Last year , a mild discussion on the popular radio station, Wazobia,caught my attention. Someone offhandedly mentioned that all adverts with the Naija tag would be removed from media publications.
I mused within me and wondered why the only pleasing ” cling” the Nigerian youth and indeed Nigerians of less pessimistic hue had, should be taken away from them.
Without conducting any research, I believe the Naija usage found expression in exasperation about Nigeria and the baggage it comes with even though it is not always negative.Sometimes, it may be the interesting and pleasant musing about the positive force inherent in the Naija spirit or even a proud acknowledgement that something is “distinctly NAIJA” and couldn’t have emanated from any other place on planet earth.
I give the credit for the Naija coinage to our own ‘ generation y.’ Generation y has been globally described as the new age ,computer or digital age people born between the late seventees / early eightees to the present day. They live in a new world very much different from the world their parents knew.They are more self-assured and better informed about what they want out of life,less willing to compromise, ever ready to experiment or pursue their dreams.They have been labelled selfish,self-centred and engrossed in their make belief world of mobile phone, face book, twitter,blackberry,i pad et al. In the less advanced world, generation y is also seen as that generation that may not take care of both their parents and their children as previous generations did.
The generation Y has found some amusement and fondness in Naija that is lacking in Nigeria. Nigeria, a coinage of the colonialists, found no root in any of the Nigerian languages whether in spoken word or in the way it is written but Naija is distinctly ours to keep.
Naija is a melting point outstretched and farflunged to accommodate Wazobia et al.The over 250 ethnic nationalities find something of oneness in Naija.
A typical example, is a case where an Ethiopian airline makes a night stop-over at Addis Ababa and you hear some people talking in very loud voices or literarily shouting and making their private matter (of how they have been maltreated by the airline by non allocation of a hotel to them to pass the night), a public matter or complaint. If you check very well, that aggressive and irrepressible spirit emanate from Naija.
Naija, is about something that has an acknowledged potential like Achebe’s Okonkwo in his celebrated novel “Things fall apart” who had all but achieved it. The Naija spirit is agile ,energetic , almost restless and bursting to the seams. It is the free and generous spirit that knows no boundaries.It is welcoming,embracing,warm and hospitable.It is the hilarious, one that is its own first critic and laughs at its own follies and inadequacies.
Naija is our own,our homestead ; the only country we can call our own.It is the place where excesses are tolerated in the name of ‘family business ‘. It is generously gifted in collective amnesia and ‘forge ahead syndrome’ without the essential introspection and reflection. It is uniquely blessed with the aptitude and capacity for ‘suffering and smiling’ and its inhabitants have been noted as the ‘world’s happiest people’ .
Nowhere in the world is like Naija ,where you are greeted with legions of small generators which, as if in eternal competition, make the most noise and bring about unabated fumes,with no one complaining.It is a place where you must pay your monthly light bill even when you have been in total darkness the whole month or you risk being disconnected from source and still pay a reconnection fee for no fault of yours. It has now become a place where someone right in front of you,says ‘you have not seen me yet’ and everyone understands what he / she means.
Naija has since become a place where today’s youth virtually does not know what is right or wrong or where to draw the line in acceptable behaviour as the preceeding generations have progressively destroyed the value system that even pre-dated colonialism.To them, anything goes. Anything is the so called ‘business’ and everything is business.Naija is where you beg for what is your right as nothing is guaranteed,not even an application form you have rightly paid for.
You cannot be sure that one plus one will give you two so you are in a perpetual state of anxiety and uncertainty. I dare say this state of affairs has pre-maturely raised the blood pressure of young and old alike.
But Nigerians in diaspora know that there is no place like Naija. Our ’tuwo’ is unbeatable and I am yet to see any other folks outside of West Africa that do the ‘swallow’. All others with different ‘tuwo varieties’ do chew them.
What of our ’aso-ebi’ the western Nigerian culture that has since infected us all . Or the spraying of naira in tune with the dance steps .Have you watched the energetic ‘atiilogwu dance’ which is true to the name as something so fascinating and incredible you would truly believe it is beyond human powers.? What of the Efik fattening houses with their unmatched cuisine or the innocent Hausa boy whose word is his bond?.
Naija,the proudly African country that parade the fashion landscape with the agbada,the iro and buba,the akwete,the asoke and even the new found ‘power shift’ and ‘resource control’ caps,is a country like no other in this wide world.
There is much fun in Naija amongst the people who should know.If you listen to the Wazobia FM, you will understand what I mean. It is where words grow wings and fly and language becomes a matter of drama . It is fun and the type that can be found in no other place but Naija.
The so called ‘common man’ has found a voice in Naija because he is the main keeper and its true representative. It is in the masses that you readily find the truth that takes ages to be untwined in the elite.It is in the ‘business day dollar per day’ woman that the truth about Naija is displayed in its stark nakedness and reality .It is the melting point of all the ethnic nationalities .It is where the Hausa Maiguard and the Igbo trader, the Ijaw fisherman and the Ijebu pepper seller , the Edo snail seller and the Birom yam farmer etc meet in absolute congruence and unanimity; when they worry about the next meal of the day,about Mama Iyabo refusing to sell anymore in credit,about the man at the chemist refusing to mix drugs for him or her to take care of the unrelenting aches and pains.What of the sweat or is it the drench at night that comes from the heat and the obstructive fences. ? They know the pain of losing ten naira or what it means to fight with the bus conductor for a change of ten naira.
There is a unanimity of purpose and need as the shoes are all similar together with the pinches.The masses are all united until the elite appears with its agenda.This is the subsisting naija spirit-that common denominator that hedges in over seventy per cent of the populace. The innocent hardworker and untiring labourer, perpetually waiting on God and ever hopeful that tomorrow will be better …’ e go better’ ! The same person whose total investment or wares consisting of a tray of oranges has been seized for street trading by law enforcement agents, whose child is sick with malaria and mother down with ‘stroke’,is persevering ,unrelenting and hoping for a better tomorrow … ‘God dey !’
This is the fiery and irrepressible Naija spirit-it is the unwavering optimist and the one that lives to fight another day. It is not Nigerian as it has shed its colonial toga. It isNaija.It is a conglomerate of ethnic nationalities ,a melting point of their highs and lows through which they have found a common expression. The Naija spirit is not of yesterday .It is of today -the here and now spirit. Let us take it a bit further to tomorrow , a tomorrow that only us can make happen,a tomorrow that we alone can define,a tomorrow not defined by others or bystanders .We shall proudly hold on to Naija and with great determination mould it into what all of us will be truly proud of .OurNaija,is our God-given homeland on planet earth!