandela. He was going to expose Mandela as an impostor because Nelson was not the name the great man’s parents gave him at birth. They actually called him Rolihlahla. It was when Mandela went to school that the white people gave him a Christian name they could pronounce. Mandela might try to use the fact that he is dead as an excuse not to appear before Ayuber Oshi’s panel. If so, he doesn’t realise that Ayuber Oshi was the supreme court. He was also the customary court, high court and appeal court as well. There was no escaping his tentacles.
Arise, King Pèlé of Brazil, the greatest footballer of all time, and the youngest ever World Cup winner. Ayuber Oshi wanted you to go and return all your prizes and titles, sir, because you are an impostor. Lack of evidence has never stopped Ayuber Oshi from passing the pre-written judgment of his paymaster in the past and won’t have stopped him now, either. However, in your case, King Pèlé, the evidence is overwhelming because you said in your autobiography that the names your parents gave you were Edson Arantes Do Nascimento. You said you were named after Thomas Edison, inventor of electricity and many other things. You said “Pèlé” was a nickname your friends gave you and you never liked it but it stuck. Ayuber Oshi was going to make you regret putting a name that is not on your birth certificate on the back of your shirt your entire career. Lucky for you that Ayuber Oshi is slain.
Other famous people who are similarly lucky are former US Presidents Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Ayuber Oshi could prove to his paymasters that Jack and John are not the same thing. Or that Bill Clinton is not the same as William Jefferson Clinton. What about Richard Nixon, also ex-US president, who was called Dick or Dickie as well? Ayuber Oshi would have been so angered by these multiple identities, if his paymasters told him so, that he would have had Nixon wiped out from the history books. Or even said that Tony Blair, ex-British Prime Minister, is not the same as Anthony Blair. Count yourself lucky if your name is Efosa, but friends call you Efe; or your name is Folasade but you called yourself Sade and even won Grammy awards as a musician. In fact, let us all count ourselves lucky that Ayuber Oshi has been stopped from preaching his insidious gospel. Hopefully for ever.
Evans Eguavoen is a social affairs commentator