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Jakarta Post

How a French connection gave Indonesia '€˜Jokowi'€™

  • Endy M. Bayuni and Sita W. Dewi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, October 20, 2014   /  11:54 am
How a French connection gave Indonesia '€˜Jokowi'€™

Bernard. kompas.com/Fabian JK

During a visit to The Jakarta Post two weeks after winning the July presidential election, Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo was asked by the paper'€™s chief copy editor how he would want the press and everyone else in fact, to address him after he took his oath of office on Oct. 20.

For example, how should another head of state address him when they meet? she asked.

Jokowi paused for a moment and said, '€œJust Jokowi.'€

He admitted that '€œJoko'€ would be awkward, and '€œMr. Widodo or president Widodo'€ would sound strange.

'€œPresident Jokowi,'€ he added for those who insist on attaching his official title. '€œBut otherwise, just Jokowi.'€

Of course, for some, it would be '€œPak Jokowi'€ or '€œMas Jokowi'€, depending on their relationship with him.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono changed the rule as soon as he became President in 2004 by telling the media that from then on, he should be referred to as '€œMr. Yudhoyono, Pak Yudhoyono or President Yudhoyono'€.

The shorthand '€œSBY'€ started being used as '€œYudhoyono'€ was considered just too long and for non-Indonesians probably a mouthful to pronounce.

Before he became President, there was no consensus about how he should be addressed. He had held several public offices before 2004 '€”Indonesian Military (TNI) political affairs chief and later served in the Cabinets of presidents Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Some media addressed him as general, Pak Susilo or Pak Bambang. But he was rarely referred to as general or Pak Yudhoyono.

But how exactly did Jokowi get his nickname? We asked during his visit to the Post.

Apparently it was his French connection.

Before taking up a career in government in 2005, Jokowi was a small furniture trader based in Solo, with France among his export markets.

He recalled that he was one of the many furniture suppliers to a particular French buyer. As it turned out, the buyer had several other '€œJoko'€™s'€ from other parts of Java on its list of suppliers.

Once, Jokowi recalled, an order from the French buyer came intended for a different Joko and not for him. The mix-up was sorted out, but since then the French buyer started calling different Joko'€™s different names, usually associated with the first letter of their surname.

In Joko Widodo'€™s case, it became '€œJokowi'€, a name that he has embraced since he launched his political career as mayor of Surakarta in 2005.

Indonesia could have ended up with a '€œJokobi'€ '€œJokodi'€ '€œJokori'€ or any other variation, but somehow it would not be the same as Jokowi.

So he did not acquire the nickname because it sounds like '€œJokovic'€, the world'€™s number one tennis player?

'€œNo, I started before he became famous,'€ Jokowi replied.

The Frenchman who invented the name will apparently attend Jokowi'€™s inauguration on Monday.

Bernard, as he identified himself, visited Jokowi and his family at the Jakarta gubernatorial residence on Sunday.

As the first buyer of Jokowi'€™s furniture products, Bernard said he had already known the president-elect for around 21 years and that he understood his personalitywell.

'€œHe hasn'€™t changed. He'€™s very simple. He does everything with his heart. For me he'€™s not a politician. He is a natural leader. He is very simple, smart, and he sees things in advance,'€ said Bernard.

When asked why he invented the nickname for Jokowi, Bernard only said that '€œ[The nickname] was to make addressing him simpler.'€