Laughter, they say is the best medicine. Let’s take a comic look at our predicament in Nigeria
The good state of Bayelsa proclaimed to the world on car number plates that it is the ‘The Glory of All Lands’ but has now been renamed “Pride of the Nation.” Thank God, their self-description is not as obvious as ‘The Wealth of the Nation.’ That would have been too obvious, not so? But what exactly is the pride of that place? Oil spills, foul-smelling creeks, gas-flaring, and irresponsible governors and local chiefs? All these and the corruption have given Bayelsa’s slogan a hollow ring. It is an indictment on Nigeria.
Plateausays it is ‘Home of Peace and Tourism’. My wife was born, bred and buttered in Jos, the capital. Its cool climate and cultural landmarks have always made it an attraction for the rare tourists who make it to Nigeria. But, ironically, Plateau, has been plagued by religious and ethnic violence promoted and sustained by evil, calculating politicians that have killed hundreds. There is little about the place that suggests peace let alone tourism.
As for Kaduna, it used to be the ‘Liberal State’ for its cosmopolitan and lively atmosphere. However, it has suffered from debilitating bouts of religious violence, including the 2002 Miss World riots that killed an estimated 200 people. When President Jonathan picked Kaduna State Governor, Namadi Sambo, a Moslem, as his Vice-president, thus constitutionally paving the way for his Deputy Governor, Patrick Yakowa, a Christian, to become the new governor, there was some grumbling amongst the Moslems but which was quickly sorted out. The state, in recent times, has been peaceful and now renamed “Center of Education.” Ahem!
Some States have adopted somewhat desperate slogans for their number plates. Nassarawa is ‘Home of Solid Minerals’, but so what? The minerals are mostly mined by individuals who never make any returns to the Federal Government. Their resources are almost irrelevant to the rest of the country.
Benue is ‘Food Basket of the Nation’ but seems more like ‘Basket-mouth of the Nation’ to me. It is a worthwhile boast, especially in a country like Nigeria where a majority of the population could feed better. It will be interesting to know where all the baskets of food disappear to.
A state like Yobe took a more abstruse approach when it initially declared, ‘The Young Shall Grow.’. Now, it is “Pride of the Sahel.” What on earth does that mean, really? How long before they grow?
Kwara proclaims itself a ‘State of Harmony.’ Considering the ethnic diversity that exists in the place, their claim is understandable. But is it “harmony” when one group, family dynasty or even ethnicity, dominates over the other?
Abiais ‘God's Own State.’ It is a poor imitation of the United States’ appellation of “God’s own country.”
Akwa Ibomis ‘Land of Promise’ but how is this reflected?
And Cross River, ‘The People’s Paradise’? Well, I certainly hope their conception of “paradise” is not limited to Obudu cattle ranch.
BornoState is the inappropriately named ‘Home of Peace.’ The activities of Boko Haram fanatics have adequately rend the place into pieces.
I love Delta and Edo States. They are both ‘hearty’. Delta is the ‘The Big Heart’ but for me, seems more like the Big Art with all the best akpavin and skillo located there. This description is even more interesting considering what ex-Governor James Ibori did in that place. He proved that treasury looting and stealing is both an art and a hit. The UK court hearing his case must have been amazed while watching the video of the opulent palace he built in Nigeria. Edo is ‘Heart Beat of Nigeria’ but that heart nearly stopped when Lucky Igbinedion was governor.
Adamawais ‘Land of Beauty’ and as a beholder, I would have agreed with this 100 per cent. However, like many other states in Nigeria, they are plagued by bad and clueless leadership.
And ‘Coal City State’, Enugu? Yes, the last time I heard about coal coming from Enugu was when I was in primary school in the 1960s. Since then, all the coal has disappeared into some people’s land and pockets.
Jigawais ‘The New World’, a lovely State whose major contribution to the Nigerian economy is in the production of dates, yes, the fruit called date. Yet, nobody, even the inhabitants hardly exploit this versatile fruit.
Kano, ‘Centre of Commerce’. Really? Where are the famous groundnut pyramids we used to see in the 60s? Kano residents no longer plant groundnuts? They are perhaps more interested in the commercial pastime of increasing the population that makes Kano State about the most densely populated in the country.
‘Fountain of Knowledge’ State, Ekiti, never ceases to make me laugh. With all their professors and academics, they still have a high rate of illiterates. You would think they would lead the way in UTME and SSCE results.
And talking of ‘Pacesetter State’, my very own Oyo, living on and regressing into past glory. Pacesetter indeed! When was the last time anything cutting-edge came from Oyo state? The place has been plagued by political chicanery over the years, no thanks to godfathers like Lamidi Adedibu. But thank God, something is happening there at last.
Anambra is the ‘Light of the Nation.’ Home for All’. Last time I spoke to an Anambran, he confided in me that no non-indigene of Anambra has ever been sold land in Awka before. They simply don’t welcome foreigners that well. The state has produced many high-ranking politicians and a centre of major economic activities. This would have been a fitting tribute except, well, Nigeria is yet to see the light.
