By Tunde Odesola
May we consider these two sentences: ‘You are stupid’ and ‘I am stupid’? While ‘You are stupid’ may be a wrong prognosis of another individual’s personality, ‘I am stupid’ is a dispassionate diagnosis of self. The former may draw arrows from the quill, the latter may draw pity or derision from the heart.
I’ll tell you what – the depiction of the symbols on the Nigerian Coat of Arms screams, ‘We’re stupid!’
If we, Nigerians, are not stupid, after almost 63 years of age, why can’t we, as a country, sensibly define the symbols on our coat of arms?
Information on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs identifies the country’s ‘map, coat-of-arms (sic), flag, anthem, and pledge’ as ‘National Symbols’.
Dryly, the ministry goes further to say, “Coat of Arms: The coat of arms of Nigeria consists of a black shield with a wavy white pall, symbolizing (sic; American English) the meeting of the Niger and Benue Rivers at Lokoja. The black shield represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity.”
There goes the beggarly information Nigerians and foreigners alike get about the country’s coat of arms, a supposed symbol of the quintessence of Nigeria.
‘Coat-of-Arms’ in one breath, ‘Coat of Arms’, in another. When both coats ram into each other, the wreckage is the coat of many errors that we currently have.
Please, hear how the National Museum of American Diplomacy describes America’s coat of arms on its website. It says, “The Great Seal of the United States is a unique symbol of our country and national identity. The Great Seal is impressed upon official documents such as treaties and commissions. The Department of State affixes about 3,000 seals to official documents yearly.
“In 1782, after six years and three committees, the Continental Congress decided on a less abstract seal and incorporated a design that reflected the beliefs and values that the founding fathers ascribed to the new nation. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, designed the 1782 seal to symbolize our country’s strength, unity, and independence. The olive branch and the arrows held in the eagle’s talons denote the power of peace and war. The eagle always casts its gaze toward the olive branch signifying that our nation desires to pursue peace, but stands ready to defend itself. The shield, or escutcheon, is ‘born on the breast of an American Eagle’ without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own virtue…”
But, shamefully, Nigeria’s coat of arms parades an eagle that doesn’t exist anywhere in the plains or plantations of the country – a red eagle! And the way it stands spinelessly like a stray witch on the coat of arms, toeing the green and white arc on the black shield, is so depressing.
Even the Foreign Affairs Ministry website, sadly, has no words to describe the strange red eagle; it just perches there aimlessly, doing nothing, but its redness probably signifies the various blood-sucking leaderships that have afflicted Nigeria even before independence.
I observed that the Nigerian military has a penchant for white horses. There’s no explanation for the idiosyncrasy. But I suspect the military, like all other walks of Nigerian life, suffers post-colonial hangover. I have noticed, too, that white horses were used during the inauguration ceremonies of past Nigerian presidents in this political dispensation.
Since independence, however, no agency of government has ever explained the symbolism of the two white horses in the country’s coat of arms. Why use white horses? Why not use the more popular colour, brown? Or black, to proudly identify with our colour?
In this era of super-smart kids, what would the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, tell his grandchildren when they ask him questions about the stupidity in our coat of arms? What would Tinubu tell his grandchildren when they ask why Nigeria’s rivers Niger and Benue are depicted as white when they are not even beaches? What would he and his contemporaries tell their grandkids if they query the soundness of their forebears’ minds?
There’s also no word from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on the red flowers sprouting on the green forming the base of Nigeria’s coat of arms just as the country’s motto, “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress,” inscribed on a banderole, is unworthy of mention.
A look at the website of the Embassy of Nigeria in Tel Aviv says the Nigerian coat of arms was designed and adopted in 1960. There are 178 years between 1782 when the American coat of arms, aka the Great Seal, was designed and adopted, and 1960 when Nigeria designed its coat of harms. How then is it difficult for Nigeria to design a truly great coat of arms that would symbolise the peoples, heritage, culture and language of this great country? If patriotism and creativity inspired the American Coat of Arms, what can we say inspired the national embarrassment we call a Coat of Arms?
Some unintelligent members of the leading political parties may turn up their noses and say sarcastically, “Of all the challenges besetting the country, is the coat of arms the most pressing issue?” And I say unto them, “Oh ye sluggards, what singular challenge facing the country has ever been confronted frontally by any government, past or present?” I add, “Ye laggards, don’t you know that the coat of arms is a country’s CV, a preview into the raison d’être of a nation, the essence of a people?
Speak of the devil and he doth appear! Just now, one of the white horses on the coat of arms has bolted! It’s cantering from the Eagle Square, Abuja, where they were taken in preparation for the presidential inauguration coming up in three days. The second white horse follows in the trail of the first.
Second Horse: Charlie! Charlie! Wait for me, wait for me, I’m homesick too – after 62 years. This country is all desert now, no pasture.
First Horse: (Slows down for Second Horse to catch up) Lizzie, I told you long ago that it was high time we left Nigeria, but you remained ensconced in our past colonial glory. I told you to wake up to reality, but you won’t listen. The generation that knew the Queen is fast diminishing; this new generation of Nigerians will kill and eat us one day or serve our heads to their god of money.
(Both increase their speed)
Lizzie: We are old, we can’t make it back to England on foot. I have arthritis. There’s no hay, no water…
Charlie: I got it all figured out, just follow me…you’ll be back in England by air…
Lizzie: I think we should make restitution to this country, in particular, and all other countries that we colonised – in general.
Charlie: Lizzie, no amount of restitution will assuage the sin we committed here. Remember, we call them fantastically corrupt, if we give restitution, they will embezzle it, kill and jail themselves over it. Most of the restitution money will find its way back to England before the end of the year.
Lizzie: I don’t see this country ever recovering.
Charlie: No, not until kingdom come.
•Odesola, a United States of America, USA-based journalist and political cum public affairs analyst, writes from the USA and can be reached via: Email: email@example.com; Facebook: Tunde Odesola; and Twitter: @tunde_odesola