"THE KEY THING IS TO EDUCATE
THE PUBLIC ABOUT ITS
Nowa Omoigui, M.D.
Are we proposing to "retrieve" the name or merely educate and sensitize others as to its origins and meaning? Is another approach not to encourage more modern Edo-speaking people to use the name more often (spelled correctly) so that its links can be preserved? Clearly, these days if you see a name tag that says "Okoro" you are not likely to immediately assume that the wearer is Edo. And you might be cautious not to ask him or her for fear that he or she might take offence if he or she isn't.
Because of the dynamic nature of language, "Ethnic name retrieval" (if there is such a thing) sounds like a complicated proposition, particularly in a region where there is so much shared vocabulary - the reasons for which are many. For the sake of an argument, from a legal standpoint there may be unexplored issues of patent and intellectual property involved. Do Edos have a patent on the name "Okoro"?
I know many Edos who have "foreign" names. Some have no idea why they were named what they were named. For example, I have an uncle called Pullen - named after a popular British official who served in the Benin area in those days. The name has crept into the Edoid lexicon. I have even heard people call it EPullen - bastardizing it to fit our vowel structure. There are other Angloid names that people now take in the name of Christianity and civilization. Many Edoids run away from traditional Edoid names, preferring those baptismal and confirmational "saintly" tags or Islamized versions -- so that they can claim the North for business and political benefit. Some Edo civil servants I could have sworn were northerners, when I lived in Lagos, later surfaced in Benin after they retired from the federal civil service. E get as e be.
Names can be a fad. Or they can mean much deeper things. Some of the "Okoros" of today may truly be Edos or lost Edos. But they might also not be Edos or Edo-speaking at all. If it was a name of some stature and importance (as it appears to be), do not be surprised if some people whose agenda was to "hanker after prestige" may have given themselves the name. Many slaves took assumed names (often of their former owners) after the emancipation, for example.
Now, how will it come across if all of a sudden there is a campaign in Britain to "retrieve" Britishoid names from non-Brits who bear them?
The key thing is to educate the public about linguistic origins of Okoro. If 50 million non-Edos like the name so much that they want to answer it, I would consider it an honor - not an opportunity for "retrieval". What Mr. Agidigbi has contributed is fantastic education to the many members of this listserve about that name and its original meaning. Armed with that information we can now go out and educate others - albeit gently, not condescendingly.
On the basis of the principle of "Use it or loose it", those Princes in Edoland who use the word "Prince" in official documents should change it to "Okoro". And those of us who plan to have children soon should consider naming them "Okoro". Then when we are asked why we do so by non-Edos we can sit back with pride and tell the story under the moonlight over palm-wine. In time the word will get around and we would have reestablished "ownership". Afterall if the name "Monguno" were more often used in the East than in the North, it would be hard for Kanuris to claim it as theirs. Similarly the name "Abubakar" evokes no confusion of origin - even if some non Hausa-Fulanis use it.
On the other hand, my own middle name is "Austin". If the Brits want to retrieve it, more power to them. Show me the nearest registry so that I can recant.