Jakarta – Ever wondered how President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo got his now-ubiquitous nickname? The unlikely answer: from a French businessman.
"My name is Joko Widodo, [but I'm] often called Jokowi. This hasn't been my nickname since I was small, but only since I met Bernard Chene," Jokowi wrote on his official Twitter account on Sunday morning, together with a video of Chene explaining the origin of the nickname.
"From France, we [are] used to [having] short names, and Joko Widodo was long for me," Chene said in the video. "I asked him 'if you don't mind, perhaps I will call you only Jokowi,' and that is the beginning of the story."
He said he was "a little bit happy" that what started out as a nickname used only between the two of them has become so popular.
In a longer video on Jokowi's official YouTube Channel, Chene also explained how he first met the President. Chene was in the teak furniture business with Jokowi's uncle in Surakarta, Central Java, in the late 1990s.
"One day his uncle introduced him, he was a graduate from forestry. I asked him if he could make some teak furniture," Chene said. "Immediately I did trust him and we started like that in business."
Jokowi graduated from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) Forestry School in 1985 and spent two years working at state-owned paper producer PT Kertas Kraft Aceh before returning to Surakarta to work at his uncle Miyono's furniture company, Roda Jati. Later, he started his own furniture company, Rakabu.
Chene said he was amazed and impressed by Jokowi's political rise to the presidency and had since met the President in Paris.
"At that present time he told me 'Bernard, I am not anymore a president. Now, I'm Jokowi with you, you are Bernard, we can talk about family, our business, our relationship,'" he said. "I had at that time my brother, Jokowi."