WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT…

IMG_20190119_020945_066.jpg

This is a new month. Every day is a new beginning. Try to be positive about life. Speak to someone about your fears. Don’t die in silence. Never be afraid to face life as it comes. Good or bad; we are in it together. As it ever crossed your mind that since the days of old, the world is filled with the rich and the poor; the good and the bad; the righteous and the wicked;  the contented and the greedy; the wise and the fool; the happy and the sad. These are the stark realities of our everyday life. While we continuously work for an egalitarian society bear in mind that even humanity is unequal; we have male and female; the strong and the weak; the healthy and the sick. While some are born others are dying; while some are in the prime of their days, others are singing the nunc dimittis…

It’s a new month try to encourage your friends; speak comforting words; give away the smile it could brighten someone’s day; make excuses for others attitude; never crucify before you listen. Many people are burning deep within they only need to be listened to. Unfortunately, we are all in a rush and seem to have no time to listen to those who just want to share some moments with us. Listen to your friends old and new. Listen to the young and the old. Listening to them can reinvigorate them and give them some reasons to smile. Don’t be too far away from those that care. After a hard day’s labour, we always go back home. Make peace at home. Do not make your home a war zone: if there is no peace at home then there may be none elsewhere in this present life…

Above all radiate joy! Take pictures of you: you won’t take them again when you are gone. Go to places: it is part of education and self-development. Take a walk: it helps burn out some calories and makes you smart. Visit friends: it makes them feel loved. Don’t mind those who snob you. Appreciate those who have time for you. Care is reciprocal. There are things money cannot buy. A terminally sick patient who has been told when he will die can relate this… Eat healthy food: if you don’t eat your food as medicine you will soon eat medicine as food. Dress decently. There are enough pornographic images already scattered everywhere don’t make yourself one of such collections. There is a difference between wealth and riches. Be conscious of the source of your income: Never eat fat on someone´s else sorrows. Integrity is earned. Respect the difference in opinion of others. Think before you speak. Speak words that build and unite not destroy or divide.  

You are a champion already. Nobody can be you. You are unique. Stop comparisons. Work on your potentials. Envy kills faster than malaria. It corrupts self-perception. We are all gifted differently. We are precious in God’s eyes. Because you have it all today doesn’t mean you look down on others. Tomorrow is pregnant with a million possibilities. No one stays on top or in power forever. Ambition devoid of morality is catastrophic. Hard work pays but grace is real as well.

Let me conclude with the Pauline words of admonition: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble (honourable), whatever is right (just), whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious (admirable), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4: 8-9). 

Stay safe…

Valentine Umoh
Universidad de Navarra
02.06.2019

DO NOT BE AFRAID, NEVER BE DISCOURAGED: IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER!

nigerian-youths-891x470

Yes, times are hard! “I am not getting younger.” “I have finished secondary school, admission for higher education has become an uphill task.” After NYSC there is no work. There is no money for feeding. “I am the first child, everyone depends on me, while I have nothing substantial doing to meet these cumbersome budgets.” “My Father is well advanced and not working and my Mother is a petty trader with little or no income.” “Those who would have helped me are making demands that I cannot meet: I should join their secret cult (swear an oath of allegiance) or I should be their sex slave before they could help me.” “My uncle or aunt is excessively wealthy (all their children study abroad) but wouldn’t help me nor any of his brother´s or sister´s children.” “I was the best in my high school.” “Those I was better off (at least academically) are making it far in life. Here am I with little or no hope that things will change tomorrow.” “I am getting tired of this life.” God is unjust. The world is wicked.

These are some of the groanings from young promising talents that I have been opportune to have meet by virtue of my life and ministry as a priest. Times are hard, and the society makes it harder. A typical Nigerian youth is intelligent, hardworking and wants to succeed like his peers. He wants to explore. There is an inner zeal in him or her to live his or her dreams. Most Nigerian Youths are very virtuous and as such will not want to succeed via “Get rich quick” means that are easily and readily available. They are knowledgeable enough to know the aftermath of those evil means. In a society where you struggle for everything: food, housing, education, healthcare, a society where there is no social security, the youths feel the impact the most and they find life so hard. Indeed, in Nigeria, life is a real struggle!

