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
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