bai Edwin Eriata Oribhabor

The Honorable Minister of Information and Communication Professor Dora Akunyili recently ordered that henceforth, no one should use the name Naija in place of Nigeria. She threatened that all corporate bodies using it would be communicated to desist from doing so forthwith. Her comments and manner of delivery, reminded me of the days of the Military when orders were handed in the “top down” military fashion without full consultation between and amongst members of the Military team. As long as oga hed of stet don tok, na so i go bi. Nobodi fit tok. Then, the culture of obey bifo komplen and all manner of gra gra were commonplace. We were encouraged to du eviritin wit militri alakriti weda gud oo bad.

Sometime in the recent past, Mr Reuben Abati, one of Nigeria’s most respected Columnist blasted the pop culture in Nigeria. His “treatise” received a flurry of criticisms from within and outside the shores of this country boosting his rating and readers’ followership worldwide. It was a confirmation of the fact that once a people are at home with a lifestyle, it becomes a way of life and “culture” to them. Therefore, stopping it in an abrupt manner is usually both uphill a task and counterproductive in most cases especially when prior efforts were never made at engaging them in this regard. As a private person, Mr Abati acted right to have expressed his views and he needed to convince non but himself before publishing his write-up. This is a far cry from the action of the Honorable Minister of Information who, under normal circumstances, is required to first seek the approval of the Federal Executive Council before commenting on any important issue like the use of Naija by Nigerians. Naija could be viewed from the perspective of a name, a brand, language and the spirit & soul of Nigeria. Against this background, one would simply state that di tin don pas wetin madam Minista de tink and we shall be looking at this in the following.

In his latest album, “The Unstoppable”, Innocent Idibia, Alias 2face Idibia sang about the spirit of Naija in one of his musical numbers. The album is the international edition of his earlier work repackaged for the international market. It is currently receiving positive reviews and airplay worldwide. Although it may be herculean identifying any musician who wouldn’t have in one way or the other used Naija, 2face Idibia is a perfect example of a Nigerian that has successfully taken the Naija brand to the international fora. Devoting efforts and space at mentioning different songs, films, advertisements in which the Naija brand is being promoted would amount to writing a whole book.

Naija is a nickname or gai nem fo Naijiria coined by Nigerians for the convenience and pleasure of Nigerians and all that may come in contact with it. It doesn’t subtract from the meaning and essence of Nigeria. So far, nothing suggests that the name is being used for negative purposes nor associated with criminals, drug barons, kidnappers, corrupt politicians or anything bad in Nigeria. In fact, the opposite is the case. Like most popular home grown words/phrases that are in use in this country, one may not immediately ascribe it to anyone. Therefore, its neutrality and wide acceptance by all worldwide has made it the most appropriate abbreviation for Nigeria.

Naija has gone way beyond a nomenclature; it’s the “spirit and soul” of the people of Nigeria who are still grappling with the challenges of genuine nation-building. Its capacity of driving or motivating the peoples’ inner confidence wherever they may be is not in doubt. As majority (individuals and corporate bodies) keep using it, their love for their country increases as well as the readiness to keep tackling the numerous problems of kidnapping that has become an industry, Boko Haram which is waxing stronger, no lait, no wota, no rod and vision 20:2020; begging for direction.

Naija is not a name one could “shout down” jos laik dat. Unlike the nomenclature Nigeria, foisted on us by our Colonial masters, Naija is simply a home grown. At a time, desperate efforts were made at changing the name - Nigeria, why promote it now over and above Naija, locally developed and widely accepted by Nigerians and foreigners alike? Why throw away Naija a major factor in the continuous unification and integration of the peoples of this country? Why give Naija a bad name like a dog programmed for hanging? As a result of the usage of Naija, there’s this fire of nationalism that burns in the people. Any attempt at painting it in bad light would be counterproductive. It will amount to putting a clog in the wheel of the integrative process of the multifarious peoples of this potentially great country. Naija no bi smol mata! Na propa ribrandin.

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(received 19/11/2010 — Published 02/12/2010)

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