In the last two or three months, I have read of so many cases of suicide. 70 % of these cases are youths in their mid-30s. While, I cannot defend nor support this attitude in any way, they are clear expressions of the state of hopelessness and desperation. A society where nothing seems working forces some of her youths to consider suicide as an option. God forbid, we always say but unless you put yourselves in their shoes, you will never understand why anyone will want to take his own life. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to own a house, have a car, eat well at least daily, have the luxury of a good wardrobe, have a comfortable bank account, have a promising career job, get married, have lovely kids, etc? Desperation sets in when these yearnings are far beyond reach and there is no convincing hope that things would change soon. Things gets worse, when you look around and see some of your mates who have started living their dreams. Despair and a sense of worthlessness or ill-luck sets in. If you have found yourself in these situations and these descriptions suits you, it is precisely because of you that I put this up: “Do not be afraid, never be discouraged, it can only get better!”

There is a story I heard of a man with three kids and a lovely wife who met a travelling agent in Lagos to ask him to find any country for him where he can move in with his family. They man said: “ANY COUNTRY OTHER THAN NIGERIA.” He wants to get out, he wants to move away. He is ready to sell the few things he has. He is ready to seek asylum in a country as poor as Gabon. He is ready to abandon his fatherland just to see if he can meet earns meet and secure a better life for his three kids. For him, any country other than Nigeria will be better. Why?

Yes, any country where the basic need of education from primary, secondary and even up to university level is free or at least affordable; any country where healthcare is guaranteed; any country where government know their work; any country where electricity is not a luxury; Any country where a “common” cleaner or gardener is guaranteed the established minimum wage and respect; Any country where the police know their work and do not harass innocent citizens, Any country which allows a man to fulfill his potentials and express himself; Any country where the needs of the poor and common man determines government policies; Any country where traffic rules are observed to the letter; Any country where youths are not condemned to hang around politicians for their daily bread; Any country where human life is valued and respected; Any country which does not become a GIANT in GDP, on economic tabloids and in IMF rating but with the greatest poverty and unemployment rate; Any country where jobs are advertised and employments are based on merit and not on “Who do you know? Or who is your father?” Any country where government workers due for retirement are not afraid to retire because of a never-ending tradition of owing gratuities and pensions; These countries will always be a better country than Nigeria.

Sometimes, it is sad to realize that almost all the countries that fought the second world war, where able to put behind them the ravages of the war to build a strong and solid economic and political structure for the years that followed; these countries have the strongest economies today. Unfortunately, in Nigeria the same issues that led to the civil war had never been overcome to date. The poor masses and the youths become exposed to a high rate of vulnerability and there is a mad rush out of the country to just anywhere better and safer.   

Wait a minute! Do not be afraid, never be discouraged, it can only get better! All hope is not yet lost because there is life. Take life easy and be easy on yourself. You can only do what you can. You are not a magician. Believe in yourself and avoid unnecessary comparisons. The pain of being human is the uncertainties that we must combat with every day. Sometimes we try so hard to predict, pierce or glance into tomorrow (the future) only to find out that we were wrong after all. Take and deep breath and for once congratulate yourself for being where you are at the moment: it can only get better. A flashback at yesterday could encourage you to keep moving for no matter how dark the clouds are there will always be a silver lining in the end. Be filled with more thanksgivings and gratefulness than regrets. Many people you see smiling and taking mouth-watering pictures of themselves and of places they have visited suffer so much pain behind the smiles and the beauty of those pictures you see. What kills people easily today is depression. Depression comes when you put so much pressure on yourself. So, my dear, cheer up, give a smile and keep moving: it can only get better. There is no better encouragement than self-encouragement; there is no better determination than self-determination.

