Saturday, August 12, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Hello Bello: How “Bello” Became Nigeria’s Most Ecumenical Name

This is interesting and educative. I was just going to ask the explanation for the presence of the in Italy, Spain and Portugal through whose influence it found its way to Latin America where there is a port Bello. Its enlightening that the Bello in the latin languages is simply an onomastic coincidence. Be that as it may, the onomastic indebtedness of Nigerians to the Fulani cannot justify the ravages of the Fulani herdsmen. Were this to be so, the whole world would have perished because instances of name borrowing and lending are the Nome in human existence.
On Sat, 8/12/17, Farooq A. Kperogi <> wrote:

Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Hello Bello: How "Bello" Became Nigeria's Most Ecumenical Name
To: "" <>
Date: Saturday, August 12, 2017, 7:20 PM

Hello Bello: How "Bello" Became
Nigeria's Most Ecumenical Name

Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.Twitter: farooqkperogi
This article has been in the works for
months. Each week I decide to work on it, something more
pressing that invites my commentary comes up. But I have
bucked all temptations to abandon it this
Few people realize that "Bello" is
Nigeria's most universal "ethnic" name. Fewer still
give a thought to how that came to be. By "ethnic" name,
I mean a name that isn't derived from universal religions
like Christianity or Islam, which most Nigerians profess and
practice, and that isn't a Western ethnic name introduced
to us through colonialism.
Bello is a Nigerian Fulani name that
has, over the years, lost its ethnic rootedness. It is the
only name that is borne either as a first name or a last
name in all Nigerian geo-cultural groups, except in the
former Eastern Region, that is, Igboland and southern
minorities, minus Edo State (who doesn't know the
Bello-Osagie family?).
If we go by Nigeria's contemporary
geo-political categories, it's only in the southeast and
in the south-south (with the exception of Edo) that you may
not find a native Bello. (There are three Bellos among
Nigeria's current governors, and at least one of them has
no drop of Fulani blood in him). Essentially, of Nigeria's
36 states, only 10 states don't have a native Bello. No
other "ethnic" name even comes close to this onomastic
cosmopolitanism. (Onomastics is the study of
Sometime in 2000, as Weekly
Trust's news editor, our editor-in-chief, Malam Kabiru
Yusuf, asked me to represent him at a World Bank-organized
workshop in Ibadan for Nigerian newspaper editors. During
the week-long workshop, I encountered a particularly
visceral Fulani-phobic Lagos-based newspaper editor whose
last name was "Bello." In the course of one of our
discussions, I pointed out to him that it was strangely
ironic that he hated the Fulani so much even though he bore
their ethnic name as his last
He was infuriated. He called me
"ignorant" and said I was one of "these Nigerians"
who couldn't tell "Muslim names" and "Hausa-Fulani
names" apart. The only way I could react to his outburst
was to let out the uncontrollable guffaw that welled up in
me, which both angered and embarrassed
him."Let me tell you, young man," he
said matter-of-factly, "Bello is a Muslim name." He
added: "It's my surname because, although I'm a
Christian, my grandfather was a Muslim and was known as
"Take this from the son of an Arabic
teacher who learned to read and write in Arabic before he
started primary school," I said wryly, "Bello is neither
an Arabic name nor a Muslim
I pointed out to him that, unlike many
languages, Arabic has only three dominant vowels (and a few
minor ones), and "e" and "o," which appear in
"Bello," are NOT one of Arabic's vowels. Basically, I
told him, you can't even write "Bello" in Arabic
without orthographic improvisation, such as ajami
(as improvised Arabic script in non-Arab
languages is called), which may be unrecognizable to
He didn't believe me. So I left him to
stew in his own ignorance. I was pleasantly shocked when,
the following day, he called me aside and apologized. "You
were right; I was wrong," he said. "I asked
an alfa [as Islamic scholars are called in
Yorubaland and elsewhere] and he confirmed that Bello
isn't an Arabic or Muslim name." I don't know how he
reconciles his phobia for Fulani people and his onomastic
association with them. The last time I checked, he hadn't
changed his name.
I share this anecdote to illustrate the
onomastic universality of "Bello" in Nigeria. Although
it's an ethnic Fulani name, it's now impossible to
accurately guess the ethnic origins of the bearers of the
name. If someone tells me his name is Tanko or Danjuma, for
instance, I can guess that he is either ethnically Hausa or
culturally Hausa. If someone tells me they are Toyin, I can
guess that they are either Yoruba or from one of the
Yoruba-influenced cultures in Edo, Kogi and surrounding
areas. An Okoro is most definitely either Igbo or from the
immediate cultural environs of the Igbo. An Onoja is either
Idoma or Igala, etc.
Not so for Bello. A Bello could be
native to any one of 26 states in Nigeria—except Akwa
Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Anambra, Abia,
Imo, Ebonyi, and Enugu states. Most non-Fulani people who
bear the name don't even know it's a Fulani name. And,
although several Nigerians associate the name with Islam,
many Christians and non-Muslims bear it, as my anecdote
above shows.
So what does "Bello" mean and why
has it become Nigeria's most universal ethnic name? I
asked several of my Fulani friends, and they are all united
in saying that "Bello" is derived from the Fulfulde word
for "helper." The actual Fulfulde word is "ballo,"
but it got corrupted to "Bello" over time, possibly
first by Hausa speakers. Usman Dan Fodio famously named his
son, who is the first (or second, if you consider Usman Dan
Fodio as the first) Sultan of Sokoto "Ballo," which
later became "Bello."
But it was probably Sir Ahmadu Bello's
choice to adopt Bello as his last name in honor of Sultan
Muhammad Bello, his great grandfather, that helped extend
the reach and appeal of the name beyond Nigeria's
northwest. (He used to be known as Ahmadu Rabah, after his
natal town of Rabah near Sokoto).
In many parts of the North, particularly
in Ilorin and environs, every Ahmadu or Ahmed used to be
called "Bello," leading southwest Yoruba people to
derisively call every Ilorin man "a Bello." It seems
plausible that the proliferation of "Bello" in
Yorubaland occurred by way of
Ilorin alfas there.
Interestingly, non-Nigerian Fulani
people (such as the Fulanis is Guinea, the only country
where Fulanis enjoy a numerical majority) don't recognize
"Bello" as an authentic Fulani name. A Malian Fulani I
met here in the US told me he didn't know any Fulani in
his country who bore that name. This didn't surprise me
because, as I stated earlier, "Bello" is the corruption
of "Ballo."
 That's why non-Nigerian Fulanis,
particularly in Mali, bear Ballo instead of Bello. There is,
for instance, a young Malian basketballer by the name of Oumar
Ballo who attracted the attention of the NBA because of
his unusual height and frame. There is also a French
footballer by the name of Fodé Ballo-Touré, who is
obviously at least part Fulani.
But Bello is also a common last name in
Italy, and it means "beautiful" or "handsome" in
Romance languages such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese,
French, etc.  Of course, this is just a lexical accident.
There is no relationship between the Nigerian Fulani Bello
and the Bello in Romance languages.
Well, in this open
season on the Fulani in Nigeria (as a result of the
unending ravages of violent Bororo cattle herders), it helps
to realize that the country's most ecumenical name owes
debt to them.
Related Articles:The
Dangerous Criminalization of Fulani Ethnicity10
Yoruba Names You Never Guessed Were Arabic
Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.Associate ProfessorJournalism & Emerging
School of Communication & MediaSocial Science
Building Room 5092 MD
2207402 Bartow
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, Georgia, USA
Cell: (+1) 404-573-9697
Personal website: www.farooqkperogi.comTwitter: @farooqkperogAuthor of Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms
of Nigerian English in a Global World

