The word Naija aptly captures the variety of emotions I feel for my country, especially as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.
We Nigerians are confident people – proud of our culture and identity, industrious, hard-working, ingenious and great survivors.
The word was coined by the country’s youth as a way of distancing themselves from the old guard”
BBC’s Peter Okwoche
Let’s face it, we need to be resilient – Nigeria can be extremely frustrating, annoying and inefficient.
But an optimistic outlook on life makes it a place where anything and everything is possible.
No wonder a survey once found that Nigerians are the happiest people in the world – we have a great capacity for laughing at ourselves.
Whether things are going well or whether it seems the world is about to come to an end, “Naija!” -also written 9ja – expresses it all.
It is about the food, the flamboyant dressing, the mannerisms, the boisterous – some say loud – interaction among complete strangers who on meeting immediately feel bonded by their “Naija-ness”.
Like your family, you love them and you hate them at the same time.
You love them so much you would die for them, and yet you get so exasperated at the way they drive you up the wall.
And for the young, the word has entered their slang – spreading rapidly through social networking sites and through music.
‘A hook and a jab’
My Nigerian colleague Peter Okwoche says this is because Naija denotes a new beginning or dawn for Nigeria.
“The word was coined by the country’s youth as a way of distancing themselves from the old guard who they blame for Nigeria’s woes,” he says.
“Nigeria has a bad image abroad but the youth want the world to know that change is happening from inside the country.”
And Naija is a word we Nigerians guard jealously.
We are most particular about its pronunciation.
It must be punchy – both syllables should be emphasised but with a hook for the “Nai” and jab for the “ja”.
Then you know you are in with the crowd. You are accepted. You are trusted.
Bilkisu Labaran and Peter Okwoche are presenting a two-hour BBC Focus on Africa special on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary on Africa on Friday 1 October at 1600 GMT.
Here is a selection of your comments:
What Naija means to me is: Nai – the old Nigeria with a bad image because of corrupt ex-leaders and Ja – a slang for disappear. So when we say Naija, it means that we, the youth, are determined to cleanse the country and show the world the true colour of this great nation. Naija for real! Simon, Enugu, Nigeria
Naija means a lot to me – it is my home and it is where I will die. There is no place like home and that place is Naija. Even with the corrupt practices and the kidnappings, it is only we Nigerians who can solve our problems. I do not think there is any need for us to run somewhere else, instead it is better we sit down and and resolve this issue. After all, other countries have their problems to solve, so let’s stay and solve ours. I love my country, my father’s land and my home. Naija – what a place to be. Obireh Erhuvwu, Kaduna, Nigeria
Naija is a word that depicts the conditions and the aspirations of the average citizen. Everything is possible in Naija, even when things are tough, really tough.
Madubuike Ezekwe Thywill, Isuikwuato LGA , Abia state, Nigeria
The word Naija for me means the entire people of Nigeria wherever they are. And it’s also uniting the Nigerians, making them proud of themselves as one nation. Bulama Musa, Lagos, Nigeria
The word Naija is a term used to describe the land which we all strive to create for the future generation. It is the true Nigeria that we hope to build. A Nigeria that’s different from the past, which we all agree has not gone as well as we had hoped.Ikechukwu Richard Ogbowu, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Naija is a word coined by Nigeria’s youth from the local English language spoken mainly in the southern part of the country. You put a lot of stress when pronouncing it to show your love for the country. I love the word Naija.Abdulmuminu, Kano, Nigeria
The word Naija to me means something new and quite different from a past which we all agree has not been as perfect as we would have wanted. It represents the new Nigeria, the true Nigeria that we are all striving to build.Ikecukwu Richard Ogbowu, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Naija simply means “The New Nigeria” – one the average Naija youth is proud to be associated with. The name gives me a sense of belonging. I love Naija. Buchy, Nigeria
When I was young, the word was in common use by adults as an exclamation word. One would have used it to express surprise or amazement at the end of someone else’s comment on the country’s state of affairs. It probably didn’t have a spelling then, and I even thought it was a Yoruba variant of “Nigeria” at that time too. I would estimate that the word is as old as Nigeria herself. The word has re-emerged among youths within the last decade with a new meaning, most times effusing patriotism. The recent popularity of the word may have come about because of its frequent use in a syndicated 30-minute show hosted by one Kwame where it was used for praising the good qualities of Nigeria and Nigerians. Seyi Olakulehin, Lagos, Nigeria
Naija means people with different talents, people who are loving, people who believe in faith and do not worry what they’ll eat the next day. People who see joy as their birth right, people with so many cultures and traditions, people full of life, people with strength and loyalty and people of character. That’s the meaning of Naija. Chituga, Rumuobiokani, Nigeria
Naija means a new beginning. It is the hope for the future. Nigeria may be dying but out of its ashes rises a generation determined to be truly different, truly great, truly NAIJA!Dehl Umobio, Abuja, Nigeria