That you tried and fail doesn’t mean you cannot try again. There is no harm in continuous trial. Build yourself, develop yourself, build your self-confidence. Learn from the mistakes of others, never wait until you make them yourself. Read wide and always be updated. We are in the age of social media. So many useful information is now closer to your door steps than before: make a good use of them. I am a strong advocate of a new and better society called Nigeria, but we must stay alive to see this come to reality. Never allow your vulnerability to be exploited by political pundits, aim to build your personal career. Forgive those who have wronged you and live joyfully because tomorrow promises to be a better time.

Valentine Umoh

17.01.2019
Pamplona

THE JOSEPH LESSON … THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

Unhappy couple

(Dedicated to all my friends who are struggling to build a happy human relationship)

I have had the opportunities to use the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph to illustrate the fact that we all need to listen to each other and to give each other a benefit of the doubt to some few individuals and now I need to share my reflection to a wider audience. This is because from the Joseph lesson there is always another side of the story.

Many potentially beautiful and fruitful relationships, many marriages, many friendships and comradeships have crumbled simply because of the pride of not listening to the other, not giving the other party the opportunity to express himself or herself and then not trusting the other party’s side or version of the story.

While it is true that some stories could be constructed and cooked to favour one’s point of view, this doesn’t negate the reality that we still need to listen to that other side of the story. Even the Old Testament people were wise when they legislated that two witnesses are needed to sustain a charge and to this day modern lawsuits need multiple witnesses to sustain a charge.

Now, Joseph got betrothed to Mary, even while they can’t live together they were legally married. They had committed to each other in love and fidelity. Shortly before the end of the betrothal period according to Jewish custom, Joseph found out that Mary is with Child. Obviously, there could be only one explanation to such a pregnancy, Mary is seeing someone else. And so, Joseph on the evidence of this one possible explanation (or side of the story) decides to send Mary home quietly without putting her to shame. The evangelist Matthew explains that Joseph was a just man. Obviously, he was because if he was not, he wouldn’t waste time in alerting his kinsmen and neighbours and as well as invoke the full weight of the law which was stoning her to death for such an abominable act of adultery. But then as he was contemplating on how to do this, an Angel of the Lord in a dream revealed to him the other side of the story – Mary´s pregnancy is divinely willed. Joseph listened and gave his cooperation. This is what we celebrate every Christmas, the incarnation. (Cf. Matthew 1:18-23).

Listening to the other side of the story is very important and crucial in every form of human relationship. Human beings are susceptible to making rash judgements about others and condemning them even without listening to the other side of the story. Yes, you saw him or her with another person or someone else told you about him or her, you saw them in the same car, in the same social event, you even caught them “red handed.” Even while that is bad enough, there could still be another side of the coin or script. What if it was a coincidence, what if it was a set-up, what if there was a spell or charms “the handwork of the devil”, what if it was a mere casual outing with no strings attached, the list could be endless, and all these are humanly excusable only if we are patient enough to listen to that other side of the story. Yes, he or she didn’t pick up your call and took long to return the call, and you have already drawn your conclusion, she or he didn’t reply your messages as quickly as you expected, and you drew your conclusion; he or she came back late at night; you drop by at the office and you didn’t find him or her etc. These are just few of the common episodes which explode into problems in relationships. For me, these issues could have been resolved if we are able to apply the Joseph lesson, that there is always another side of the story.

There is nothing as beautiful in a relationship than the value of listening to each other. At the table of discussion which involves talking and listening many issues will be resolved. There can be no magic about this, even while you have been married or been friends for a very long time, questions of misunderstandings will still come up, new problems will always erupt, and new challenges will resurface. Only by cultivating this Joseph lesson of listening to each other´s version could problems be amicably resolved.

Listening to the other side of the story obviously involves having a forgiving heart. There may well be a case whereby the other admits that the story is correct and true, and he or she tries to give some reasons for the story that played out and then ended up with some profound notes of deep-seated apology. Listening to the other side of the story means that one is able to forgive. Even without listening to Mary´s own side of the story, Joseph had already resolved to send her away secretly and sparing her the publicity (shame) as well as the full weight of the law. This is already a prefigured forgiveness. Without forgiveness I don’t see any human relationship standing the tides and waves of days, weeks, months and years because we are all full of mistakes.

