"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 04/26/14

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Re: Republic of Songhai Formerly Known as Nigeria



Find below some of the reactions to my column from last week. I will do a follow-up and flesh out some of the issues I couldn’t fully address in last week’s article. Enjoy.

This is great! Nigeria is long overdue for physical and psychological rebranding. I felt so happy during my first visit to Kebbi State when I realized that interesting relics of the old Songhai Empire still exist. My very pan-Africanist history teacher in Form 3, Mr. Theo Amen Edokpayi, sowed enduring seeds of appreciation for African history and places/people like ancient Oyo Empire, Timbuktu University, Ibn Battuta, Songhai Empire, etc. With 'leaders' who care more for lucre, there is no chance that we can deviate from the path of sordid adulation for colonial slavery as evidenced in the 'honour' for a mere mistress who dreamt up a label, Nigeria, during a tryst with Frederick Lugard. Truly, a renaming will be a sure indicator that a psychological emancipation and a journey towards real change and genuine rebirth has begun. You have eloquently shifted from grammar to historical nationalism. Of all the pieces you ever wrote, this is one that will live and be examined again in 20, 50 or a 100 years to come.
Akinjide Jide Babalola, Abuja


The non-reading and historically amnesiac leadership in Nigeria, as it is composed today, would prefer honouring Lord Lugard, one of the racists that gave the country this pejorative name in the first place. They are still slaves, though they don't know. Haven’t you seen our leader's picture talking with Hillary Clinton? They don't have the brains and the self-respect to change it. Perhaps our future generation would but not this corrupt blood-sucking drunkard pawns of imperialists. 
Abdulrazak Ibrahim, Brazil

 Despite the fact that we were taught at different levels of our educational career that the word "niger" invariably means "black" when it appears in species names in botanical and zoological binomial nomenclature (like the fungus "Aspergillus niger"), I neither associated the word "niger" in the name "River Niger" with blackness nor knew it was the white man who gave the river its name!
Abdulrahman Muhammad, India

I've just read your essay titled "Republic of Songhai, formerly known as Nigeria" in the hard copy of the Weekly Trust newspaper before I saw this post. I'm one of your fans on Facebook, but I’m sorry to say that I disagree with your views on the subject.

You stated correctly that the name Nigeria was a colonial appellation denoting "the land of the niggers". Among the reasons you adduced for changing our country's name to "The United States of Songhai" included the need to have an African identity; to glorify a once-famous West African empire; and to do away with a colonial mentality. To that end, you cited the cases of Benin Republic and Ghana, which both changed their colonial names in favour of indigenous African empires.

I'm not challenging your arguments, but I’m of the opinion that Nigeria should not change her name, for the following reasons: Sometime in the 1950s or 60s, Egypt and Syria together formed a united country called "The United Arab Republic" or UAR. Today in 2014, Egypt remains Egypt and Syria is still Syria, suggesting that the name change has not worked.

The Asian country called "Myanmar" today was previously known as "Burma", until a military junta changed the name in the 1980s or 90s. International organizations such as the UN have adopted the new name, but how has that helped the country? Is Myanmar now more developed as a result of the name change? Is she more democratic than Burma? Wasn't it Myanmar where pro-democracy activist Aung Suu Kyi spent many years in jail, and where indigenous Muslims of the Rohinga tribe face state-sanctioned terrorism in the hands of the country's Buddhist majority? Here in West Africa, how has the name change by Ghana and Benin Republic helped the two countries to achieve progress? Isn't the country called South Africa, an English phrase, still the most advanced in Africa?

My point is, the whole world now lives in a global village where nations compete with each other for natural and human capital needed to achieve progress. Experience has shown that changing the name of a country does nothing in achieving those goals.
Nura Alkali, Abuja

Captain Thomas Sankara started by changing Upper Volta's name to Burkina Faso. So, this suggestion is in order. It will, at least, create that psychological path to change.
Aliyu O Musa, UK

You have written well. The slave masters christened this country. It is time to rename it! Our leaders must listen to us.
Abdulsalam Yakubu, Ayangba, Kogi State
                         
Prof, the right choice should, in my view, be Republic of Kanem Bornu. It was historically older, and large part of the original kingdom is still in present Nigeria.
Matawalli Geidam, Damaturu, Yobe

I have always believed that the country's name should be changed but has never ever pondered on an alternative name. This suggestion should be taken seriously.
Kevin Ebele Adinnu, Cote Di’Ivoire

I remain grateful to Dr Usman Ladan and his mentor, Bala Usman, whose versatile method of teaching history back at ABU laid the foundation for my understanding of the point you are trying to make. I support the renaming of Nigeria for another reason: rebranding not only nomenclaturally but also socio-politically.
Tajudeen Sanni, Uganda

You have nailed the issue of state-building in Africa. A great pity Songhai rule subsided and declined in the 1590s before falling in to oblivion.
Guy Thomas, Cameroon

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