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Happy 55th Independence Day, Nigeria! What Does it Mean to Be Nigerian?




Happy Independence Day to Nigeria! Today is the 55th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule and as a Nigerian, that leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings. One minute I’m elated at the fact that we’re free to be our own people; the next minute I’m sad at how much we have done (or not) with the freedom.

Maybe it IS normal to not feel one thing. For instance, I LOVE groundnut, but I hate the fact that one handful of it is 150calories!

I love Nigeria… with all my heart. It’s the kind of love that hurts when it is not reciprocated, yet you love all the same.  The Al Jazeera series tagged ‘My Nigeria’ has been a very interesting insight into how our country is perceived by people different works of life.

So tell us, BellaNaijarians, what does being Nigeria mean to you? They say there is unity in diversity, and that it is our diversity that makes us unique… so what are the things you believe unite Nigerians?

Maybe if we celebrate those things, maybe we can forge ahead and grow stronger, with a unity of purpose.

Let us fly the Nigerian flag today… with pride.

It is our country… through the good, and through the bad. Nobody’s going to celebrate it for us if we don’t.

Go forth and hoist your Nigerian flag today!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Wavebreakmedia Ltd

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. Sade

    October 1, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I love EVERYTHING Nigerian, the food culture, music, life and most importantly – My people.

    As a traveller – I really hate that my Nigerian passport can grant me access to ONLY 44 countries without the hassle of applying for a Visa. But those 44 countries nko, na apology.

    Happy 55th independence Motherland.

  2. LynnVille

    October 1, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Nigerians are strong, bold & courageous people; we strive for greatness in any situation or environment we find ourselves. It is often said that if you find yourself in any part of the world and you do not find a Nigerian there; then you should run because if a Nigerian cannot survive there, then the place is inhabitable. This portrays strength and adaptability – it makes me proud to be Nigerian. We are happy & positive people who find ways to be happy even in the face of adversity. Happy Independence Nigeria. Atoke, pls check your mailbox – I sent an email.

    • Jennyokris

      October 1, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      Do you mean Igbos or all Nigerians?? I find it hard to believe that this statement applies to all Nigerians. #Justsaying

    • Anon

      October 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      How many non-Igbos do you know? Have you travelled around Nigeria and around the world to see the faces of different Nigerians going about their daily businesses? When you see a mad woman clutching her child and ensuring nothing happens to that child, can you tell she’s Igbo/will you say she’s Igbo? I will like to read your answers. You may have stats to back up what you typed. Please share. Thanks.

    • Scared homosapien

      October 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Igbos are first of all Nigerians. What’s wrong with some of you!?

  3. The Girl who flies planes

    October 1, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    It means nothing!
    It also means monumental stress @ airports.
    It means constant power cuts, bad roads, thieving politicos!
    It means people dying during surgery for lack of power!
    It means kidnapping & tribalism!
    It means boko haramism!
    It means useless unfaithful men & rapists!
    Infact, let me just stop here before ara a gba ndi ara biko!

    • Eve

      October 2, 2015 at 2:55 am

      It also means tenaciousness and resilience because we never give up.
      It means beautiful weather all year round.
      It means not being discriminated against because of your skin colour.
      It means amazing cuisine from different parts of Nigeria.
      It means an entertainment industry that is leading in Africa and is a trail blazer.
      We have to take the good with the bad my sister and keep working at trying to be the best we can be. If we don’t uphold and build our country, no one else will and eventually we will have no home to come back to…..

  4. The Girl who flies planes

    October 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    It also means Old Men like Sanusi marrying 18 year old girls because “she was a free gift” & it is his culture & he is an emir!

  5. ify

    October 1, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    My great country I hail thee there is no place I will call home, beautiful culture ,good people and great nation I celebrate with u as my birthday is today too. Long life and prosperity for all

  6. Oyin

    October 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    It means to be patriotic without any reason or anything the country has done for you. It means to respect people that don’t deserve to be respected. It means to accept mediocrity and give excuses for people who are chosen as leaders. It means, to complain but nobody is ready to take the pain. It means, those doing good with the right heart/intention are overlooked. The proud, loud and self righteous are celebrated or rewarded more.
    It means, even if there’s no improvement in the country, still keep these people bcos of whatever reason.
    It means, think of yourself/family and not others.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      October 4, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Not that you asked or likely give a damn but…. 10/10 for this comment.

      It means missing “home” but only so far as “home” means family and loved ones you left there, without even in the slightest bit missing the lack of societal organisation, basic infrastructure or personal security.

      It means dancing shoki/azonto/etighi excitedly the first time you’re able to grasp their fascinating mechanics but then sadly realising that exporting amazing dance steps seems to be all we’ve been capable of doing lately, as all the containers at the wharfs prove how much our lives rely on certain necessities sold to us by other nations.

      It means often ensuring your stay in another man’s country (heck, even the decision of where to birth your children) is planned as much as possible to result in “Pali” because you need to have as much “options” of nationality as might be available.

      It means eating delicious food that can’t be replicated by any other country because of our diverse cultural palates and which has surprisingly not yet caught on as a globally marketable fad in the way that Indian and Chinese food has.

      It means being self-assured and confident that since the travails of your country hasn’t killed you off yet, surely and by Jove, you can survive anything life throws at you.

      It means being an undeniably expressive and vibrant human-being that can, even in the depths of silence, communicate volumes of messages to unwitting Caucasians who still struggle to grasp what your face means when it goes into such modes as “yimu”, “na you sabi”, “see me see wahala oh!”, “abeg shift”, & “e be like say craze don dey worry you” to name a few.

