In the Summer of 2015, I met and briefly befriended an interesting and pretty British-Nigerian lady in London for a couple of months. She was a focused intellectual type and an ardent seeker of knowledge. She was introverted and I extraverted. For some inexplicable reason, there were many popular and unusual topics we debated for hours. Unexpectedly, in September 2015 she announced to me she had gotten a scholarship to study for a PhD in the USA and promised she was going to miss me. I was flattered. That was the last I saw of her and her company. Despite having spent so many hours talking with her about a variety of topics, we never exchanged surnames. It was a sincere Platonic relationship we had.
She returned to the UK on the 25th of July 2019 having completed her PhD and decided to visit her one-time talking buddy immediately. She had bought me a book for my birthday in 2015 and thus remembered the day. She bought me another birthday present, a high capacity pen drive for 2019. The gift had a tag which read, “Happy Birthday, Gret Okolo xx, From ***** ******”. I found the name on the card quite unusual, but this did not dampen my full appreciation for the gift. Okolo is a common name among Delta Ibos. I am an Urhobo.
I had to ask her why she thought my surname was Okolo. Her answer was both apt and straightforward. She explained that when she used to visit me for discussions in 2015, she had observed different guys who came to my flat call me “Okolo”. It was the highlight of my birthday. It made me laugh uncontrollably, and after a while, she laughed along with me. It was then my turn to explain to her that my Brethren usually called each other Okolo. She sharply countered my remark, stating she never witnessed me call any of my Brethren, Okolo. She was right. I usually called many of my friends back then “Guynes” or “Akpunwa.”
Life is full of unexpectedness, tremendous and trivial. For four years, an acquaintance of mine had thought my surname was Okolo. Such was simply because I did not reject it when my regularly present Brethren used it to address me or catch my attention. “What’s in a name?” is now a much bigger puzzle than I used to think. Well, I have put the thought in a capsule for now and curated the memory.