Nigeria or Naija: What’s in a name?

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

                                                                                                             ―William Shakespeare

For the umpteenth time, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has cautioned Nigerians against bastardizing the official name of the country. ‘Naija’ or ‘9ja’ as the hip variation of Nigeria is interchangeably spelled is a street parlance for the West African nation officially known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Over time, ‘Naija’ has been affectionately substituted to represent Nigeria in spoken discourse and sometimes in written form but never in official usage.

This will not be the first time NOA is criticizing what it perceived as a disrespect and abuse to the country’s brand name and image. More interestingly, the agency is pointing accusing fingers at the younger generation as being propagators of the corrupted version.

The campaign to make Nigerians reverse the trend and revert to the right use of the name Nigeria was first initiated some ten years ago. Then former governor of Katsina State, His Excellency Musa Yar’Adua, had just been elected as President of the world’s largest black nation. Notable among the members of cabinet selected to assist him was late Prof. Dora Akunyili, who assumed the position of Minister of Communication.

As part of her efforts to reposition the country and instill national values, Akunyili started her ‘Rebrand Nigeria’ project. ‘Madam Rebranding’ as the former Director-General of NAFDAC would later be known worked vigorously with similar zeal with which she ran her former agency.  Part of her campaign includes correcting her perceived abnormalities associated with the name ‘Naija’ is being substituted for Nigeria especially among the youths.




What’s in a name if one may ask? A lot or maybe less, that according to the part of the divide one chooses to stand. Religious enthusiasts would be quick to point out in support of how so much is attached to names citing biblical references and allusions. Others apologists would probably be indifferent.

Every nation of the world has affectionate appellations by which they are called by its citizens. These names mostly stem from the cultural and nationalistic vibes of the populace towards the state of being in their countries. The United States is ‘Yankee’ to the Americans.

Like a lover would shower affections on his spouse by calling her endearing names, Nigerians have done same with their motherland. It is with all sense of national pride and attachment that we have chosen to identify with our country and call it ‘Naija’. It is in a similar vein that Nigerians, especially the millennials have projected the new found appellation positively in their diverse projects and interactions. Let it be said loud to those at the helms of affairs at the National Orientation Agency that it is with all sincerity, creativity and nationalistic consciousness that we identify with our beloved ‘9ja’.

Rather than waste efforts, resources and time chasing after what is not, let NOA be proactive in its dealings with the citizenry. Let the agency use its platform to engage with the people meaningfully. If NOA will climb down from its high horse, let it work with Nigerians especially at the grassroots to understand their challenges and proffer solutions to the multi-facet problems they encountered day to day. There a million and one problems plaguing the nation, calling Nigeria ‘Naija’ is undoubtedly the least of our worries.


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