New Naija Generation – Identity Crisis or Identity Redefinition?

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Naija 4 Life
Naija 4 Life

Identity Crisis, or Identity Redefinition?

Before I start with my post, I’d like anyone reading this to read an extract from an article I read by Dr Reuben Abati on Guardian.com shown below (For complete article click here). For those that are very familiar with the naija blogosphere, you might have read it already, and also read Banky W’s response. Besides the extract below which is what I will be focusing on, Dr. Abati went on to give his analysis on the Naija Music scene currently, and his views on it. Banky W for the most part addressed that in his response so I won’t beat a dead horse. My issue is with the following paragraphs:

“You may not have noticed it: Nigeria is suffering from an identity crisis imposed on it in part by an emergent generation of irreverent and creative young Nigerians who are revising old norms and patterns. And for me nothing demonstrates this more frontally than the gradual change of the name of the country.

When Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s consort came up with the name, Nigeria in 1914, she meant to define the new country by the strategic importance of the Niger River. And indeed, River Niger used to be as important to this country as the Nile was/is to Egypt. We grew up as school children imagining stories about how Lugard in one special romantic moment, asked his mistress to have the honour of naming a new country in Africa. Something like: “Hello, sweetheart, what name would you rather give the new country that I am creating?”

“Let me give it a thought? ….Awright, how about Ni-ge-ria darling?”
“That would do. That would do. How thoughtful, my fair lady? You are forever so dependable”
And the name stuck and it has become our history and identity. But these days, the name Nigeria is gradually being replaced by so many variants, that I am afraid a new set of Nigerians may in the immediate future not even know the correct spelling of the name of their country. For these Nigerians whose lives revolve mostly around the internet and the blogosphere, the name Nigeria has been thrown out of the window. Our dear country is now “naija” or “nija”. What happened to the “-eria” that Ms Shaw must have thoughtfully included?

… But the name Nigeria means nothing to many young Nigerians. They have no reason to respect the sanctity of the name. They don’t know Flora Shaw or Lord Lugard, and even if they do, they are likely to say as Ogaga Ifowodo does in an unforgettable poem: “God Punish you, Lord Lugard.”

When I read this piece I can’t help not only getting offended but getting aggravated also. One of the first things that comes to my mind is a term that most of us are familiar with; Colomentality. Colomentality (as defined by me) is the mentality of looking up, and revering our colonial masters, and everything they do, have done, or tell us to do.

The fact that the creation/naming of Nigeria by a British woman, Flora Shaw, in a “special romantic moment” is being held up as something to respect and revere is troubling to me. I personally see no reason why I should respect the fact that British Colonialist came to Africa, dismantled (for the most part by force) kingdoms like the Fulani Kingdom, Yoruba Kingdom, Hausa Empire, Benin Kingdom, the Kindom of Nri (igbo) etc, and decided to create a country called “Nigeria”. Nigeria I believe was not created with some romantic undertone. It was created in the name of resource control, and although I am not advocating for the dismantling of modern day Nigeria, nor am I saying we should change the name of the country, I see no reason why I should respect the sanctity of the way the country was named. Heck, who knows? Lord Lugard and his “mistress” might have been doing ungodly deeds when they decided to come up with the name Nigeria. I personally will take the name “Naija” any day over Nigeria. At least I know the name Naija was thought of by a Naija person, and not two British lovers looking over the River Niger, thinking of how to control the native resources for Great Britain’s gain. To be honest, my use of the word Nigeria has been limited to my green passport, and official documents.

The adverse effect this Colomentality had on our society is disheartening. A lot of us grew up wearing school uniforms like the British do, acting like “ladies” and “gentlemen” like the british do, and speaking “English” properly just like the british do. We took pride in speaking “Queens” English, and looked in contempt at those that spoke pidgin English. It seems like a good number of people in our generation grew up knowing more about the British culture than we did about ours. A lot of us don’t know how to get married traditionally until it’s time to get married, but we knew “I do”,and “you may kiss the bride” before the age of 10. Some of us in our generation that grew up in Nigeria still can’t speak our native languages, but we can “blow” grammar from now till tomorrow in English. It’s like we spent more time learning about the British/Western culture than we did our own. I doubt the average British person knows much about the Nigerian culture, or Nigeria food, or our music. I don’t think the average British person knows what “Sanu” means, or “Bawoni”. So why did we bend our backs so far to learn about, and act like the British? We learned “London Bridge is falling down” but did they learn our “Kpa Kpan go lo?” I don’t think so.

