How Joko Widodo came to be known as Jokowi

Indonesian President Joko Widodo answers journalists' questions outside the Palace in Jakarta on Oct 21, 2014 during his first day as President after his inauguration on Oct 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP  
Indonesian President Joko Widodo answers journalists' questions outside the Palace in Jakarta on Oct 21, 2014 during his first day as President after his inauguration on Oct 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP  

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - During a visit to The Jakarta Post two weeks after winning the July presidential election, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was asked by the Jakarta Post’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, “Just Jokowi.”He admitted that “Joko” would be awkward, and “Mr. Widodo or president Widodo” would sound strange.“President Jokowi,” he added for those who insist on attaching his official title. “But otherwise, just Jokowi.”But how exactly did Jokowi get his nickname? We asked during his visit to the Post.Apparently it was a 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 "Joko’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 “Jokowi”, 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 “Jokobi” “Jokodi” “Jokori” 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 “Jokovic”, the world’s number one tennis player?“No, I started before he became famous,” Jokowi replied.The Frenchman who invented the name was to 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 personality well.“He 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 “[The nickname] was to make addressing him simpler.”