His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa. This was the official titles and names of deposed Gambian president Yahya Jammeh who is in exile in Equatorial Guinea after his ouster by a West African regional force.
Dictators love titles; His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Babili Mansa, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces & Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of The Gambia, Conqueror of Rivers pic.twitter.com/A2cVbYawZB
— Dictator Watch (@Citizen_Alert1) October 5, 2017
His titles and names are a few honorific titles religiously prefixed to names in Africa and regarded as a norm to write and mention before actual names.
Others are Chief, Chairman, Honourable and Right Honourable. They are either conferred, acquired or earned for a reason or no reason at all.
In Nigeria, Ghana and other former British colonies, political and parliamentary office holders are addressed as Honourable. Others choose to maintain them even after they are out of office.
Muslims in these countries also adopt the title Alhaji for men and Hajia for women after embarking on the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Some officially prefix them to their names.
Some pastors have also adopted titles like Reverend, Pastor, Archbishop among others to explain their status within and outside the church.
African chiefs also confer traditional titles on people to honour them, likewise the universities who award honorary doctorate degrees. These titles are used cheerfully by their bearers to signify a high class in society.
But why are these so important?
Nigeria’s Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha who came under attack for honouring South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma with a chieftaincy title and a statue explained that it was necessary to honour people and immortalise them so that “children yet unborn can know about them. History is dying in Africa, we must keep it alive.”
Zuma don’t give a damn. He’s in Nigeria receiving chieftaincy titles pic.twitter.com/Qox23Ncbus
— OnwaMbano (@IbeawuchiK) October 14, 2017
Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also conferred with a chieftaincy title by the traditional leaders of the same state in November and then honoured with a statue.
— Liberia Past Present (@liberiapp) November 12, 2017
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was also conferred with two titles in November when he visited Igboland.
The welcome also came with 2 Chieftaincy titles: Enyioma 1 of Ebonyi, which I am told means Trustworthy friend of Ebonyi; & Ochioha Ndigbo, which means Leader of Igbo people. I am a strong believer in the unity of Nigeria. Our diversity should be a source of strength not weakness pic.twitter.com/GJBJiH5tzg
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) November 14, 2017
He was conferred Ochi Oha Ndigbo (leader of all) by the South East Traditional Rulers and Enyi Oma 1 (number one good friend) by the Ebonyi State Traditional Council.
A Nigerian church conferred the title Otun Baba Ijo to the Chief of Ile Ife and former Ecobank Nigeria Chairman Chief Dr John Agboola Odeyemi (MFR).
It might not be the same again in Ghana where the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo has ordered two Members of Parliament to remove the titles Honourable from their names in a court writ.
The two MPs were in court to challenge the appointment of a minister when the Chief Justice’s attention was drawn to the use of the title in their documents.
“If we want to learn from the people who originated these titles, don’t do this. They mention their names before they mention any other titles,” she was quoted by the Ghana News Agency.
Ghana’s parliament agreed with the Chief Justice but said the title could be used on the floor of the House.
The Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo on Tuesday reproved two Members of Parliament for adding the title ‘honourable’ to their names in a writ they filed before the court.#TV3NewDay
— #TV3At20 (@tv3_ghana) December 13, 2017
In the United States, the title “Honourable” is normally used to refer to sitting members of Congress, Cabinet officials, and federal judges.
The United Kingdom has several courtesy titles which are conferred on different classes of people. Except for the royal family, professional and judicial courtesy titles are normally social and not legal thereby do not need prefixing before names. However, those knighted by Queen Elizabeth earn the title Sir which can be prefixed before their names.
Sir – On this day in 1909, Sir Matt Busby was born, 90 years later in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson won the Treble that saw him get Knighted
— Thando Shawa (@officialShawa) May 26, 2017
The use and love of titles in Africa have become a part of the culture which will not come to an end anytime soon.
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