A delegate from the South-east, Prof Chinedu Nwajiuba has made a proposal to the National Conference for the change of the country’s name from Nigeria to ‘Naijiria’ as a means of addressing embarrassing identity clash that often arise between the people of Nigeria and Niger Republic.
Nwajiuba, who along with the initiator of the concept, Dr Agwu Ukiwe Okali addressed a press conference at the venue of the National Conference yesterday cited cases of Ghana, which was renamed from Gold Coast, Upper Volta changing to Burkina Faso, Dahomy renamed Benin Republic.
Nwajiuba decried the embarrassment Nigeria faces whenever its name was associated with fraud perpetrated by Nigerien citizens abroad due to the similarity in the two names.
He was of the opinion that since it has become difficult to make an outright change of the name it has become necessary to localise it to give it African coloration as obtained in the aforementioned countries.
He said since the Nigerian youths in their music and arts have already keyed into the name Naija, it becomes imperative to recommend it to the federal government.
Speaking on the concept, the initiator and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Founder Okali Seminal Ideas Foundation for Africa (OSIFA), Dr. Okali, said the change of the name “Nigeria” to “Naijiria” has become necessary since the country had just marked 100 years of nationhood.
Okali said the name; ‘Nigeria’ lacks African content unlike many other African names, wondering why the citizens have not focused their minds to changing the name.
According to him, the word, Niger was taken from the Latin word Niger, which has the same meaning as Nigger, saying it is probably the origin of Nigeria.
“We feel as proud and enlightened Africans that after 100 years we should be able to focus our attention intellectually on this kinds of things as other people abroad might be wondering whether the citizens are not intellectually minded as to realise this.”
Okali stated that the peak of the various embarrassments arising from the name Nigeria was when the erroneous hosting of Niger Republic flag in place of Nigeria’s at the last opening of the World Cup.
He said, “We think that the occasion of the centenary and the National Conference going on affords us the opportunity, in fact imposes on us a responsibility to use the occasion to tidy up some of the legacies of our colonial past that are still hunting us. One of those is “Nigeria” as it is written.
“During the opening ceremony of the ongoing World Cup, there was a very embarrassing incident. This incident, simply put, is that the flag of Niger, our neighbouring country was displayed as the Nigerian flag. Now many people may say why? The reason is that the way those countries’ names were written makes it very easy to confuse and requires a high level of concentration to differentiate.”
The former UN Assistant Secretary, who also stated that sometimes the National Anthem of the country is not played in international events because of the confusion, noted with disgust that the white people have derogatorily applied the name ‘Nigeria’ with its undertone ‘nigger’ to Nigerians in many instances.
“The second problem related to the word Nigeria is that the way it is spelt, which is what the issue is here is pronounced and should be pronounced as Ni-ge-ria. In any African language, including your own and in many other languages that is the case.
“So what happened is that it now becomes associated with ‘Nigger-Area’ and as you know the word ‘nigger’ is the most derogatory term you can use on a black person as far as far racism is concerned. So our name suggests it and we are saying this is absurd. The greatest black African country is flirting with the worst word that you should be using for a black person, “ he said.