Listening and forgiveness go together. They are the basic ingredients that are needed in every human relationship. When these are lacking or insufficient, man´s pride and ego blossom and have the field of play. Let us not forget that human relationship is not an option of convenience, but a basic human necessity borne out of natural law. As the saying goes, “No man is an island.”

For those still waiting for the perfect relationship let me disappoint you by saying that such a thing does not exist. Maybe in the Platonic Utopic world of forms Yes but in this present world NO. If no man or woman is perfect, then a perfect human relationship just like a perfect human society do not exist. Relationship become beautiful when all the parties can seat down together at the conference table from where they listen to each other´s sides of the story and forgive each other where there is injury.

Human Relationships and friendships are not built once and for all and not at all in a day. It is always a work in progress. Let us learn to give a listening ear, let us learn the Joseph lesson and together we can make the world a better place to live in.

 27.07.2018

Valentine Umoh

Continue reading

…AS YOU GRADUATE

2018_with_gradcap

(Dedicated to all the 2018 graduates of Queen of Apostles Seminary Afaha Obong, Notre Dame Girls Secondary School, Urua Edet Obo, Loreto Girls Juniorate, Eriam, Holy Family College, Oku Abak, Holy Child Girls Secondary School, Ifuho, St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, Stella Maris Girls College, Ikot Etim & all other graduates of the schools that promote the Catholic Educational values)

My dear 2018 graduating students,

Good day! How are you doing? I hope all is well. As you graduate, I considered it fitting to write down a few lines to you from some far distant isles. At least the new media have permitted me to do so. Indeed, though far away, I am very near to you and my love for you will go on. I know for many years you have been tutored, you have been formed, you have been mentored and taught the right conduct and the ability to make right and correct choices, please do not depart from this learning.

As I always say, the first 20 years of your life is like laying a bed on which you will lie on for the rest of your years. Of this first 20 years, the ones I consider very crucial for character and intellectual formation are the six years spent in the secondary school. These years are so crucial and important. That is why your parents had to spend their hard-earned resources to make sure you are given this crucial foundation. Please my dear graduating students value these years and make them count.

Among all the millions of schools, your parents or guardian sent you to a school that promote the values of Catholic Education not minding the cost because they know that indeed the school offers more than the cost per se. Someone once said, if education is so costly try ignorance. And I know that if you are true to yourself, they were right. Please do not make them feel disappointed by your actual output.

While in school the rules were rigorously set out for you: you wake up every morning and the first point of call was always a Thanksgiving to God in your magnificent Chapel, then the Morning functions, the Breakfast, The Assembly, Classes, Midday prayers, Lunch, Siesta, Afternoon prep, Games or Labour, the Vespers/Evening Rosary, Supper, Night prep and then the last point of call again was the Chapel for the Night prayers. And then the lights out. As you see dear friend, the activities were so structured in such a way to seek God´s assistance in all moments and activities of the day as well as to make God the beginning and end of all you do.  Never graduate without assimilating this most important lesson. The difference you will now see after school is that while these regulations remain in your subconsciousness, there will no longer be any Rector or principal, nor auxiliaries nor compound Master, nor prefects, nor regulator to enforce these rules. You will now be your own Rector and Principal, Prefect and Regulator. Indeed, a sense of freedom at last sets in. Watch it my dear friend this is where many got it wrong.

While in school, you did not just learn in the class room (Intellectual), learning took many other forms: you were made to belong to one school club or the other, the school choir, the band, the cultural group, the football and other sports team (basketball, volleyball, athletics etc), the press club, debating club, mathematics club, you can name them yourselves. Please my dear student, try to put into efficient use, the good talents that you discovered while in school, keep developing and harnessing them, they could really be of great help in the rainy days.

