We all know the expression ‘what’s in a name’. In Africa, names mean everything, thus the biggest celebration of a newborn after seven days in Africa is the naming ceremony. For Africans, there is a lot in a name. There is a reason that most spiritual traditions attach huge importance to naming – be it at the time of birth, adoption, or religious conversion.
According to historians, the name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was coined on January 8, 1897, by British journalist Mrs. Flora Macaulay who later married Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator. River Niger was the most revered physical feature in Nigeria during the colonial era. However, historians that disagree with this version of history contend that the name Nigeria was borne our of a racist term: Nigger- Area.
Whatever the true origin of Nigeria may be, millions of Nigerians worldwide now believe that its time to reject all aspects of colonial ties and legacies in Africa. Renaming Nigeria will be a step in the right direction. This is not a novel idea in Africa and around the world.
Below are countries that have rejected colonial names and renamed their Nation in line with their values and culture.
British named them Burma. They rejected it, restructured & renamed themselves Myanmar.
British named them Upper Volta, but they rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves Burkina Faso-Land of Incorruptible People.
British named them Gold Coast, they rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves Ghana.
British named them Southern Rhodesia. They rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves Zimbabwe.
Brits named them Northern Rhodesia. They rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves Zambia.
Brits named them Tanganyika. They rejected it restructured & renamed themselves Tanzania.
Germans named them a colony of South West Africa. They rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves. Namibia.
France named them Dahomey. They rejected it, restructured, and renamed themselves Benin.
Belgium named them Zaire. However, they rejected it, restructured & renamed themselves the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC).
So what’s in a name? Names can be mirrors and vessels that carry our most deeply held hopes. Names can be guides, pointing a Nation towards unity and prosperity. At this juncture of confusion and backwardness, perhaps the best thing Nigeria needs is a new African NAME.
Osayande Aghaze. US-Expert on Global Policy matters and Human Rights can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org