Ebonyiis ‘Salt of the Nation’. I will be honest, I don’t know much about this obscure State. They hardly make any noise worth noting. Is their salt still tasty or this is mere platitude? Salt of the nation? Right here in Nigeria? You are kidding me!
Katsinais the ‘Home of Hospitality’ but again, like Ebonyi, I wonder how far that goes.
Rivers Stateis the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’. I suppose it explains why their past governors looted the state treasury as had never been seen before even in Nigeria.
Zamfara is ‘Farming is our Pride’. I hope so. I want to see the food aplenty. Let the people farm. If not, get the hell outta there, Mr. Governor.
Tarabais ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’. Together with Adamawa, both make a very beautiful tourist and natural paradise. It is a shame to see how very little of nature is exploited to the fullest here, thanks to clueless political leaders.
‘Gateway State’ is Ogun State’s contribution to meaningless sloganeering. Geographically, maybe it is a gateway to the country truly, especially as it contains the spill over of economic activities that will not fit into Lagos state but in the whole scheme of things, they are not much.
Ondois ‘Sunshine State’ as if the sun only shines on them! Their allusion to the sun is clear but how far they will run with the energy of the sun remains to be seen.
OsunState is now “Land of Virtue,” a slogan that makes you wonder what anyone was thinking when they were naming the baby. It used to be ‘State of the Living Spring’ is a reference to the major river in the State, River Osun. It is their cultural icon but their faith in the spirituality and the essence of the river did little to help them in the almost eight years when ‘Oyin ni o’ was busy playing golf in Ada, rather than governing the State, while a Senator with a murder accusation hanging on his head waited to take over the reins of leadership. Now that they have a Muslim with the image of a fundamentalist as governor, and the senator’s ambition (hopefully) thwarted, maybe their spring will sprout some freshness.
Sokotois ‘Seat of the Caliphate’, aptly named considering that is where the Sultan is domiciled but what does that translate into in terms of development and religious harmony?
NigerState is ‘The Power State’. Why wouldn’t it be? What with two former military dictators of questionable characters coming from there, and one of them continues to imagine he holds the reins of power!
ImoState is ‘Land of Hope,’ (formerly or the ‘Eastern Heartland’). Why didn’t they just add ‘and Glory’ to complete the imitation of US’ slogan? Actually, in certain ways Imo people exude hope. I can say that by looking at Kanu Nwankwo, Chioma Ajunwa and Emmanuel Amunike.
Gombeis ‘Jewel in the Savannah’. Hmm! I don’t know what makes it a jewel, but it sure is in the savannah. Have they heard that savannahs sustain wheat, and other cereals?
BauchiState is ‘Pearl of Tourism’. Yes, with the game reserves, I suppose they can lay claim to that. And it was the home of our first Prime Minister, a very humble man called Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. In Hausa, Bauchi means ‘the land of slaves’. Bauchi and Adamawa were the two main sources of slaves for the Fulani Empire of Sokoto.
Kebbi is the ‘Land of Equity’. For a State that used to be part of the Sokoto Caliphate and introduced Sharia laws, I wonder where they got equity from.
Kogi, another of my favourite State is aptly nicknamed ‘The Confluence State’, because the Rivers Niger and Benue join there. I’d rather call it ‘The Confused State’ because of the shenanigans of its former Governors. The State has been cursed with treasury looters since the first day of its creation.
But by far the most famous and celebrated number plate in Nigeria is Lagos, ‘Centre of Excellence’. In my opinion, Lagos is far from being a centre of excellence; let’s not be deluded. Governor Fashola might be doing a good job but there remains at least 97 per cent to be done to truly make Lagos a centre of excellence. That is a fact. It is still a dilapidated, disorganised, lawless city of violent crime, slums, traffic jams, expensive living and pollution.
And lastly, but certainly not the least, is the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It is called ‘Centre of Unity,’ a good one since that is what every patriotic Nigerian yearns for .I, however, disagree with the subtext that assumes being encapsulated in one domain is unity. Abuja is the seat of power and political allocation. It represents a sort of unity that is enforced by those who want to partake of common wealth. “Unity” at the upper echelons does not quite represent our diversity. That is why I laugh when I think of Abuja as the “Centre of Unity.” Ask me: How many southerners have been Ministers of the FCT since the city was created?
The entire states’ and FCT’s slogans are all very amusing, and seems a deliberate effort by Nigerians to delude their own selves or just to feel good. I will not be surprised if in the nearest future, we hijack the phrase ‘God’s Own Country’ from the Americans and start using it to describe our country. After all we like everything American even if we don’t necessarily like Americans.
God Bless Nigeria and Nigerians. I just love my people. They can’t go wrong, can they? Except in matters of choosing their leaders, anyway.