Irony of Nigerian national symbols

(By Femi Famure)

NIGERIA is a country flowing with milk and honey and blessed with abundant natural and human resources. On the contrary, however, the abundance of these resources has not really translated into a better life for the entire citizenry. The problems of the country are multifaceted and multidimensional, from anomalous founding philosophies to unconcerned leaders and dishonest followers, policy somersault and, even in some cases, negative spiritual influences. Narrowing the issues to the foundational point of view, there is the need to look at our founding philosophies, most especially the necessary national apparatus, which speaks volume of our heritage – the coat of arms, the national flag and the national anthem.

The Nigerian national flag and the coat of arms are governed by the national flag and coat of arms ordinance No. 48 of 1960 and remain the symbol of authority and instrument of state power.   However, let’s take a cursory look at the image of the nation. On the coat of arms, the eagle (red in colour) is said to symbolize strength, while the horses represent dignity. Without being patriotically biased, what comes to mind is this, is the eagle stronger than the sky flying eagle? Is the land-treading horse more dignified than the sky flying eagle? I see no reason why the senior male football team should be identified as green (super) eagles when the eagle on the coat of arms (national image) is painted red. The same applies to the male basketball team called D-tigers, which should appropriately be named D-stallions to represent the horse on the coat of arms.

The two wavy bands, which are silvery in colour on the shield, represent the rivers Niger and Benue and their confluence. I want to believe both rivers are water bodies and based on my little knowledge of cartography, the two wavy bands should be painted in blue, which naturally represents water bodies. Since the shield is black and represents the good fertile earth (soil), which is logical, then why paint the water body in a silvery colour? This, to me, is “artistic suicide.”

An anthem, they say, is a national hymn, which portrays the country’s past status, present locus and future focus. In other words, the anthem is a song that reflects where we were, where we are and where we are going. Hence the national hymn, if not rightly composed, may not be seen as an anthem but an anathema, because it should be a guiding compass towards the actualization of our national goals.
The anthem says, “Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey.” This is a clarion call to those asleep. Despite the fact that we have gained freedom from colonial powers, we still find ourselves in a state of psychological bondage, having the mentality of a slave despite being free. That is why leaders will steal what belongs to the country, which is supposed to be used for the betterment of all and sundry. The “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain” line shows the fears of our founding father that a time might come when the labour of heroes past will be forgotten, their family abandoned, and their philosophy jettisoned. Are we not witnessing this today?

Our unity is threatened day by day and may disappear once our peace is shattered. The same also applies to the second stanza. The second line says: “Guide thou our leaders right, help our youths the truth to know.” Suffice it to say that it would have been better if it were the other way round –help our youths to know the truth they know, because ignorant youths will end up as leaders that will be guided alright as a result of the truth they know, because ignorant youths will naturally end up as recalcitrant leaders. The foundational truth surely should be the future compass.

The truth is that if our youth and leaders did grow in love and honesty, there would not be cult killings, internet fraud, gross embezzlement of funds, monetary diversion, etc. All the dishonesty and lack of love that we see around us are debarring us from attaining the lofty heights. The last line equally indicates another fear our fathers had, namely that in Nigeria, will justice reign? We have cases of extra-judicial killings, money laundering, mass looting, and election rigging swept under the carpet. The second line of the first stanza says to serve our fatherland, while the latter end of the pledge says to defend our unity and uphold her honour and glory. What comes to mind is, is Nigeria a he or she? Just wondering, is this our fatherland or motherland?

Even if we cannot directly connect our present political quagmire to the literary anomaly of the anthem, one thing is sure: the impact of incompetent governance in this country is gradually turning Nigeria to a – no-go-area, a country where anything goes, a geographical and social misnomer, the only country divided into three by water bodies, which forms the letter Y. We have 14 states named after water bodies yet we lack portable water supply (why?), with a landmass of 923,700 km2; an approximate population of 170 million, which naturally translate to 5km2 of arable land per Nigerian, yet there is poverty in the land.

Nigeria is a country more populous than the other West African countries put together yet we are in lack of good and responsive leaders. South-Western Nigeria has the highest number of football academics in the country but there are no players of Yoruba extraction in the Super Eagles and Super Falcons’ starting 11.

• Famure.

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