Today we have a new generation of Nigerians that have started a redefinition of the our culture and identity, and

Sums up our cultural transformation
Sums up our cultural transformation

although we are product of our parents generations that was influenced so much by the British, we have taken it upon ourselves to redefine ourselves. The fashion has taken a more hybrid traditional tone, our lingo is also changing, and our music is more home grown, and based on what the common Naija youth can relate to. Michael Jackson of old has been replaced with Dbanj, no more New Edition, we have p-square, R-Kelly has been replaced by Banky W, and we have MI & Naeto C for anyone that loves rap music. The Nigerian culture and identity today is heading towards what I call “For Naija, By Naija.” When you take influences from Biggie and Sunny Ade, you get MI’s song “Anoti,” or you take R. Kelly and mix in Fela, you get Banky’s Song “Capable.” The Naija youth culture today is redefined to what the average naija youth can relate to. This, I fully support, and see no reason why it should be looked upon as irreverent or way-ward.

So in conclusion, I’d like to say that I’m happy with the new generation of Nigerians we have today, and although we have our fair share of bad eggs just like the past generation did, I’m happy with our generation and the cultural identity we are creating. We can now go to a naija party and listen to music by naija artists all night long. We wear our ankara clothing with pride. We are taking more pride in our culture instead of raining curses on it, and calling it local.  The new naija culture is not traditional, but it’s what we’ve defined for ourselves. A blend of what we grew up learning and what we know as our traditional culture. God Bless Naija & God punish all our enemies including Lord Lugard 🙂

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to insult or disrespect anyone and so should not be read as such. This is merely meant to state the opinion of the writer, and does not define the views of jaguda.com

15 COMMENTS

  1. Very well said. I agree with you a 100%. The older generation did not give us a lot to be proud of regarding Nigeria. We literally ran with "We are the future leaders of tomorrow" and decided to redefine our culture, music, style and hopefully re-write history to reflect what Nigeria..my bad, NAIJA really should be.

    My Naija is a place that discards the cultural intolerance of our parents generation, that embraces "Proudly Naija" concept and spins in into a multi-million dollar industry.

    My Naija is a place where our youth are motivated and see every challenge as an opportunity to prove to the world that we are better than what they show in western media.

    Finally, My Naija does not need Lord Lugard and his cronies to tell me how to act or speak!

    • Thanks Dayo… It's so funny how every generation is quick to forget that they were once young and were considered way-ward by the older generation. I'm sure we might have something to say about our children when they start wearing flying shoes…lol.

  2. This is so true. Infact, were it not for my uncle who lived in the US at the time, and convinced my parents to let us speak "vernacular" I would so be one of those Naija who grew in Naija and have nothing to show for it 🙂 I love our generation! Great Article.

    • Yep… there are so many people that grew up in naija that can't speak their language or speak pidgin.. I didn't learn my language till I was 16, and I thank God my parents were pretty open minded about pidgin in the house.

  3. I think Dr Abati raised a few valid points in characterizing the lack of a national identity – but as you rightly point out, perhaps it is not our fault that we lack a national ethos…..Perhaps the 'bastardization' of the Nigeria name into 'Naija', 'Naij' or what ever other moniker exists has actually done more to rally a generation of Nigerians around the cause of national belief than anything the older generation has done/ not done…

    • I agree akaBagucci… the word Naija seems to have unified nigerians all over… So easy to blurt out Naija 4 Life…lol

  4. I know Mr. Abati usually takes on a sarcastic tone in his articles so I'm hoping that the part about Lord Lugard's mistress was one of those instances. He is right in that some of the quality of the Naija music we listen to is crap and doesn't make sense (across generations), but to completely generalize and put down a whole generation is not the best way forward.