"The nice thing about pessimism
is that you are constantly being either proven right or
pleasantly surprised." G. F. Will


Listserv moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at

To post to this group, send an email to

To subscribe to this group, send an email to

Current archives at

Early archives at


You received this message because you are subscribed to the
Google Groups "USA Africa Dialogue Series" group.

To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails
from it, send an email to

For more options, visit

Listserv moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin
To post to this group, send an email to
To subscribe to this group, send an email to
Current archives at
Early archives at
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "USA Africa Dialogue Series" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
For more options, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment

Vida de bombeiro Recipes Informatica Humor Jokes Mensagens Curiosity Saude Video Games Car Blog Animals Diario das Mensagens Eletronica Rei Jesus News Noticias da TV Artesanato Esportes Noticias Atuais Games Pets Career Religion Recreation Business Education Autos Academics Style Television Programming Motosport Humor News The Games Home Downs World News Internet Car Design Entertaimment Celebrities 1001 Games Doctor Pets Net Downs World Enter Jesus Variedade Mensagensr Android Rub Letras Dialogue cosmetics Genexus Car net Só Humor Curiosity Gifs Medical Female American Health Madeira Designer PPS Divertidas Estate Travel Estate Writing Computer Matilde Ocultos Matilde futebolcomnoticias girassol lettheworldturn topdigitalnet Bem amado enjohnny produceideas foodasticos cronicasdoimaginario downloadsdegraca compactandoletras newcuriosidades blogdoarmario arrozinhoii sonasol halfbakedtaters make-it-plain amatha