The Change Of Name Controversy


For someone who was born and lives in Nigeria, I can almost not believe I am writing about whether or not women should drop their father’s name and take up their husband’s name after marriage for the reason that it is generally seen as a given in this part of the world. Apparently, things are changing and it is increasingly becoming a bone of contention among some couples. Some newly married women are not favorably disposed to changing their maiden names especially if they have achieved a lot with it in their professional careers. I was reading a popular blog about 2 weeks ago, the blogger shared the dilemma of a lady who wanted to retain her maiden name along with her husband’s name and asked for advice from the readers on what to do since her husband did not approve of it. She got varying responses. While some felt her husband was being an egotistic male chauvinist by asking her to drop her maiden name totally, others wondered why she got married without discussing such an important matter with him in the first place and advised her to simply go along with what he wanted as it was the right thing to do.

I understand that many women worry about changing their names after marriage for different reasons, chief of which is their career. Women who have built a brand and reputation for themselves as singletons sometimes fear that a change of name will affect them negatively. Another category have maiden names which opens doors, thanks to an influential father. A typical example  is the daughter of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, Iyabo Obasanjo who opted for the double barreled surname Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello when she got married. For others, it is the “trouble” they need to go through to effect this change that puts them off. Some feminists have even challenged the status quo, objecting to the inequality in tradition, wondering why a woman cannot keep her own surname if she prefers it and citing examples of countries like Belgium, Cambodia, China, Greece and a couple of others where women retain their names after marriage.

Ladies, honestly I am with the guys on this one. First of all, the concept of marriage in itself in most religions and cultures of the world places the man as the head of his home and a couple answering to different names doesn’t exactly scream unity. Secondly, in these parts, a married woman is expected to change her name to her husbands.It is one of those aspects of tradition that need not be tampered with. I don’t object to combining ones name with her hubby’s but this should be agreed upon before marriage as there are men who will not even allow their wives do this, so if your boyfriend or fiance falls into this category you may have to rethink the relationship. Call these men egocentric or chauvinists (and may be they are), but let’s face it, it is part of what makes a man a man- his ego! I strongly believe having his wife bear his name constitutes what makes him feel in control as the head of his household. After all I am not sure many women would want to take up major bills like house rent and the children’s school fees, so why can’t we just allow the man be who he is?

For the women who are concerned about their careers, a change of name publication in any national newspaper means you are home and dry as all documents bearing your maiden name remain valid!

The whole debate over name change for a woman after marriage is a non issue as far as I am concerned as it ultimately depends on the couple involved. Some men (however few) have no qualms about their wife keeping her own name. And for the ladies who want to retain their father’s name because of the weight it carries, I have just one question for you; if you were married to Dangote’s son wouldn’t you (as a matter of urgency in fact) change your name? There are many “battles” one may have to fight in marriage, so this distraction should be swept out of the way quickly for the real issues. My candid advice: Be ready to answer to Mrs Frog if that is your husband’s name, if you are not willing to do so- don’t get married!

23 Replies to “The Change Of Name Controversy”

  1. In all of our reasoning,all we need to do is ask the right questions;first,what does the woman have to gain by dropping her father’s name for her husband’s???nothing,all her certificates will still be valid by the route of ‘change of name ‘ publication.Unless her name is already a ‘brand’,e.g Oprah Winfrey Show,…..,All married women,as a mark of ‘responsibility’,ought to change their name as soon as they get hooked.

    1. Sure you meant “What does a woman have to lose by dropping her father’s name…”Thanks for your comment Tommy.

  2. So what if she’s taking major bills in the house does that mean she can keep her surname. Cos we know some men have lil or no responsibilities in a marriage (irresponsible men) and the woman pretty much carries the weight of the whole family. Would one blame the woman for not taking his name?
    I totally agree that this matter should be discussed prior to tying the knots but disagreement on this should not lead to a collapse in the relationship. One person should compromise for the other.

    1. True that a woman picking up the bills at home doesn’t translate to her keeping her name, but I still believe most men would insist on her bearing his name…it is seen as a birth right. At the end of the day she may need to decide if she wants to be in the marriage or not regardless of how “useless” her husband may be. Thank you Bolanle.

  3. I personally don’t see it as a big deal, the woman has nothing to lose and the man has nothing to gain though it might stroke some gents EGO. Some men are just tradition freaks so make sure you’re clear on it before & after you’ve tied the knot.

    There are so many things to worry / argue about in marriage, this should be the least.
    ” I’ll divorce you because you’ve refused to change your name”. HeLLo!

    1. I don’t see it as a big deal too. I just see it as one aspect that a woman should concede to her husband at least in this part of the world. After all marriage is all about compromise. Thank you John O.

