In my last column, I asked for help understanding why there is a Mississippi Street in Abuja. And I got it—lots of it. I’ve received scores of emails pointing out that Mississippi Street isn’t named after the US state but the river. Thanks for the correction. Below is a sample of the email messages I received.
I read your observation on street naming in Abuja, where you took issue with naming a street in Nigeria's capital after a racist state in the USA. Much as I share part of your sentiments, I'm afraid I have to point out that the Mississippi in question is not the American state but the river. If you'd noticed you'd have seen also Nile Street, Amazon Street, etc. all in that part of the city.
While you can fault their choice of naming streets after rivers (and why not?) you can't fault their logic of using the name Mississippi, since it's one of the longest rivers in the world. In other parts of the city, streets are named after African cities or Heads of State.
That said I still think we Nigerians are in many instances not circumspect in what we do when it comes to most things foreign. For instance in Abuja there are prominent streets named after Clinton and Carter, both former USA Presidents. I doubt very much if there is any street named after any Nigerian Head of State from Nnamdi Azikiwe/Tafawa-Balewa to the incumbent in any city in the West or, for that matter, the East.
Also, and more importantly, we tend not to pay attention to detail when naming these streets. That is why in one part of Abuja you have a major street named after some not well-known place, town or personality and the somewhere tucked along it you have a very famous place, town or personality. While it is easy to blame the minor officials who are saddled with such menial work, I think the blame falls on our administrators whose business it is.
AbdulRazzaq Ahmad <firstname.lastname@example.org
Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, to some extent Georgia, South Carolina and Florida were states within the US where up to 1979, when I arrived as a young student, race was a very serious issue.
Back to Mississippi Street in Abuja. From my observation, 90% of all streets in Maitama are named after great rivers of the world. Therefore Mississippi Street has no bearing with the State of Mississippi. After all, the state got its name from the same river.
You may wish to know that next to Mississippi Street are Nile Street and Amazon Street. Opposite Mississippi are Thames and Colorado. River Colorado is from where the State of Colorado got its name. On the other side, along IBB Way are Panama, Rhine, our own Yedseram, Gana and Chad. Limpopo and Gurara, etc. I believe this answers your concern as to why naming a street in Abuja after the most KKK friendly state in the USA.
Capt. JIBRIN, M B
Refer to the above subject matter and note that most streets in Abuja are named after the world’s rivers. That indicates the simplistic manner by which governments in Nigeria do business. I do not think the naming was to honor the rivers, including the longest one that happens to be in the US’ most racist state. Moreover, I am not sure if rivers of the world will ever recognise being so highly honored and appreciate such from governments that do several dishonorable things.
Muhammad Sani Usman, Abuja
If I’m not mistaken, Mississippi Street is named after the river, not the state. A whole bunch of streets in highbrow Maitama district of Abuja are named after lakes and rivers. There is Lake Chad crescent, Thames street(River Thames in the UK), Rhine street(Rhine River in Europe),Amazon Street (Amazon River in South America),Panama street(Panama River also in South America),Mississippi street (Mississippi River in the US of A), Danube street, Limpopo street and so on.
Mustapha Waziri Ibrahim (email@example.com)
I read with interest your piece in respect of the above subject, it made interesting reading and further add to Mississippi's awful reputation of racial intolerance and bigotry. I have read and watched books as well as films on Mississippi's racial discrimination. From tapes and writings of Malcolm X to Denzel Washington's film "Mississippi- Masala". This film is about an Asian-Ugandan family that migrated to Mississippi from Uganda in the early 1970's following Late. Idi Amin's expulsion of Indian Ugandans.
However, the street named after Mississippi in Maitama district of Abuja, Nigeria was not done in reverence of the state of Mississippi but it was just a coincidence that one of the great rivers of the world bears that name and because all the streets in that neighborhood are named after great rivers of the world, Mississippi's name was included. If you drive around the neighborhood, you will come across such streets as Amazon, Danube, Nile, Niger, Tigris, Zambezi, Thames, etc.
In spite of this, I agree with you that Mississippi's appalling race record does not qualify it for this recognition thousands of kilometers away and, of all places, in Nigeria. By the way, I have read your piece on the Abuja taxi driver and even called the driver to appreciate him for the exemplary conduct.
Bala Usman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This article makes me shed tears about our 'mentality' in Nigeria. Forgive my ranting, but the way we name our streets and buildings needs a closer look. I once lived for 2 years in a street (in Kano) called James Ibori Street, named after a high-profile cheat and kleptomaniac.
Probe further and you will find that the street in Abuja was probably named so because someone from Mississippi lived there. Just guessing.
I have just finished reading your article with the above-mentioned title in today’s Weekly Trust. While not holding brief for the FCT Administration, I am aware that streets in phase I of the Federal Capital City were originally named based on certain concepts. For instance, Asokoro streets were mainly named after African leaders (Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Haile Selassie, Gnassigbe Eyadema, etc), major roads in Wuse 11 and Maitama are named after famous Nigerian leaders (e.g. Shehu Shagari, Alvan Ikoku, Adetokunbo Ademola, Aminu Kano, IBB, Kashim Ibrahim, Aguiyi-Ironsi etc), roads in Area 11 and environs are named after Nigerian towns (Uyo, Osogbo, Ogbomosho, Nguru, etc), while roads off the major roads in Maitama are named after world rivers. Amongst others, there are Nile, Ganges, Amazon, Danube, Osun, Colorado, Panama, Thames, Limpopo, Zambezi streets within the vicinity of Mississipi Street.
The overall concept in that part of town is therefore to name the streets after rivers. I do acknowledge though that there are hundreds of rivers in the world from which other names could have been chosen!
Nice piece but a bit surprising that you missed the obvious fact that that Maitama Street was named for the American river and not the state. Obvious because if you had looked around you would have found that the other streets in that part of Abuja have names like ‘Thames’, ‘Nile’, ‘Missouri’, ‘Volga’, ‘Amazon’, ‘Colorado’, ‘Volta’, ‘Ganges’, ‘Cross River’, ‘Oyi River’, ‘Rhine’, etc.
Muhammad Shakir Balogun (email@example.com