    • I really hope he was being sarcastic with those fantasies cos if he wasn't that's really disturbing to me. In every generation there will always be trash music…i.e. Alex 0.. it takes sometime to bubble and shuffle… I mean.. how does that affect the price of anything in the market…lol

  5. I saw some valid points from Dr Abati's Article; I believe he has a valid concern or fear. African Hip-Hop has embraced the Western Hip-Hop values. Which most of them promote drugs, violence and portray women as sex symbols unlike the previous artists who didn’t embrace the western values like Fela, Osadebe and King Sunny Ade. Not to say that the previous artists had a better lifestyle than the new artist. Even though his article has some flaws, I still think he raised some issues that we as individuals should take into serious consideration, for example the longevity of this our era. I still listen to Fela, Osadebe, King Sunny Ade, Alex O and co. can we pass down our music to our children? Don’t get me wrong I know we have the likes of ASA and a few. I totally agree with Banky’s response to him because African Hip-Hop and the entire entertainment Industry has created a sense of belonging for African home and abroad and also become a source of revenue.

  6. k. . . not to be a bish or anything but didn't elDee and Banky W write replys and post them online first? If ur going to blatantly steal ideas for columns i suggest u cite them first. Its common curtsy. With that being said this piece isn't half bad. May ur elbows remain greasy, bruv!

    • Yes Tim.. Eldee & Banky W did respond, and so did over 20 other bloggers. The idea of responding to Mr. Abati's article is not a borrowed idea, but more of "if u have an issue" with it. Even though I did mention the original article, and Banky's response, there's no real reason I should cite theirs since this piece was written independent of the views of Banky or Eldee

  7. Well said Aribaba. Every generation has utter nonsense both musically, politically and culturally. Things that will transcend generations will show themselves in time, so Dr Abati need not worry about us and our children I'm sure we will be fine.

    I don't think his article hit the right notes at all. Even if you need to send a rousing call to Naija youth about national identity you need to respect that we are more distant from our cultural values because of our parents! Like you said, the average Naija kid out here in diaspora does not speak or even understand their language, but who was to teach them?

    I'm all for unifying under Naija, bringing pidgin into the mainstream and hearing our music (rubbish or not), especially if it means we are believing in ourselves and not trying to prove anything to any old academic with Colomentality! (love that term!)

  8. "i feel sorry for the generation coming after me because mine is a wasted generation" – Wole Soyinka.

    In as much as i do not totally support Dr Ruben Abati i am still with him 70% he has raised some salient issues, and i was expecting Aribaba to attack the issues not the man. I don't care who's responsible for it, but this generation of young Nigerians has contributed to the retrogression of this nation more than any other nation. Apart from suicide bombing every other atrocities is very evident among the nigeria youth. Deep in your heart you will admit that over 80% of our music and movies celebrate mediocrities and hopelessness. Fraud(yahoo yahoo), pornography etc. Ask a foreigner Who is a Nigerian ? the first thing dats comes to his mind is "a country of fraudsters in black africa". This is absolutely wrong but at thesame time true,

    Our young musicians are promoting this vices, our movie scene is not helping matters. If our leaders have failed us must we now fail our selfs. Nigerian youths wrestle dis country from the colonial masters, the average nigeria. Nigerian youths can change the fortune of this country we can make a difference if only we could re energise our identity and not 'Nija'. We have lost our sense of pride and we are always looking for who to blame for our misfortune. Lets see some sense of dignity in our music and movies.

    Long Live Nigeria.

    • Olarenwaju, you should read your own quote with understanding before citing it. The wasted generation is not this one, nay, its the one before us. The one that has torn this nation to shreds, the one that has failed time and time again to provide even the basic necessities of society which has forced its youth into robbery and its daughters into prostitution. This same old generation which has failed countlessly to instill high moral values in their children, and have in their greedy chase for the ephemeral, abandoned the youth to find their morals on the streets and off the internet. it is this same generation, that have failed to hold and transfer culture, custom and values as was done to them by their parents, that has left the youth to seek to define their own or borrow from wherever they can.

      I can go on and on about the past generation because it is they that have failed us.

      For the few privileged like us whose parents were blessed with humility of status, and who in search for an identity for ourselves have found the dusty rusty values long discarded by our predecessors, we indeed have a responsibility to our country, to tear down the shabby walls we have inherited, and rebuild our great nation, with our anthems tenets of freedom, peace, unity and justice!

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