  4. To each his own. I believe it’s a personal decision and frankly not a big deal. I am yet to change my name 4+ years after marriage. Not because I am in love with my maiden name and can’t let go, it is simply not worth my time to pay to change my name on my passports, license, bank cards etc. But most important my husband is indifferent to my maiden name. It doesn’t make me less his wife. If he had a problem with it, I would take my time and his money to make the change. I guess when we have kids I would probably change my name. Just so I’m not the odd one out in out family.
    Till then folks, please don’t sweat the small stuff. And honestly on the grand scale of this marriage institution, a name change is small stuff.

    1. Yayyyy! Ivy commented today! I cannot argue with the point you have made. I like the fact that you made it clear that your hubby doesn’t mind that you haven’t changed your name yet. My admonition is for those whose husbands mind and who are unwilling to make that change. It’s not worth sweating or quarrelling over, they should just oblige him. Thanks Ivy.

  5. Personally,i think it’s no big deal. As long as the lady allowed the man to pay her bride price, she should be willing to change her surname. An independent lady won’t rely on the fame her father’s name will earn her but build her name. Let’s not forget,once ure known, nothing can change it, moreover,thanks to Change of name publication. Instead of using the smallest size (1inch x1) use a full page or half and attach it to all ur documents, resume, including your Vehicle particulars so Every1 will know ur ex-surname -Latsma,Road safety, Timariv, Police n all. Let’s allow our men to be the head.

    Ng Anwuli

  6. Interesting piece. Interesting comments. I advice Ivy to go do it as it might be a time waster at situations that u need to explain to some short sighted official or just someone who feels important.
    I would love to hear some1 wit a strong contradiction on the subject so I can have a feel of that perspective. It’s seems we all have dsame perspective to d matter.
    Lest I forget. LOL @ Mrs Frog.
    Thank for sharing.

  7. @Ivy – I enjoyed ur writeup and d fact that ur husband doesn’t mind.

    For me it’s really not a big deal,if d woman wants to retain her maiden name,I don’t see anything bad as long as she includes d husband name also and as long as she and her husband are in aagreement e.g. (iyabo obasanjo-bello) at least it archives 2 purposes,it shows ure a daughter of …. And also shows ure now married to ……

    Take d example of MEE. Mofe Damijo,d wife of RMD.her name was May Erlyne Ezekiel but she choose to abbreviate her initials den added her husband’s name afterwards.

    It’s all about agreement btw both parties involved .

    My oopinion though.


    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective Funmi, but I can assure you that most ladies will do away with that maiden name (even as a middle name)that seems so important if they were married to Dangote’s son. It just calls to question some peoples motive for wanting to stick with their old names.

  8. LMAO!!! @the Dangote part. I think this is quite a simple issue and the choice to be taken is strictly dependent on the agreement between the couple prior to marriage. However, it is valid to reiterate that it is somewhat “standard” for the woman to adopt the hubby’s surname. Yes! Standard I say!. Anyone wants to argue this, be my guest. Then you could jolly well argue the “standard” on why you must walk the streets fully clothed and not naked. . . Or why it is “standard” to make babies with your spouse in private areas and not at the busstop pavilion! I think we just do all it takes to be “western” in this part of the world. If the western world had it as a norm that women should adopt their hubby’s surname after marriage while women were keeping their maiden names in this part of the world, the debate today would be the exact opposite of what it is i.e women in this part of the world would be strongly clamouring for adoption of marital names even if it means going to the moon to get the process done!

    Lolade, you have said it all. . Really, it is quite a non-issue. Reach an agreement with your spouse if you have a problem with dropping your maiden name. If he concedes, so be it. If he insists on the default scenerio, then live with it even if it kills you otherwise stay single or move on to the next guy. . Simple!

    1. Abayomi you really should start writing articles too o! I’m not sure I put it better than you just did. Thank you.

  9. well writen. why marry if u dont want to change name? why not discuss it first with ur partner if u known after marriage u wont change d name.? those questions are worth asking. I belive in mutual agreement with both parties. we shouldnt complicate an already complex life.

  10. I’m going to disagree with you on this one Lolade. I believe any man that vehemently insists that his wife changes their maiden name after marriage is a chauvinist.
    I believe it should be the woman ‘s decision ; if she wants to change it or not, however this is definitely something one should have talked about and agreed on before marriage.
    I decided I was keeping my maiden name and we agreed on that, but now out of my own volition I could decide to make it double barrel or change altogether. I think it should be the woman’s prerogative.
    I mean this is someone who”s had her own identity from birth, through he reduction and professional life just having to abruptly change it because she for married? Naaa
    Really a name change from maiden to married is no big deal but I believe it totally should be the woman ‘s decision

    1. Interesting comment Laporshe, it’s ok to disagree. It all boils down to the fact that your husband doesn’t see you retaining your maiden name as a problem, if not you will agree with me that it would cause some friction until someone is ready to compromise. Thanks particularly for this comment, it’s refreshing to read to a contrary view.

Drop a comment, will you! I appreciate them.