While in school, you were assigned to a responsibility role: some of you were school senior prefects, Masters of Ceremony, Sacristans, Refectory prefects, Labour prefects, Toilet prefects, Sanitary prefects, Dormitory prefects, Study hall prefects, you can name the rest. These were meant to form you in leadership roles and to inculcate in you the human virtues of accountability and responsibility. My dear student, if there is anything wrong with your Nigeria and my Nigeria, it is that these human and social virtues have been undermined by the country´s successive leadership. It is left for you and me to correct these in our own days. Be responsible and accountable with any position of leadership that will be entrusted to you in the days that lies ahead.

Yes, indeed, you deserve to be congratulated for having completed this phase of your life. Accept my heartfelt felicitations but let your actions speak volumes for you. You were taught to be a civilized and educated human being: a gentleman and a lady, please be good ambassadors.

In the university, the 3rd phase of your educational career, there are many challenges that lies ahead. Your secondary school education has given you all you need to surmount those challenges. However, let me not fail to admonish you: strive to do the right things at the right times and stay safe. Try to avoid going to the wrong places. Avoid the company of those that cannot add value to your life. Dress properly as you have been taught to avoid being embarrassed. A university post reads: “As you dress, so shall you be addressed.” A good dressing gives you confidence and dignity. If your right hand, eye, or leg as the Bible says causes you to sin cut it off. If you notice that you are with the wrong friend and in the wrong company, make a conscious resolution to cut off the relationship. Avoid anything and the company of persons associated with cultism, lesbianism and homosexuality, they are not only moral sins but societal crimes. Avoid smoking and excessive alcoholism, it doesn’t add any value to you, it only exposes you to innumerable heart and related diseases.

As you go into the larger society, keep the fire burning, keep the flag flying, keep the star in you shinning, wake up the Einstein (creative ingenuity) in you and keep soaring like an eagle…the Lord is your strength! Beware of bad company, it corrupts good character. Don’t forget God, it is in Him we live, move and have our being…Respect your elders, it is a guarantee that you will someday be an elder; keep the rules of life, it keeps you going; live and let others live…it is the basic rule of co-existence. On the overall, be good, be nice to all you will ever meet…you do not know what tomorrow holds…

Someone once said, if you can read and write, then thank your teachers. Always be grateful to your teachers and formators. You can never thank them enough. A little courtesy, a wave, a “hi” or “hello”, a good morning, when you see them in the bus station or in your locality gives them some encouragement. Try to keep the companionship of the good friends you have made in school, among your classmates, even your younger ones, you can never tell what tomorrow holds. Many successful people today were helped by the friends they made in secondary school.

Before I conclude, learn to be creative and proactive. While you are expecting your admission processes into the universities to get through and even while undergoing your university education, you can also pick interest in learning something new or developing some naturally endowed talents. For instance, you can learn fashion designing, cake-making, decoration or web page developing and management (not just computer school to learn how to type), public speaking, musical instruments like Guitar, violin, or keyboard, music composition, music recording, video making and photography or photo editing etc. My dear, experiences have shown that many people who ventured into these areas of life also became successful. Your talents and any vocational training you undergo can also add to your income in the future, they can save you in the rainy days especially in these moments our dear country´s economy is experiencing high rate of unemployment.

Above all, in all you do, and whatever you will be tomorrow, make God your number one refuge and stronghold. The many spiritual activities in school were meant to emphasize this very crucial point.

As St Paul will say when addressing his letters to his audience, I am not writing to you as a stranger, rather as one who by a special mandate and grace of God journeyed with you for some years, as one who had been privileged to teach some of you in class, pray with you and for you in the Chapel, play with you in the football field, relax and recreate with you at social events and dine with you in the refectory, but not fail to reprimand and correct you as well when you fell into error. Therefore, I implore you as you graduate, to consider seriously these things and I know that your future is brighter, better and greater.

May the God of peace be with you all!

Once again, congratulations!

