Hi, My Name Is Nigeria

Nigeria_face(This is the presentation I made as part of the Strategic Language Initiative Program organized by College of Arts and Sciences, Governors State University (GSU),Illinois in collaboration with U.S Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on Wednesday, October 5, 2005 at Engbreston Hall, GSU, Illinois, USA.)
Hi, my name is Nigeria
E kaa san o (good afternoon).My name is Nigeria. I hail from West Africa. On October 1 2005, I became 45 years old. How time flies! I gained my Independence from Britain that day in 1960 and I transmogrified, starting a new life as an independent nation. This is because I actually came into being in 1914, with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of the Territories held by the Royal Niger Company. My currency in Naira and my flag is green-white-green, symbolizing productivity and peace. Do you know my motto, engraved on my coat of arms? It is “unity and faith, peace and progress”. My system of government is the presidential system, patterned after that of the US.
My boundary has been fixed at latitudes 4 and 14 north and longitudes 2 and 15 east of the Greenwich meridian. I cover an area of 923,768 square kilometers (356,699 square miles), which is slightly twice the size of California (or California plus Kansas). Out of this figure, 910,768 sq km is land while the rest 13,000 sq. km. is water. I am a pretty huge lady and I am often referred to as “the Giant of Africa”, being the largest country in Africa . I am popular and indeed I am the most populous Black Country in the world. I am estimated to have 128,771,988 children by the CIA (The World Fact Book) in July 2005 but I think my children are133 million. Anyway, I am counting my children now – I mean, an official census is being held currently.
I contain 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory, Abuja all within 6 geo-political zones. The zones are Northeast, Northwest, Northcentral, Southeast, Southwest and Southsouth while the states are alphabetically Abia, Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo ,Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nassarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara. Each state consists of local government areas and I have almost a thousand local government areas in all. I have more than 450 languages the major ones of which are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, with English serving as the official language and lingua franca. The religious beliefs of my children range from Islam (50%), Christianity (40%) to Traditional Religions (10%).
Before I tell you more about myself, let me tell you the origin of my name. Have you heard about River Niger that flows from my northwestern side and runs into my heart till it surges southwards through tropical rain forests and swamps till it plunges into its delta in the Gulf of Guinea? Textbooks say it was discovered by a Scotsman, Mungo Park but what about the people who lived in the area and fished for long there before he came? (Sometimes I am amused by the writings of “historians” about me!) A British lady, Flora Shaw, then a correspondent with the London Times newspaper coined me and used the term first in her dispatch of January 1, 1897 to describe the Niger area administered by the Royal Niger Company. General Lord Fredrick Lugard who was my first Governor-General was fascinated by this name, Nigeria and got attracted to it and the journalist. Fredrick eventually led Flora to the altar and they became husband and wife, all because of me, imagine!
My ancestors lived in the area I occupy now more than 40,000 years ago; that was around 65,000BC. The early man in Nigeria contributed significantly to Stone Age Civilization. He invented tools from bones, wood and stones. He later made hand axes as well as developed bronze and metal around 500BC to 200AD. That was the period of my ancestors’ Nok Civilization. My first contact with Europe was about 1480 when the infamous Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was kick-started by the Portuguese, later joined by the British. After the slave trade, the missionaries and traders came and we had no problem: it was business. One day in 1851, I had a terrible dream and I woke up to witness the British bombardment of Lagos. Why? What was my crime? They expelled Kosoko, the King then, for insurbordination and installed Akintoye. By 1861, Lagos was declared a British colony. Other parts of Nigeria were also captured one after the other and by 1900, most of Nigeria was effectively under British rule, administered by Royal Niger Company. In 1914, the two protectorates in the North and the South were amalgamated. Nationalist struggles intensified after the World Wars ( I and II) and I became free; and later a Republic in 1963.
Geographically, you can easily locate me at the armpit of Africa. I am also described as “the heart of Africa” more because of my importance than location, which is quite strategic anyway. Four zones are recognizable within me. Zone 1 is along the coast where rainfall is heavy and vegetation is made up of mostly swamps. My coastline is 853 km. Zone 2 is the forest region where rainfall is also heavy and vegetation is thick forest. Zone 3 comprises the semi-savanna area lying between the forest zone and the real savanna zone, which is zone 4 or the north. This topography determines to a large extent my children’s traditional occupations: fishing, farming, hunting, cattle-rearing, etc. I am bounded by Cameroon to the east, Chad to the northeast, Niger to the north, Benin to the west and the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean to the south. My climate varies according to the regions but it suffices to say that the North is arid, the Central part is tropical while the South is equatorial. My physical landmarks are mountains, lakes, rivers, canals, waterfalls islands and vast land.
Nature has been so kind to me: my weather is temperate throughout the year.1 out of every 5 Africans you see is my child. My natural resources include natural gas, petroleum, tin, granite, columbite, iron ore, coal, limestone, gold, aluminum, lead, copper, zinc, arable land, etc. How many of them can I list? And I have a wide variety of abundant flora and fauna. It is the wish of nature to live within me in its entirety. If you doubt me, take the next flight to me and see for yourself. My economy now thrives on agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, mining, petroleum and energy resources, transportation, banking, finance and other services. Some of my agricultural products are cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava(tapioca), yam, rubber, cattle, sheep, goats, timber, fish, etc.
My industries process and produce cotton, rubber, wood, hides and skin, textile, cement and other construction materials, food products, foot wear chemicals, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, steel and commercial ship construction and repair. My main exports are petroleum, petroleum products, cocoa and rubber and my major partners here are U.S (48.2%), India (8.1%), Spain (7.4%), Brazil (5.5%) and Japan (4.1%).For imports, I partner mainly with U.S(9.1%), China(8.8%),U.K(8.7%), Netherlands (6.3%), France (6.1%), Germany (5.7%) and Italy(4.7%).
