Feature Article of Saturday, 14 July 2012

Columnist: Tigo, Joshua

Why my TIGO is not “tigo”

In my dreams

Back in the year 2001 when I took my first official job as a teacher, nobody, including my colleagues, pupils or my headmaster, made a fuss about the name that appeared on my appointment letter when I first introduced myself in that school – Hohoe Presbyterian Junior Secondary (now High) School. To them, I was just another addition to the many young teachers whom the Ghana Education Service had given a job, period; and the name Tigo meant nothing to them. As is always the case with many first-time teachers, I eagerly entered my classroom and officially introduced myself to my class. “My name is Joshua Kwasi Tigo and from now on I will be your English Language and Social Studies Teacher,” I told the very attentive class while I proceeded with my lesson of the day.
Days after that first meeting, while my pupils were on a study break and I was with my colleagues chatting, one of my pupils ran to me and with her face glowing like that of someone who had just fixed an age-long puzzle said to me: “Sir, Sir, Sir, I now know the true meaning of your name, yes I know the true meaning of your name.” “Which of my names? Joshua?” I asked with very little interest. “No not that one; I mean Tigo. I know the meaning,” she continued. It was at that point that the disinterest on my face waned because never in my close to 15 years educational life has anybody been that sure of knowing the meaning of my name like this little girl. “What does it mean then,” I enquired from her. “Sir, it means T-rust I-n G-od O-nly (TIGO),” she answered to my amazement.
I was so amazed at the little girl that all I could do was to thank her for telling me what, in her words, was the “true meaning” of my name. This precocious young girl’s divine-inspired interpretation of my name would later serve as a source of encouragement to me in life, for anytime I was disappointed by any human being I reminded myself that I had to “trust in God only.” I also later realised that her interpretation was also to set the tone for many more interpretations that people were going to give to my family name - Tigo.
Little did I know that these interpretations will reach their crescendo with the advent of the telecommunication brand “Tigo”, a brand operated by Milicom Ghana Limited. When in 2006 the Tigo brand was launched in Ghana to replace the BUZZ brand, my family has been under some form of a siege. I go through life daily having to either tell people the meaning of my name or confirming to them that the name is real and has existed before the erstwhile Buzz metamorphosed into Tigo.
In some cases, people’s reactions to my name when they hear it for the first time bother on ridicule. I remember when my name became the subject of discussion on the Ghana Institute of Journalism’s notice board when the list of students for admission was released in 2008. While I was frantically combing through the list to see if I was one of the lucky ones to have gained admission, a gentleman who was there for the same purpose remarked: “Why will someone give birth to his child and name him Tigo?” I listened to the many others who stood by the board make one form of fun or the other about my name without uttering a word. So the question is: Has my name Tigo got any relationship with Milicom Ghana’s Tigo? The answer is simple: No, it hasn’t! Is the name real? Yes! Is the name a promotional one to serve the commercial interest of a certain brand? No!
Recently, a graphic designer who was employed at The Finder engaged me in a conversation about my name. “Mr Tigo, please come,” he called, and when I approached, he asked: “Is Tigo your real name?” I answered yes and further explained to him that the name was actually my family name and that it was a name that existed before I was born. I told him that my father, Mr Tse Tigo, is even younger than the name “Tigo” as his father was the one who had the name. As part of my desire to further educate him on the issue, I explained to him that if he went to Mepe, where I come from, and entered the Gbanvie division of the town and further entered the house Apevieme, he would see many more Tigos.
After listening to the long lecture, he said to me: “Tigo [Milicom Gh Ltd] should be giving you some money for using your name because you are doing free advertisement for them.” “I hear you,” I said to him with a grin on my face and moved away. The designer’s question and subsequent advice are just a few of the many I have had to deal with on a daily bases wherever I went and identified myself with the name Tigo. Indeed, there have been times I have had to prove with official identity cards that Tigo was indeed my name.
So, do I or my family have any relationship with Milicom Ghana Ltd, the operators of the Tigo network? The answer is no. The closest I have come to having a relationship with the telecommunication entity was when in 2010, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of a Diploma in Communication Studies at the GIJ I went out of my way to research into people’s understanding of Tigo’s TV advertisement. I went on to present a copy to the company at no cost to them, but what I received in return was a stone-cold response; not even a letter to acknowledge receipt of the work nor a call to say thank you.
What has bothered me over the issue is not the interest people have had in my name, no, far from that; but think of these questions with me: Can I ever work with any telecommunication in Ghana or elsewhere that is in competition with Tigo because of my name “Tigo?” If not, will I be paying a price that otherwise I should not be paying?
As these questions cross my mind every day, I think about the disadvantages of sharing a name with a network company, but I am strengthened by the fact that my mates from Adzidekope L/A Primary School, Forifori L/A JSS and Donkorkrom Agric Secondary School, all in the Afram Plains, and St Francis Teacher Training College or even my roommates of Commonwealth Hall Room K5 have no doubts in their minds that my Tigo is not “tigo”.
As to whether my sharing a name with a telecommunications network presents me with an advantage or otherwise, I repose my encouragement in the words or that intelligent pupil of mine who gave me the real meaning of my name, Trust In God Only – TIGO. However, most important to this subject is that intelligence does not come with age, as this little girl has taught me that of all who have made one commentary or the other regarding my name, she stands tall.

“In My Dreams” is weekly column that appears in The Finder Newspaper every Thurday.