A Property Of God
My name, Inioluwa, means ‘property of God’. If you want to say it like I do, you would say, ‘God’s property’. So when I say I am Michael Inioluwa, I am indirectly informing you of a dangerous fact, which is that I am the property of God. I belong to a being higher than anyone or anything. He owns me. Beware.
To be honest, I have not always been fond of the name. This is partly because it is Yoruba, and a lot of post-colonial literature poisoned my mind while growing up so much that I did not have much regard for the Yoruba language. But now, I know better, and I fully appreciate the language. One of my greatest regrets is still that I do not know how to write my own language as much as I do the English language. And I even dream in English. Imagine. What distaste. That would be like Pepe, my pet frog, dreaming in English and snoring instead of croaking. I digress.
Primary school was fun for me. There were rules, but we did not keep them, and those who put the rules in place did not expect us to keep them. So we played and misbehaved and graduated from playing innocent daddy and mummy games to actually expressing misguided love to each other. We learnt the English alphabet and the next thing the devil whispered to us was how to write love letters. And so you’d see things like, ‘Shukura, I love you.’ And you dared not put your name on those stupid letters for fear of being caught. And so you would write the love letter and drop it in Shukura’s locker and hope to God that Shukura has the Holy Spirit so she would know that you are the secret culprit. And if she does, you would consummate your love with constant eye exchanges in the class while Mrs. B. is busy teaching you social studies.
Unlike today, back then in primary school, everybody called me Inioluwa. No one knew I bore the name Michael. Even I did not know that I bore the name Michael. It was just a collection of letters on my birth certificate and nothing more. It sat there, gathering dust, waiting for the fateful day when it would overtake my Yoruba name like a secret assassin. I never knew.
It was in Primary 5 that I decided to fall in love. Or so I called it. I am not exactly sure it was my first, but if we dismiss the foolishness of nursery school and a few female friends, we could say primary five was the year Aphrodite, the goddess of love, visited my heart. It was with an Igbo girl, a Fair Igbo girl. As at then, I did not know whether or not I had a thing for Igbo girls or Fair girls. The only thing I knew was that this girl attracted me.
These things can be transient, I think. Some years back, I was obsessed with ladies on low haircut. I revered the idea of it, the beauty of it, the sheer Africanness of them, and the light shining from their face – that you can never miss. I wanted to date a girl on short hair or lowcut or whatever you call it. My gallery was full of them. But then, the obsession died away like a terrible cold. It’s the same way we watch movies and it is like we have come to the end of the world. But it is all a lie. We revere a great movie and call it our best until we watch another great movie. It’s how some folks watched Berlin and Nairobi die and suddenly begin to equate that with the honorable death of Ned Stark. The sheer ignorance in that. The profanity. Unacceptable.
But then, some obsessions last for quite a while, or maybe forever. Like how I discovered JK Rowling and I began reading the Harry Potter series and finished the whole thing in a week. And how I went on to watch the movie, and I could not stop loving it. And how it is five years after now, and I still cannot get over the Harry Potter series. Too much goodness in one piece of literature. It is the same way I feel about Game of Thrones. The writing was too good. George R.R. Martin has my respect till my dying breath. And the movies were great too. Such obsessions never die. But then, I digress again. Where was I? The Igbo girl?
My memory fails me, but I think she was as tall as I was then or maybe just a little shorter. But she was beautiful to my small and innocent eyes. She had a fair skin, the color of purity, like water that no fish had ever swum in, like an unknown planet, one that had not been corrupted by the touch of man. I loved her, no doubt. And so our love affair began.
Love affairs in primary schools were mostly nothing but looks, eye meetings, waiting after class to walk her to the gate, talking about her to your friends, forgetting her immediately you get home (because that is what you do with everything that has to do with school) and then resuming all again when you go back to school.
And so I began this, and I received a positive gesture from her. I can remember a particular term (semester, for the adults here) she got the first position in class, and I think I took second or perhaps Israel took second, and I took third. I really cannot remember. But I knew I walked her to the gate that term hating myself, and she told me it did not matter, that she would have given me if she knew – something along that line. The thought of that alone… We were primary school students. What did we know?
Our love did not die. We did not kill it. Waves came from separate places and separated us, and as they say, distance is the enemy of love. Unlike some of you who did primary 6 (what the hell were you guys learning though? Further Maths? It was primary school for God’s sake. Some shameless folks even left in primary four after jumping from primary two to primary four. And you still persevered till primary 6? You are the real liquid metal!)
We left primary school and went to separate secondary schools in separate states, I think. That was what happened. That was what ended our love. But then, before the end, I did something because of this Igbo girl. She found it difficult to pronounce my name without murdering it. And I did not like it. I did not like how he struggled to pronounce ‘Inioluwa’ anytime we spoke and for the love of love, I murdered the name and started calling myself Michael.
When my village people would have their way, when I left for secondary school, my grandfather, who was the principal of the secondary school changed my first name to Michael and, in so doing, splashed a permanent ink on my earlier act of love. I was so happy. But then, it was too late. The one for whom I wanted the name changed had already gone to another state for secondary education.
When I got to the university, I began bearing Michael Inioluwa Oladele, a sort of compound name. I had fallen back in love with Inioluwa, and my Igbo lover was far away, so there really was no need again. But then, many friends still call me Michael. Those not so close to me call me Michael Inioluwa. My family, my village people, and few people who love me in ways the universe cannot explain call me Inioluwa. One of them calls me Ini. That alone sends shivers to my brain.
I was washing at the kitchen sink, listening to a sermon when I heard the man of God say, ‘You are a property of God. God owns you.’ I smiled sheepishly. That was literally my name.
Over the years, since the childhood love that made me want to change my name, I have become many things. I have become a writer, a poet, a lover of God, an SDG advocate, a graduate of Great Ife, a blogger, and many other things. But most importantly, I am one thing: I am God’s property. God owns me. Now and always.
How are you? Did you miss me? Tell me you did. Make me blush!