Many things in Nigeria start like a joke, so, it won’t surprise me if the proposal for renaming the name of the 60 years old country also started in that way. The proposed change of name has caused mix reactions among Nigerians especially on Twitter and Facebook–some were in support of it and majority, as seen earlier, kicked against it, with each section giving its reason(s).
Federal lawmakers from both the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives have been going round the country in the past two weeks collating opinions from citizens on the planned constitutional amendment. Groups and individuals nationwide have submitted memoranda to the various committees on their areas of interest or in other words, how they want the to-be amended constitution to be. Some submissions centred on creation of additional states and local governments; some on economic restructuring; some on youth engagements in governance and indeed many other areas of interest.
But it came to me and indeed many Nigerians with surprise when the House of Representatives announced that it has received a proposal from a tax consultant in Lagos, Adeleye Jokotoye, seeking for the renaming of the country from the name it got more than a century ago to United African Republic. The reason of Jokotoye that appeared to us is: the name Nigeria was a colonial creation by British whites who colonised this entity in the early 18th century to the mid-19th century and therefore, for him, the name does not reflect our culture and need to be replaced.
The reason given by the author of that memorandum was genuine but it seems he needs to refer to books written on the history of Nigera so as to refresh his memory about Nigeria’s history and how the country came into being. Nigeria–not only the name–the country itself was a colonial creation. The country was born in January 1914 when the then British colonial Governor, Fredrick Lugard, brought the northern and southern protectorates together to form a single colony for easy exploitation. So, many things including institutions that exist today in this country are colonial creation. I think his reason for that holds no water.
But in the first place, what’s wrong with the current name? And will renaming the country brings everlasting solution to the prevailing challenges the country is battling with today?
The critical challenges facing this country which seem to be unending could not be solved by just a change of the country’s name. Even if the proposed change of name see the light of the day, nothing will change our debt profile; nothing will change the increasing corruption in the public service; attitudes of citizens will hardly be changed and of course many wrongs will keep moving on the wrong lane because only the identity is to be changed and not the country and its people. So, it means, the name is not our problem. We know our problems and let’s face them if really we are eady for the new Nigerian project.
The major focus of all of us–the government and the responsible governed–should be on how to sustain our fragile unity and restore trust and tolerance among diverse ethnic groups in the country. The unity of this country only starts and stops on the lips of its citizens but doesn’t reflects in their actions and how they relate. You can understand this more if you traverse the country.
There are tensions all over the land with each region facing its peculiar security and other economic challenges. Insecurity and agitations by secessionist groups are at increase. Southeast has now become a hot zone with incidence of killings and destructions being reported on daily basis all in the name of agitating for an independent state that was abortively fought some fifty years ago, this time around, with Nnamdi Kanu spearheading and commanding the frontline agitators from a far distant. Agitation for the creation of Oduduwa republic has recently sprang up with in the southwest with Sunday Ogboho in the lead. ISWAP has now expanded its criminal activities from the territories of northeast to northwest and has been launching attacks and kidnapping innocent citizens including students in schools. This story is not different in northcentral.
So, I’m of the opinion that what we need now is not a change of an identity in our numerous national identities. We need the government at the centre to be serious enough in how it deals with issues and how it confronts most of these known problems. These problems that are fast accumulating are posing serious threats to our democracy that haven’t lasted for even quarter a century and also to our corporate existence as a nation. All hands must now be on deck to get this country back on track, else we will all gather to regret our actions and what the dysfunction of our system has caused us all.
If this joke of Adeleye becomes true, it means we will need aside the new name, also a new anthem; a new court of arm; perhaps a new flag; and new so many things. The funny thing here is: a citizen of Nigeria is known and addressed as a ‘Nigerian’. So, if we later changed to United African Republic, how would a citizen of the UAR be known as addressed?
Safiyanu Danladi Mairiga writes from the jewel state, Gombe.