I came across the following newspiece on the Thisday Newspaper Website:
According to this story, The Minister of Information for Nigeria, Dr/Prof Dora Akunyili wished to ban the use of the term “Naija” as word used to describe “Nigeria”.
According to her, “It is very offensive to call Nigeria ‘Naija’. We are making plans to write companies to stop using the word Naija. I have heard that name Naija in adverts. I want them to go back and remove that word.
“If anybody says this is Naija, ask the person, ‘Where is Naija?’ We have to stop this word because it is catching up with the young. If we don’t put a stop to its usage now, it will continue to project us wrongly.”
I know a million and one people are fans of Madame Dora Akunyili and yes I greatly admire her efforts as the Nations Food and Drug Baron in charge of regulating drugs and food products. Even as our Minister for Information, I have admired her effort to rebrand Nigeria and give it a better image. This is commendable.
However, the ban of the use of the term Naija seems to me like misplaced priorities. I have a question for her, How exactly does the use of the term naija project us as a nation wrongly? It is my opinion that Naija is a term used by the youth of Nigeria and people of all ages as an informal form of the word Nigeria. It is a pidgin word for goodness sake! In many cases, in terms of the diaspora, the word Naija is a term of endearment and instantly provides unity to people living outside the country, be they hausa, igbo, yoruba. They all refer fondly to naija and are proud to be naija boys/girls/men/women.
Furthermore, I believe the term Naija in its origin is a term created by Nigerians for a Nigerian language, Pidgin. It was not created by the white man or any foreign entity as a means of degrading the people of this country we call Nigeria. In fact, if we were to go by that line of thinking, the name Nigeria was given to us by the wife of Lord Lugard a former colonial master. So if anything we should change the name Nigeria to perharps Wazobia to be more in tune to indigenous roots.
I know that at times the word Naija is used when for instance when there are power outages, people say “Naija na wa o” which is a phrase exclaiming in wonder at Nigera. However I dare say that its use in that context is not only to deride the country for not providing an essential amenity such a constant power supply but also using the term in an informal manner to make light of what should be a bleek situation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, many other countries have informal names by which they use to address their countries, Americans are sometimes referred to as yankees, Jamaicans call their country Jamrock, Canadians are Canauts. Why o why can’t I call my country Naija?
Dear Nigerian Government, do better. Provide better schools, infrastructure, healthcare and stop trying to regulate my freedom to speech. Next thing you know they will want to regulate how many times Nigerians pee in a day. Get out of here, Focus on providing for your peoples welfare and stop this nonsense, you are not the ACLU and the word Naija is not the word Nigger that needed a special burial. Real Talk.