Ezigbo Nwata Nwanyi: What’s In a Name?

For as long as I can remember, I have always (in my own way) fought for “justice” and fairness.

I questioned things that did not seem right and earned myself names like “sharp mouth” and “over sabi” very early in life. It never deterred me though. I was strong in my conviction and as long as I could sleep comfortably at night, it did not matter what anybody said.

Wiser people tried to tell me things could often be grey, and that I had to learn to accept that there were things I could not control but I ignored them.
A few even tried to tell me that the picture I had in my head for how the world should be may not be realistic – which I always vehemently disagreed with. As with most of life’s lessons, you often have to learn it the hard way and I did.

My mother was craving boiled groundnuts one day, and I had seen a hawker pass by with some only moments earlier.

I dashed out of the house and called out to her. I said “hey”, “excuse me”, “you” but she could not hear me.
“Just yell ‘groundnut’!” a woman suggested as I walked past her kiosk.
“That’s not her name!” I fired back.

Here was this poor young girl, spending her afternoon under the blistering Lagos heat, carrying a tray on her head and calling out to potential customers.
She would probably prefer to be somewhere else. Climbing trees or making some mischief. Perhaps running in a stream, splashing water, and laughing heartily with her friends.
Maybe even enrolled in summer lessons in preparation for the next school year or holidaying in another city, state or even country. Instead, she was selling groundnuts most likely to assist her mum.

She was likely miserable and sad about it, and wondered why life had treated her this way. The absolute last thing she needed was people calling her by her wares like she had no name. Like she was a nobody. Like all they saw were her wares and nothing else.
Well, I would not be like them.

Realising all my efforts to call out to her were in vain, I burst into a sprint.
Finally catching up with her, I tapped her on the shoulder and she turned.
Out of breath, I said “I have been calling you since. I want to buy groundnuts.”

She looked at me with the confusion of a child and asked “why didn’t you just shout ‘groundnut’?”


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