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Date Published: 11/09/09

Female Celebrities and their Maiden Name By Oghene Omonisa


It is not well known where or when it all began, but a colleague of mine once told me hyphenated surname originated in the US with immigrants from Eastern Europe and Central America. For social acceptance, these immigrants either anglicise their surname or adopt English surname, then hyphenate it with their surname to retain their ancestral surname for national pride, and still sound American. That is why one finds names like Lech Janczak-Johnson, Jose Giron-Brown among others. Even female immigrants are not left out, too. When they get married to Americans, they hyphenate their maiden name with that of their husbands’ surname.

The situation of Nigerian female celebrities with hyphenated surname is not quite different. Because they are self-made women in their own rights, they hyphenate their maiden name with that of their marriage name to maintain their own family name. I am not very sure of who started it in Nigeria, but personally, I first read of hyphenated surname with Amazon of banking, Otunba Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, much before the then more popular Ruth Benemesia-Opia, the famed face on NTA Network News in the mid-eighties and early nineties.


However, even before her appointment as a minister in the early nineties, Kuforiji-Olubi had made her mark in the male-dominated banking sector right from the early eighties, becoming the first female chairman of a bank (UBA) in 1984, that even till this day, she still carries herself as one of the leading female celebrities and super role models in Nigeria. Like immigrant female Americans, she did not and still does not want her admirers to lose the fact that she is from the Kuforiji family.

Today, from the entertainment industry to politics and business, one finds self-made women with hyphenated surname. There are Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Florence Ita-Giwa, Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala among other female celebrities. But there was an exciting twist to this whole concept with veteran broadcaster, former Mrs. Siene Rasaq-Lawal. Rasaq is not her maiden name but her ex-husband’s first name. She said she hyphenated the two names to avoid being called ‘Mrs. Lawal’ as it was too common – every market woman seemed to be bearing it. So, no ‘Mrs. Lawal’ for her. Thus, she gave us ‘Mrs. Siene Rasaq-Lawal’. Could that also be the same reason for the hyphenated surname of Mines and Steel Development Minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, who is also wife of former Naval Chief, retired Admiral Allison Madueke? Only she can tell.  

But not every female celebrity with hyphenated surname can be said to be self-made. Some are family-made. Or how else does one describe top ladies like Hadjia Aisha Babangida-Shinkafi, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello or Chief Lola Abiola-Edewor? Of course, they could have made great and positive impacts on their various chosen careers on their own, but they are better known as the daughters of their parents.

But now, why have hyphenated surname? Does it really count? Does it really make much difference? After all, their children do not bear the hyphenated surname. America is a land of contrasts. There are many things to copy from there. Self-made mainstream American women have alternative to hyphenated surname. They want to be – and are being – addressed by their first name and their marriage name, but when the occasion demands, then they are being addressed in full: first name, maiden name and marriage name without hyphen. How about ‘Senator Hillary Clinton’ or ‘Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’? It sure will be pleasing to hear ‘Kate Nuttal’ or ‘Kate Henshaw Nuttal’, instead of ‘Kate Henshaw-Nuttal’. Or ‘Senator Iyabo Bello’ or ‘Senator Iyabo Obasanjo Bello’, instead of ‘Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello’.                                                                                                                                                                                
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