Leo Igwe is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria and Humanists International.
The Humanist Association of Nigeria has recorded its first child naming ceremony since it was founded in 1996. The ceremony took place in the living room of Benue state humanist, Ingye Dooyum Dominic on September 17 2022 in Makurdi, Benue state. I was the lead celebrant, and that name service was my first. The event started with some welcome and introductory remarks. In his remarks, Mr. Dominic welcomed everyone to the naming service of their first child and daughter. He recounted how the birth of the child transformed him and his family.
In my introduction, I explained the importance of naming, in this case, a humanist naming ceremony: “A naming ceremony is an exciting event because it provides an opportunity for families and friends to celebrate a new arrival, a new addition to the family. A humanist naming ceremony is a ceremony that is consistent with humanist values. It has no rules. A humanist naming ceremony is unique, personal, flexible, sincere, and collaborative. As a humanist celebrant, my job is to help parents, in this case, Ingye and Joy, to mark the arrival of their new baby. Nonreligious parents organize humanist naming ceremonies. Religious parents who desire an inclusive service for their baby can also organize a humanist naming ceremony.
Mr. Dominic read a poem, Follow your dream by Jim Boswell. A part of the poem states:
When others say “It’s hopeless and it really can’t be done.”
When they tell you “It’s all over. It’s a race that can’t be won.”
And they promise “You could spend your life just lying in the sun.”
Follow your dreams, my girl. Follow your dreams!
Mr. Dominic recounted some thoughts about the child’s personality: “For now, it is difficult telling my child’s personality because she is just 3 weeks and a few days old. All she does is suckle and sleep. However, she is the doppelganger of my dad. Anyone who has seen my dad agrees that they look alike. Secondly, she is very sensitive to noise, touch, etc. For now, she accepts everyone so, I guess that makes her a spirited child. Also, she cries very loudly when her mother delays coming to her. I desire that she doesn’t end up as an introvert like me. It will help her to meet people, interact with them, learn new things, etc”.
Both Mr. Dominic and the celebrant reflected on the role and responsibilities of parents. They noted the need for parents to love and protect the child, provide for her basic needs and ensure that she is educated and in good health. Mr. Dominic said: “Every parent ought to provide a safe, loving, and nurturing environment for their kid(s) to enable them to grow, learn and flourish. This is no easy task. However, genuine parental love entails that parents devote themselves to ensuring their children feel love, quality care, respect, etc”.
Then it was the turn of the parents to make promises to the child. And here are the promises which Ingye and Joy made to their daughter: “Our dear child, (1) We will love you and teach you to love, not hate. (2) We will teach you to accept and respect everyone irrespective of tribe, religion, race, background, orientation, etc. (3) We will never neglect, ignore or disrespect you. (4) We will give you a sound education and training which will mold your consciousness to be independent, critical, and adventurous. (5) We will not fill your mind with fear or restrict your curiosity. (6) Finally, we will teach you to reject and oppose injustice, and to firmly state what is right or wrong. You will live free, we promise you, our lovely daughter.
Daniel Nnaji from the Humanist Association of Nigeria read another poem Welcome (Anon). A part of the poem states:
Welcome to sunlight
Welcome to the soft rain on your face
Welcome to the rush of the wind
Welcome to the hush of the sea
Welcome to much joy and a little sorrow
The parents appointed a mentor to the daughter that was me. And here is the promise which I made to the child:
“I accept the role of a mentor to our dear daughter and pledge to carry out this duty to the best of my knowledge and ability. As a mentor, I understand that my role is to support the parents to fulfill their duty and to provide advice, and guidance whenever needed and necessary. That I pledge to do.”
In explaining the significance and meaning behind the child’s name, Mr. Dominic said: “The thing is, I never thought I will ever have a child. I just wanted to live happily with my wife. Just the two of us. I always shelved away such discussions. At the end of last year, we decided to make a baby. Even in her mother’s womb as an embryo, we adored her so much. I spent a large amount of time watching videos of her ultrasound scans.
The first time I saw her after she was born, I felt so happy and overjoyed. At that point, if need be, I was ready to give my life for her to live. Even now, I still do. She was so beautiful and her arrival opened a beautiful chapter in my life. It renewed my love for my wife and increased my commitment to my family. It strengthened me in ways I have never felt. It’s as if she pumped life or vigor into me. I could think of no other name except the feeling we shared towards her. The feeling of love and admiration. The parents announced the name of their child as Doose Dooyum which means, “we love her because we genuinely love her”. Everyone applauded throwing balloons at Doose and the parents.
In conclusion, I stated “It has been a great pleasure for all of us to join Ingye and Joy to witness, celebrate and be a part of the naming ceremony of their daughter, our daughter, Doose Dooyum. This ceremony has offered an occasion to mark the significance of Doose’s birth and entrance into the world. It has been a memorable opportunity for self-introspection and renewal. The event has helped strengthen the bond of affection between Doose’s parents, and other relatives and friends. It has underscored parental and mentoring obligations that are necessary for the realization of a happy, successful, and meaningful life. This ceremony is a testament to human continuity and capacity to preserve and perpetuate itself. Having witnessed the naming Doose Dooyum, let us all depart bearing the hope and promise of a better and brighter future for the baby and the world”.
Then there was a group photograph with Doose and all who were present and the ceremony ended.
There is a growing demand for non-religious ceremonies in Nigeria. These demands are mainly at the theoretical levels due to opposition and hostility from religious family members. Many humanists have expressed the desire to have their weddings, child naming, and funerals in ways that are free from superstitions. The humanist association will work to fulfill this need and aspiration of humanists.