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Akpo Uyeh: The Hype of Titles When Your Roadside Technician Becomes an ‘Engineer’



What happened? I  did a hard reset-check! The battery was also full, check! So why won’t it come up? My phone started acting up. What was going on? I thought to myself. After doing hard reset and performing all the magic  I could, to no avail, I gave up. The skoin skoin had let loose. I had grown so attached to my phone, that I resorted to taking it for repairs immediately. I did not want to fall prey to quack phone repairer, so I went to the one that had been tested and trusted.Thankfully, his shop was just a stone’s throw from where I stay.

Before getting there, I had already developed strategy on what to do – I would not leave my phone with the phone repairer. I would also watch him closely, so that he does not change some vital parts of the phone; lastly I would not spend over specified amount I deemed was worth the repairs.

The phone repairer was a young chap. He had other businesses that he managing – a barbing saloon and a shop for phone accessories. Trust Nigerians, we rarely depend on one source of income. Well, I had gone there judging from previous jobs he had done…and referrals too.

I noticed he was acting pompous this time around. He was acting too busy and showed little interest in what I was saying. However, it all changed when I started addressing him as engineer – as other fellow customers did. His face lit up when he was referred to as engineer.
The effect of the title was amazing. It must have been melody to his ears. The once hostile phone repairer started to pay attention to my issue and started proffering solutions. Even when it came to issue of payment, I wasted no time in using the magic formula, so that he did not over charge me. Calling him an engineer seemed to loosen the  tense atmosphere.

Why do we love titles? The issue of titles is not peculiar to the man depicted above. I think It is a Nigerian thing. We kinda like to acquire certificates and accolades. It is not a bad thing, though. It demands respect and followership. Being addressed as a Doctor, Professor,Engineer, CEO, Director, Managing Director or Barrister is prestigious. One would not blame such people, after all they went through the process; and the process is not that easy to pass through – in an economy where there are many hindrances like strikes, uncooperative lecturers, in conducive work environment, difficult colleagues, outdated materials, village forces (that is another talk for another day) and the likes.

The other day, while engaging with colleagues and boss in the workplace, the conversation was on Nigerian culture of attaching titles to name. Personally, I found it hard to call my boss by his first name – which he strongly insists upon. I would rather prefer to  add the prefix of Oga or Mister, but this did not go down well with him.

It appeared like a big issue that he  gave instances of how in his former workplace they addressed the boss by his name even though he was older, more experienced, well schooled and wealthy. It was observed that abroad, they address themselves but young and old especially at the workplace by their names and it is not taken as disrespect. In Nigeria, the reverse is the case, you don’t want to sound disrespectful, so it better to give honour to whom honour is due.

In the academic world,people should know the difference between a doctor and professor. Mistaking the two can  cause problems. I recall almost making the mistake of writing Associate Professor instead of Professor with my supervisor’s name on my thesis. Unaware that my supervisor was recently honoured with professorship, I went ahead to submit my project. It was timely interventions of colleagues that saved the day. It would have been a serious offence and disrespect on the part of my supervisor. Thankfully, I made the corrections and in no time submitted the project, waiting for the next phase.

The governor must be addressed as the His Excellency as well as the president.The ministers must be called honourables.The traditional leader must be referred to as his royal highness.The minister of God must be regarded as Reverend or pastor or Father-in-the-Lord. The activist is called a comrade by his followers.

The good thing about titles is that it shows respect and regard; but I think it draws a line between the common man and the elite, the proletariat and the bourgeois, the masses and those in authority, the ordinary and the extra ordinary. When the addressee sees it as a form of ego booster and acts with pride, then it becomes an issue.

These days every Tom, Dick and Harry can give himself/herself titles when it tickles their fancy – even if it is unmerited. The phone repairer, the road side mechanic, the electrician…are all engineers – even if they did not see the four walls of the university.

Photo Credit: Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang) |

Akpo Patricia Uyeh is a witty Blogger| Freelance writer| Geo-Journalist. A Sunshine lover. Music enthusiast. She blogs via Òmòté Rò Dhé


  1. Joke

    February 1, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Everyone loves titles. That’s the psychology many American companies use. John’s Hopkins, Whole Foods etc are notorious for that. John’s Hopkins is bad because it’s big titles with low pay. Whole foods okay pay for retail plus low hours to avoid benefits. It’s full of really intelligent minorities doing retail “temporarily” they think, but it often doesn’t work out that way in the long run. 10 years later, you wake up and think, what am I still doing here?

  2. LemmeRant

    February 1, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Funny enough, those the real engineers we have as far as Nigeria is concerned.

    In an ideal world I would easily ring up my elect elect engineering friend but I can’t do that because she cannot even assemble ordinary calculator talk less of repairing phone.

    • dee

      February 1, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Pls shut it if you do not have any thing tangible to say. Because your elect-elect friend doesn’t know how to fix ordinary calculator does not make her nor the vast majority ‘fake engineers’. Please rant with sense. Thank you.

    • LemmeRant

      February 1, 2017 at 11:09 am


      Here we go again attacking every issue with insults. You must really think yourself to be smart as you’re brandishing “shut ups” all over the internet.

      This thing isn’t hard. Engineers build things. That is the sole purpose they’re called engineers.
      Pls show me what the electrical engineers have built maybe I can change my stance.
      11yr old kids in Japan would build you a fully functioning digital wristwatch. The ones we have here (electrical engineering students) are too scared to open up there laptops. There’s a reason why we hardly have idegenous tech companies in Nigeria.

      You see my problem is not only because I hardly see their work. My problem is because they’re contented with building nothing. They just want to work for a big Company and earn big. They are contented with letting foreigners take over our market, be ahead in terms of everything. The few engineers we have who are actually passionate about building stuff have left the country.

      You want to be called engr. Just by degree. You don’t want to build anything. Innovate anything, it’s oil company job you’re busy chasing.
      Nigeria places too much priority on certificates rather than skill, and so far, it’s not helping us. Countries have forgotten and left us far behind in terms of tech advancements but you still want to be carrying Engr. Mrs………. on top your head and the young lad that’ll even attempt to do something you’ll look down on because one professor somewhere (who has also not built anything in his life) has not certified him as an Engineer.

      Abet shift.

    • Anon

      February 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      May God bless you for your right up!

  3. Tru

    February 1, 2017 at 8:42 am

    The whole culture of attaching importance to titles is annoying. And smacks of poverty mentality. Advanced countries don’t have time for such crap. Even Soyinka said “A tiger need not express his tigritude”

  4. Please…..please, call me honourable,..
    but i feel why most people in Nigeria use titles is for balance or order, lest some people will abuse or overfamz the use of names without title especially with their boss….unless you are white.

  5. Blabber mouth

    February 1, 2017 at 10:12 am

    It’s true everybody love titles but in nigeria the love of titles is too much. Of course in professional settings its important to reffer to people with their titles eg in court youll call a judge your honour or for a speaker at an event youll reffer to them as prof or whatever because it is in that capacity that they are speaking. But in very casual settings, even with family sometimes, youll see people referring to themselves as professor dr dr. Abeg oga e don do. It is so unnecessary.

  6. mz_danielz

    February 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    For me, at the base of it is insecurity and a poverty mindset. Insecurity makes us resort to lots of things like titles to prove our importance, a poverty mindset makes us want to show that we are better than others, a cut above the poverty line.

    That’s how someone started calling me aunty in my new office. I just calmly told her, my name is …..’ When I saw this aunty was persisting, I nicely but firmly said, ‘am I your mother or father’s sister? Call me by my name or don’t call me at all.’ I even hate the ma thing sef.

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