Politically, my children adopt the presidential system with bi-cameral legislature, made up of the House of Representatives (Lower House, with 346 seats) and the Senate (Upper House, with109 seats, 3 from each state plus 1 from Abuja), referred to as the National Assembly. At the state level, there are just states’ houses of representatives. The judicial system is based of the English common law and aspects of Islamic law, the latter in the North. There are customary courts, high courts and high courts of appeal. The Supreme Court is the highest arbiter in the land.
I have a diverse tapestry of cultures and traditions. Among my over 250 ethnic groups are Yoruba (21%), Hausa (21%), Igbo (18%), Fulani (11%), Ibibio (5.6%), Kanuri (4%), Edo (3%), Tiv (2%),Ijaw (2%) Bura (2%), Nupe (1%) and others ( 9%). I am endowed with abundant human and natural resources. No nation could have been more blessed than I am. My children excel in all fields of human endeavor. One of them, Wole Soyinka won the first Nobel Prize in literature for Africa. And there is also Chinua Achebe, the renowned African novelist. Intellectual colossuses like the computer whiz-kid, Philip Emeagwali and the GAGUT theorem proponent, Gabriel Oyibo, are my children. They perform wonders everywhere they are in the world (But this is not to suggest that there are no few bad ones among them who tarnish my image and often give me bad press).
My name sends jitters down the spines of my children’s opponents in sports, especially the game of soccer. Go ask Argentina and Brazil! Tell me, except you are not at all interested in sports, haven’t you heard of J.J. Okocha, Kanu, Aghaowa, Garba Lawal and others? I need not remind you that, as they have done in several other countries, they won the Olympic gold medal in football here in the US in Atlanta 1994. And of course you know Akeem Olajuwon who dominated the basket ball game winning laurels and smashing records for a decade here in the US. My music is as varied as my cultures in its traditional and modern forms. Nigerian drums evoke a staccato of scintillating rhythms and the accompanying waltzing dance steps of my children are electrifying. In the field of public administration, political shrewdness and nationalist struggle, my sons like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello are simply illustrious and their records are appearing unbeatable .My entertainment industry is world-acclaimed and robust. Nollywood is comes third globally after Hollywood and Bollywood. Within me are breath-taking water-falls, terrific mountains, game reserves and beaches. I am a tourist’s destination and an investor’s goldmine any day.
However, to be honest with you, I have not been a very happy lady (I prefer being a lady to a woman).I have suffered aggressive violations for a long period. I have been repeatedly robbed and raped by, wait for this, my own children. Even as a growing child, I was a victim of child abuse. My children, those they call military rulers, had gang-raped me several times. I survived an agonizing Civil War they fought among themselves for 30 months, between 1967 and 1970, after they had killed themselves in electoral skirmishes. The oil boom of the 70s rather than bloom eventually brought me a dose of doom. No thanks to the military, who still aborted the second republic (1979 – 1983) and continued to violate and plunder me. I was badly looted, battered and devastated. It was especially terrible for me in the 90s when General Abacha was in my charge.It took divine intervention for me to be liberated. And eventually, reprieve only came to my nightmares in 1999. By then, I had survived about half a dozen military coups, successful and unsuccessful, and had been subjected to some 30 years of military rule.
Hmmm,1999. That was when I tasted democracy and I regained my hope. Olusegun Obasanjo, a great son and former military ruler who with his colleague, Muritala Muhammad (my favorite child who was gruesomely assassinated, my own J.F. Kennedy) assumed my trusteeship. He waged a war (remember he is a retired general and “old soldiers never die”) against corruption and he won many battles, though the war is still raging. He introduced many reforms and was re-elected in 2003.My children still quarrel among themselves along ethnic, religious and political cleavages, on sharing my resources. They are so fastidious and despite all I give them, like Oliver Twist, they ask for more. I wonder what their problem is and I hope they are not going to kill me! That is why I am not very happy now but I know my problem is not peculiar. Tell me how many ladies like me are 100% happy: we all have where our shoes pinch. I am putting the past behind me, consolidating on my present democracy and working towards a better future.
Come, please you come and visit me. I am warm and I am looking earnestly forward to receiving you. Come and see Abuja and experience the grandeur and splendor of a temperate climate and a well-structured city on top of the hills. Come to Lagos and see my skyscrapers, beautiful beaches and captivating waterways. Come to Osun and explore Osun grove that UNESCO categorized this year (2005) as a second world heritage center. I want you to experience my rich cultural diversity in dressing, cuisine, music, dance, festivals, sports, art and great traditions. Come to Yankari games reserve and see nature in its uncontaminated purity. Come to Obudu cattle ranch in Rivers state and see breath-taking landscapes, hills and waterfalls. Come to Iwo and meet a highly sophisticated and cultured people. Come to Ilorin and dance to the syncopating rhythms of bandiri. Come and taste the mouth-watering Iyan(pounded yam) and egusi(melon) soup. Come and savor Tuwo (grilled and cooked corn) and bite Suya (barbequed beef).You need to really taste amala and abula (if you can’t see the meaning, at least you can smell the rhyme) as well as garri and ogbono.I wager you will lose appetite for any other food for a year if you taste any of my cuisine! Come and cruise Rivers Niger and Benue (they both form “Y” in my map and they say Yes to you) and enjoy the delightful pleasure of a breeze of a special kind. I invite you to come and you won’t regret coming to the No. 1 African nation.
E see gan an. Thank you for your patience and I look forward to seeing you!