Best wishes from your friend and animator,

Fr. Valentine Umoh

Continue reading

A LETTER TO MY FRIEND: “GOSSIPING IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE”

Dear Friend,

I write you this letter to encourage you because I know that life can be tough, and when the going gets tough one can easily get distracted, discouraged and could even miss the mark. Among other things that tries to pull down promising young talents on the way to achieving their goals and dreams like you, are gossips, rumours and calumny. A saying has it that “strong minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events and weak minds discuss people.” This saying seems to be correct and has stood the test of time. The weak minds here perfectly describe the category of gossipers. Never get distracted by gossips dear friend. Yes, it is true that a man´s enemy is always within, so those who gossip about you aren’t far from you, they could be your kinsmen, friends and folks. Yet, never get discouraged.

What is gossip? Wikipedia defines gossip as “an idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Cambridge defines it as “conversation or reports about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or not true.” So, a gossip also called gossipmonger is “someone who enjoys talking about other people and their private lives.” The underlining words here are “personal or private affairs (lives) of others.” The Old and New Testament of the Christian Bible condemns gossip strongly.

Gossip is that thing you cannot say to the person, or persons face-to-face because they are false premonitions or the creations of your own fantasies. They are lies and prejudices aimed at discrediting the integrity of the other. They are used to score cheap points by those who are interested in listening.

Those who discuss about people at their back are either afraid of them or have an inferiority complex. I encourage you dear friend, never be taken aback by gossips, they are just gossips. The objective of gossips is to slow your pace, to weaken you and to discourage you. Never give in to them. And never join their company as well.

In case you are still uncertain or in doubt of what gossip is, look at this assessment: Does the chat or discussion rejoice in the misfortune of others? Does it have a negative emotional charge or seem to perpetuate conflict or negativity? Does it hurt or damage the one being spoken of? Would you say it in front of this person´s face? Is it an unsubstantiated rumour about another´s situation? If so, then have no more doubts, these are gossips.

When they gossip about you, it means that you are ahead of them. They feel surpassed by the heights you have reached. Never react, when you do, you are sending signals that they have succeeded. They are happy to see you feel bad or saddened. Gossips and rumours belong to the same family and the have the main objective. Only the unfocussed fall into their prey, the determine and firm heart, hear the gossips and is emboldened.

The developers of most of the apps we are using today in the cyberspace for instance, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, WhatsApp and other infotech apps never sat down discussing nor discrediting the inventors or creators of the earlier apps rather they analyzed ideas and the principles and sought ways of creating other apps to meet contemporary needs. Great minds compete on the level of ideas, creativity, productivity and efficiency. So why sit down and gossip about those who are making genuine efforts, why seek to discredit the other instead of seeking ideas to advance and improve yours. Man is a bundle of possibilities, intelligence and potentialities. Lack of focus is a cankerworm. Gossips belong to the group of individuals with a missed priority.

A gossip is like a bad defender in the game of football who attempts to pull down or impedes the progress of an attacker approaching the goal. In such cases, the defender usually gets penalized with a yellow card or red card and a freekick or penalty awarded to the opponents depending on the gravity of the pulling and the proximity to the goal line. Like the work of that bad defender, gossip can kill morale and disrupt productivity. When this happens, the gossipmonger has achieved his or her aim.

Surely, my dear friend, I know you are not a gossip yourself, but if you are, I advise that instead of wasting time gossiping about others, me bethinks that it will do you good to convert that time and energy into something productive to yourself and fix up your future. Gossiping doesn’t subtract anything from the supposed-victims, it only shows that you are lazy, destructive and have bad will. Live your life and let others be.

