Happy Independence Day Nigeria!
Wow, 54 years already… and we’re still standing. Against all the plenty talk about Nigeria dividing, we’re still together. Congrats my dear Nigerians!
I have this tradition of thinking about reasons why I like Nigeria and why I’d rather stay Nigerian every Independence day and today’s no different. I’m proud to be Nigerian, proud to be from this great country.
Naija, 9ja… the word that aptly captures the emotions I feel for my country, especially as it celebrates its 54th year of independence.
We Nigerians are confident people – proud of our culture and identity, industrious, hard-working, ingenious and great survivors.Let’s face it, we need to be resilient – Nigeria can be extremely frustrating, annoying and inefficient.
But an optimistic outlook on life makes it a place where anything and everything is possible. No wonder a survey once found that Nigerians are the happiest people in the world – we have a great capacity for laughing at ourselves.
Naija, a word said to be coined by the Nigerian youths as a means to distance themselves from the old guards who had caused the country’s woes has come to express everything we love about Nigeria.
Naija, says it all. It is about the food, the flamboyant dressing, the mannerisms, the boisterous – some say loud – interaction among complete strangers who on meeting immediately feel bonded by their “Naija-ness”.
Like your family, you love them and you hate them at the same time.
You love them so much you would die for them, and yet you get so exasperated at the way they drive you up the wall.
And for the young, the word has entered their slang – spreading rapidly through social networking sites and through music.
It is said that Naija was coined because Nigeria has a bad image abroad but the youths want everyone to know that that is changing; Nigeria is changing for the best!
Nai: the old Nigeria, Ja: a slang for disappear. Simply put, Naija means the old Nigeria is disappearing and a new and better one is emerging.
I’m proud to be Nigerian, I’d still be Nigerian even in my next life. Everytime I think about how awesome this nation is, no matter how bad things may seem presently, I feel bad for those who aren’t Nigerians. They have no idea what they’ve missed!
Much talk about every bad thing is Nigeria can be very depressing but surely, not all belief in Nigeria is lost.
You need look no further than sports competitions – especially football – for evidence of our patriotism. It is there that you will find Nigerians, irrespective of age, tribe or creed, enthusiastically cheering on the national team.
In fact, a growing trend in Nigeria’s major cities is the display of the country’s flag on vehicles whenever Nigeria appears in a tournament. That rare display of pride in something Nigerian is what many of the country’s leaders want to see in other areas.
While the comedians provoke mirth and laughter, it pains me to see the way we sometimes denigrate our national institutions in the process. A prime example is the army which, at the very least, has been making efforts to serve its civilian authority democratically.
But I am always proud as a Nigerian when at a gathering, everyone joins in rendering the national anthem without the aid of a recording. And when you go abroad you can always tell the Nigerian from other Africans judging by his self-confident, some would say cocky, way.
The biggest mistake a non-Nigerian can make is to try to criticise the country or to even innocently join the Nigerian pastime of self-condemnation. That is when you see that, in spite of all the negativity, Nigerians care for their country and still believe that one day its much talked about potential will be realised.
AND HERE WE ARE…
54 years. 54 years after the British kept us in their trap for a hundred years.
54 years after men danced till dawn the day the Nigerian flag was hoisted.
54 years after late Babatunde Jose sobbed as he watched late Tafewa Balewa and a British soldier on the field as Nigerian was born.
It’s been 54 years of smiles and sorrow, but we’re still standing. And moving, no matter how slow.
There is one achievement, however, that may be worth elevating above all. In the context of the myriad of problems faced by Nigeria over the past 50 years, somehow, miraculously, we have succeeded in staying in one piece, as one nation.
I believe that in the next 50 years, Nigeria is likely to confound those who have been telling tales of its fall. Better elections will help to strengthen democracy by producing leaders who are more likely to inspire others who believe that it is possible to have a Nigeria where differences in creed, tribe and tongue are no barrier to nationhood.
Written by Praise Oluwarinu @yadah_
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