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Friday, July 7, 2017

Inheriting the name Nigeria

….also published in Daily Trust  

Amid the raging controversy over the future of Nigeria as a united country, and having written about the issue on several occasions, I now address the question surrounding the fate of the name Nigeria in the aftermath of the worst-case scenario in this regard, i.e. the country’s break-up, God forbid. By the way, though my repeated invocation against this eventuality reflects my belief that the country is, and would probably remain, better off united than divided, nevertheless, I believe that, unless the current persistently growing existential threat to the country’s survival is adequately addressed, its break-up can’t be completely ruled out.

Therefore, inasmuch as some proposed names like Oduduwa Republic in the south-west, Republic of Biafra in the south-east and recently Atlantic Republic in the Niger-Delta are already popular among the subregions’ respective separatist movements in anticipation of self-determination in their respective subregions, it’s obvious that they aren’t interested in inheriting the name Nigeria in the aftermath of the country’s break-up, whereas, in the north, the name Nigeria is repeatedly mentioned as part of the different names proposed for the region in the event it becomes a sovereign country. 


However, though there is obviously nothing wrong with Nigeria as a name per se, yet should each region or subregion in the country attain self-determination, the north shouldn’t inherit the name Nigeria either. This is not just because the name is a colonial legacy, but because it has over the decades acquired practically irredeemable notoriety the world over, due to the sheer range of criminal activities for which some relatively few yet many Nigerians are particularly notorious. Though they aren’t actually as many as widely believed compared to the population of honest and hardworking Nigerians, yet due to their particularly notorious tendency to commit crimes like financial fraud, armed robbery, drug and human trafficking, international prostitution, falsification of document etc., and indeed the sheer extent of their actual involvement in these crimes, which attracts international media attention more than the achievements of trustworthy Nigerians around the world, Nigerians in general have been stereotyped globally as people with compulsive penchant for committing fraud, and are in most cases treated accordingly.

Foreign-based Nigerians and their home-based compatriots traveling abroad are unjustly subjected to different forms of discriminatory treatment simply for being Nigerians. Though the foreign-based are of course particularly affected, I am sure almost every Nigerian citizen who has been abroad holding a Nigerian passport has at least a tale to tell about an awful experience he had to endure somewhere just because he is a Nigerian citizen.

It’s also under the influence of this stereotype that a typical non-Nigerian often betrays undue suspicion against any Nigerian he is meeting for the first time, while a typical Nigerian familiar with this unfortunate stereotype consciously or unconsciously struggles to prove himself different, and indeed goes to the extent of conceding some of his rights and privileges just in order to be given the benefit of the doubt, which even if he actually manages to secure, he still remains under tacit probation for a period longer than what it would ordinarily take if he were not a Nigerian. 
 
Therefore, in the event of an agreement to renegotiate the unity of Nigeria, the north shouldn’t inherit the name Nigeria, because it has become too notorious to be rebranded and consequently too boring to inspire hope, patriotism and determination to do things differently from what currently obtains in Nigeria. Besides, though it admittedly takes more than getting rid of the name Nigeria for the north to survive and thrive in the event of becoming a sovereign country, yet getting rid of it would inspire them to purge the system of the other impediments that have frustrated Nigeria over the decades, and start afresh afterwards. An inspiring name, therefore, should be coined or adopted instead.

Also, though discarding the name Nigeria wouldn’t instantly change the stereotype against the inhabitants of the geographical area in question, yet as the rate at which the name is mentioned in the media decreases once it’s officially discarded, it ceases to ring a bell, and its notoriety equally dissipates, provided the inhabitants of the region are committed enough to transforming it into a viable, efficient and ambitious country of law-abiding and hardworking citizens. After all, this attitudinal transition wouldn’t be that difficult, because virtually all the notorious perpetrators of the crimes that have earned the name Nigeria this notoriety aren’t northerners.