I will conclude this reflection dear friend with a story. Once upon a time, an old man spread rumours that his neighbour was a thief. As a result, the young man was arrested. Days later he was proven innocent. After being released, he sued the old man for wrongly accusing him. In the court the old man told the judge, “They were just comments, they didn´t harm anyone.” The judge, before passing sentence on the case, told the old man, “write all the things you said about him on a piece of paper.” “Cut it up into little pieces and on the way home, throw the pieces of paper out of your car window. Tomorrow, come back to hear the sentence.” The next day, the judge told the old man, “Before receiving the sentence, I want you to go out and gather up all the pieces of paper that you threw out of your car window yesterday.” The old man said, “I can´t do that! The wind spread them all over the place and won´t know where to find them.” Then the judge replied, “The same way, simple words and comments may destroy the honour of a person to such an extent that a person will not be able to fix it. If you can´t speak well of someone, don´t say anything at all. Let´s all be masters of our mouths, so that we won´t be slaves of our words.”

Now the lesson dear friend: “Gossips are worse than thieves because they steal another person´s dignity, honour, reputation and credibility which are impossible to restore. So, remember this: when your feet slip, you can always recover your balance but when your tongue slips, you can never recover your words!”

My Fatherly advice dear friend: If you are a gossipmonger, you can covert that time and energy to something productive; if you are or have ever been a victim of gossip, never lose your confidence, be strong and keep moving.

From whichever angle you look at it from you will see it, my dear friend, that gossip is counter-productive. Concentrate on your goals and strive into becoming the person of your dreams!

With love,

26.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

THERE IS SOMETHING IN A NAME. BE PROUD OF YOUR NAME!

what-your-name-23866604

If there is any important event for the parents of a new born baby, it is the naming ceremony. At such important ceremony, the father of the child (or whoever is responsible for naming the child) gives the name for which the child is to be known and addressed. Apart from the circumstances of the birth of the child, religion and culture influences the name given to every child at birth. As such, a mere glance at a person´s name, it is easier to determine his or her religion and cultural heritage.

In the Ancient Near East (Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia), names were thought to be extremely powerful and act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person or deity. For them, names had metaphysical signification. Right into the Old Testament, the names of individuals are meaningful (every name has a meaning and significance) and a change of name indicated a change of status. Every biblical name had a meaning and biblical characters were given names at birth that reflect something of significance or describe the course of their lives. Varied examples abound.

In the Christian dispensation, new names are given to Christians at Baptism (also at confirmation) to reflect their new Christian status.  With the advent of modern civilization there was a systematization of names. Now at least a person´s official name must contain two names: his own personal name and surname. Both names now consist a person´s identity. The number of names may vary from one culture to another. In all of these, there is nothing as valuable to a person as his name. For instance: “My name is Valentine Umoh.” The first is my baptismal name which have become my first name, personal name and perhaps the most common. The second is my Surname, what is now referred to as Family name. The culture I come from allow us to use our Father´s first name as middle name. In that case my official name becomes: Valentine Anthony Umoh. That is my name and I value it.

I am writing this because I want you to know or to remind you that “there is something in a name; there is beauty in a name.” Be proud of your name! If there is anything we cannot control, it is birth. Birth is a given because life is a given. You do not decide where to be born, or to which culture to be born into, neither to what family nor to which parents. Those are the givens of life. You need to be proud of your religion, family and culture. These are perfectly reflected and engraved in your name.

Yes, there might as well be a case, where a child grows up and feels uncomfortable with the name he or she was given at birth and decides to change it. Well and good! But to whatever name you change into be proud about and live with it. There is something in a name.

I find the current trend of people twisting the spellings of their names or preferring some school nicknames to their real names quite unfortunate. For me, it shows the lack of understanding of the metaphysical undertones behind the giving of names. You can find this readily on Facebook and other social media. It is a trend that needs to be checked, if not we will lose something as valuable as personal identity which in this case is represented by names.

Your name is the most important aspect of your self-identity, self-image and self-esteem. I am tempted to suppose that those who twist or change their names on Social Media like Facebook are either Fraudsters, scammers or they have a false sense of identity, low-self esteem or inferiority complex. So, are you ashamed to let people know that your surname is ASUQUO, ETIM, OKON, UKOHA, UMEH or ABUBAKAR? What are you ashamed of? Your religion, your family, your language or ethnicity or culture? That is too bad. You know what? You can´t really change that, so you got to live with it. Attempting to change that by twisting the spelling of your name or preferring your nickname is like living a false life. Be proud of your name. Let the world know that is your name. Or are you afraid of the world? Then you better not be born at all.

