Perhaps the only Nigerian governor who deserves the title “His excellency” is the one who rejects it: Rauf Aregbesola of the “State of Osun”. The governor, who likes only the title “Ogbeni” [Yoruba for “Friend”] before his name, last Friday lectured Nigerian editors on the abuse of the title. He challenged them to show him a place in the Nigerian constitution where the title is even mentioned. He argued that grades could be classified as excellent, very good, good, fair or fail. Someone who hasn’t even begun working, he said, shouldn’t be adjudged “excellent”.
Again, Ogbeni Aregbesola pointed out that appending “executive” to “governor” is overkill. The man has his hands full as a governor; why adding “executive” to the job? he asked. The governor warned: “Don’t call me ‘His excellency or Executive governor’.”
Many Nigerians are crazy about titles, for simplicity is not an attribute they have borrowed from leaders in Europe and the Americas. Even buffoons go by titles such as “High Chief” and “His Royal Highness”. Herbal healers and fortune tellers are addressed as “Doctor”. Any Muslim who has visited Mecca calls himself “Alhaji”, while his Christian counterpart, after performing a pilgrimage to Israel, returns with the title “JP” [Jerusalem pilgrim]. In public gatherings, as many as eight titles could be reserved for just one man!
Unfortunately for Nigeria and Nigerians, the Nigerian media have a crisis of language experts working for them. As in everything else, there are no rules – not even of grammar and house style. While committing the usual blunder, some even separate “His excellency” from the title’s owner with a comma!
Mr Aregbesola is right. The media are supposed to lead the way for others to follow. Would media people now shun sycophancy and strive to save space, ink or airtime by eliminating superfluous titles? “Mr” or “Ms” will do for anyone.