by Alexander O. Onukwue
The television presenter and compere, Arit Okpo, weighed in on the conversation surrounding the matter of sounding respectful when addressing older persons.
Arit narrates of her lower level colleague who added “ma” after initially ending a greeting with her first name (wait, should I be calling her Arit?). She makes it clear that they are not on a first name basis but after working with another person from a different culture – well, South Africa – who did not take issues with being identified with her first name, her mindset about it changed and now people can call her by her first name.
Now Arit’s job is communication, and one may expect her to be more amenable than someone in a more command-and-obey organisation like the Police. Her views on being referred to by her first name did not necessarily stem from her interaction with a South African; the ACP Shogunle has worked with officers from other climes and he says they refer to each other not by their first names but with the appropriate titles.
In effect, it calls for context in communication. There is a good chance that the ACP’s sentiments would be shared by a good number of persons from the (Nigerian) academic community, where there is a particular caution about not using the wrong names. As a student, you would not want to get the stare that comes with referring to a man who just got his Professorship as ‘Doc’.
Communication, in order to be effective as a two-way activity, must always take into account the sensibilities of the other party. We can’t let Twitter obscure that fact.