Changing your name to: Psquare, TuFace, Shakira, Beyonce, Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Baby, Sugar, Noble, Princess, Buhari, Saraki etc doesn’t really change your metaphysical composition neither does it change your true identity as that Oron girl, Annang boy, Igbo girl, Tiv girl, Hausa boy, etc. It only reflects that you are suffering from a false sense of selfhood and personhood! Those models have made their names and written their names on the signs of times. They didn’t borrow your name, they used theirs. Try to also use your name and make it known (popular if you like). If you are not proud of your name, no one will! If you don’t make it known, no one will! Don’t forget that your name is your identity.

One last note. The last time I checked English adjectives do not qualify as proper names of persons (Anthroponym), they are always Proper nouns. This is a reminder to those who add: sweet, hot, sexy, noble, etc to their names. These are adjectives which also could be used as complements and not as names of persons. Again! What name is there in your international passport, voters card, National ID, WAEC certificate and Baptism Card? Those are your true identity in case you have forgotten. Let those names reflect on your social media platforms and be proud of your name. There is something in a name, do not change or twist the spelling of your name for nothing, nor trade your true identity for what is trending. What is trending doesn’t last: Your true identity is your identity. Learn to value what you have. Value your name and make it known.  

“A person who can´t be proud of his or her name and age is living a false life!”

14.06.2018
Valentine Umoh

BE FAIR TO YOURSELF… DO NOT LET WHAT YOU CANNOT DO DETER YOU FROM DOING THAT WHICH YOU CAN!

16602448_1429544443742883_7312097301668703779_o

As far as the reality of life is concern, all human beings have their respective goodness and badness. We all have our various points of strengths and points of weaknesses. Every human being has an innate goodness and virtue in him. And there is no one that is so perfect to the point of excluding all possibilities of defects. The abundance and varieties of unique individual talents already makes this point clear enough. For instance, to one is given the natural talent of the art of public speaking, to the other of writing, to the other of singing and composition, artistic and aesthetic appreciation etc. One student is extraordinarily gifted in the sciences, the other in the literary subjects, the other in calculations etc.

Yes, you can! They will tell you it is all about determination, confidence and believing in yourself! While this is true that “you can”, in some and certain instances, you must also be courageous enough to accept that which “you can´t”. So, rather than focusing your energy on that which you can´t, your energy should be channeled to those things you can. We spend so much time talking about things we can´t (things we are not able to do) to the point of neglecting those which we can (things we are able to do).

Be fair to yourself. The journey of life is the journey of self-discovery. The Ancient Socratic saying “Man know thyself” captures this very fact succinctly. The educational process is a learning process that is aimed at helping you discover yourself. Part of this self-discovery is the discovery of “what I can do.” The other parts will consist of “Who am I”, “Where am I” and Where am I going” etc. The question: “What can I do?” also embodies the negative question “What can´t I do?” Trying to do everything is an attempt to be ´a jack of all trades´ which only leads to mediocrity instead of excellence and proficiency.

The Nigerian Educational process modelled according to the Western education, exposes every individual child to all the possibilities in the primary and secondary schools. In the last years of the secondary education, a child already identifies his or her strong points and will wish to channel his or her time, efforts and resources to that which he or she can do better. In the university, obviously, there is a certain level of specialization based on that which one can do best. There are also others who feel they can embark on something more practical, away from the so much theories of the university system. Persons like this are advised to pick up vocational training after their secondary schools. This is also a valid educational process. This educational process already tells us that we as unique individuals cannot do everything and that we are not all the same. We are all unique in our own way!

Be fair to yourself! There is no need to sit down and wish you were this other person or that other person. Within you lies a unique beauty, goodness, capacity and ability. Discover yourself and maximize the time you have and perfect your strong points. Do not let what you cannot do deter you from doing that which you can do!

09.06.2018
Valentine Umoh