Do titles really matter?

When  Major General Ibrahim Babangida took over power from Major General Muhammadu Buhari the then Nigerian head of state via a palace coup in August 27, 1985, he said he will like to be addressed as president and commander in chief of Nigeria and not head of state as his contemporaries who took over government via coup were addressed. True to this he was called president till he left office on August 26, 1993.

Also when Babangida became president his wife late Mariam Babangida created the office of the first lady of Nigeria and was addressed as first lady of Nigeria. Prior to that time, the wives of former Nigerian leaders were called wife of the president and head of state, respectively. In 1997 when Alhaji Ado Ibrahim became Ohinoyi of Ebirraland, he asked to be called his royal majesty (HRM) and not the usual his royal highness (HRH). Maybe he believed HRH title was not majestic enough and does not befit his new status as the paramount king of the Ebirraland; 22 years down the line, the title has stuck. Same for Late Biafran warlord Odimegu Ojukwu in the late 90s; he said he should not be called chief anymore, that it sounds like thief, instead he preferred  the title Dim Odumegu Ojukwu and that’s what he was called till he died in November 2011.

Also, in early 2000 Raymond Dokpesi, Emeritus Chairman of Daar Communication, asked to be called high chief instead of just chief. In 2007 when late Musa Yar’Adua became president he asked to be addressed as the servant leader, the appellation was used even though he was still referred to as Mr President. When Governor Babangida Aliyu became governor of Niger state in 2007, he asked to be addressed as chief servant and that title reigned till he left office in May 2015. In November 2008 when Mr Adams Oshiomhole became governor of Edo state after his success at the tribunal, he demanded as a comrade to be called the comrade governor.

In November 2010 when Rauf Aregbesola became Osun state governor after his success at the tribunal, he asked to be called Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, instead of governor or his excellency. Ogbeni means Mr in Yoruba) he used the title till he left office in November 2019. He also changed the prefix of his state, Osun state to the state of Osun, which is being used till date. In 2015 Pastor Tunde Bakare founder of Latter Rain Bible Church prefers the title serving overseer to general oversee. He said he was not a military commander, but a servant of the people he is pastoring.

In August 2019 having been addressed as wife of the president since May 2016, President Buhari said the constitution does not recognise the first lady office and title. I think Aishat Buhari, wife of Nigerian president, got tired of that undignifying title and she asked to be called first lady of Nigeria. In November 2019 Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state asked not to be called his excellency anymore, as its only God is excellent; he addressed as Mr Governor. In all these, the title may sound fantastic, outrageous and sometimes humbling, but the act of service to the people or customer may be more honourable, fantastic and rewarding.

David Atta,



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