      It means rooting for your football team only when they play in international matches because the rest of the time, you’re cussing them out as being liars with “football ages” and incapable of remaining on the roll for much longer.

      It means coming to the realisation that Nigeria as a completely artificial construct has never been more evident than when you open a BN post that puts tribe in the limelight and read heated comments spurred by ethnic hatred. And in those times, it makes you suddenly appreciate the fact that your only fear of non-acceptance by others shouldn’t only be focused on the white man’s racism

      It means just letting go and letting God because if it had not been for Him holding the fragments of that country together until now…. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

      Atoke, regardless of the above, I’ve long stopped celebrating Independence Day due to the farce I believe it’s turned into. “Let’s proclaim another public holiday to pat ourselves on the back for the progress we’ve failed to make since October 1, 1960”. That gets a big, fat yimu and loud “mtchewwwwwwwwwwwwww” from me in any of the ethnic dialects.

  7. Prec

    October 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Being Nigerian for me is about perseverance and courage. Courage to fight, complain, cry, feel joy when we achieve the smallest things, but yet still love my nation because it is still mine, my home, all mine. We were designed to fail, designed to not succeed but we are full of people who fight to make it through. At a day like this I remind myself we are just 55 years old, compared to other 1st world countries that are triple our age that we constantly compare ourselves to, we are just 55 years and we will get there. As a Nigerian I learnt to know the meaning of Love, about it not being all about the good times but also about the bad times.

  8. EllessarisEllendil

    October 1, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Marriage being the key word but I suppose you’d prefer him to just have no strings sex with her, like they do in the civilised world?

    • The Bull

      October 2, 2015 at 4:47 am

      So because you can have sex means you are ready for marriage? i donn”t understand this Nigerian logic, or can’t you be married and sleep around if you want?

  9. ATL's finest

    October 1, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I LOVE the food (some) d music, d fabric & weddings ( that’s on a brighter note)
    Now the hell part of been a Nigerian: it means nightmare when U arrive at d Airport ( MMIA) & d sweat drips so bad while picking up ur luggage due to no AC.
    It means everyone need Lil change to let you get by ( Bribing is Ninja’s baptismal middle name).
    It means I can’t do nothing with the passport cuz I sure wouldn’t visit nowhere with it.
    It means I’m been looked at as a “419” babe whenever I mentioned I’m a Nigerian. It means the rich are getting richer while d poor is having no hope for brighter future. It means U ve to know someone up there to get a job real students burst their tails & end up a home cuz no work but Olodos that never sat in school always get the best due connections. On that ♪cuz there’s no doubt I LOVE this land GOD BLESS d ??A.

    My prayer is that God help those over there & give them comfort. I can only hope for the BEST for Nigeria. I can’t change where I Originated from, but I’m thankful for my life.

    • Baba new jersey

      October 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      Great! stay in the USA! …lol.we have enough “fo ne” and returnees choking us here I am glad I am missing this years winter and I am in my own feels so good to say that. I am not as fortunate as you are apparently.i saw the other side of America.i am pleased to be back home,after all d hustle I have just a passport to show for it while others built lifelong friendships,bla bla.i was there working 60hrs a week with a 2 week break in a year.oyinbo Sabi use person abeg…lol. No place like home

    • ATL's finest

      October 2, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      @ Baba NJ sorry Sir ! U sound pained lol only passport to show? Well first, I live in the south so I don’t go thru that Winter night mare like y’all do up there & most Christmas, I’m never really here so hopefully u take life easy. I have achieved a lot for my age living here so I’m thankful for it…Oh BTW, Have fun with the returnees & Fo ne’s xo

  10. Yolanda

    October 1, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I’m not Nigerian but I LOVE Nigerians. They are caring, loving, kind, faithful in friendship, nice, welcoming above all God fearing.
    Nigerians are blessed and are blessings to others as well. They have their bad sides too because we are humans. But Nigerians are amazing people and I love them.
    God bless Nigeria
    Happy 55th Independence day my Naija people!!!
    Naija NO DEY CARRY LAST ohh

  11. Babe

    October 1, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    It means I’m Nigerian ,
    My passport is green
    My roads are dusty and filled with pot hole
    It means I can read Bellanaija or Linda ikeji
    It means I’m used to suffering
    It means I don’t trust the leaders to better the country
    It means I don’t believe in “Nigeria” anymore
    It means I have absolute hope for Nigeria
    It means home isn’t Nigeria anymore
    It means Nigeria is Nigeria
    It means I’m no longer optimistic about anything that has to do with the growth of Nigeria
    It means I’m at a disadvantage my being Nigerian
    It means I love iyan and efo riro
    It means I miss the stress of danfo drivers and buying stuff in traffic
    It means driving, getting hit, apology and bye!
    It means eating boli and palm oil sauce with kpomo
    It means having a beautiful culture
    It means struggle
    As a Nigeria , struggle is the middle name
    Is home really where the heart is?
    My heart belongs to Texas now.
    God bless Nigeria

  12. EllessarisEllendil

    October 1, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    For me being Nigerian means remembering the past and acknowledging that the road to where we ought to be is steep. It is acknowledging that though I may not be the one to enjoy it, I must strive for a better Nigeria.

    We Nigerians need to understand one very vital thing, our ancestors walked this land long before Jesus and Mohammed were born, they built their civilizations and it was all taken from them by force!! The conquerors then used religion and geopolitical lines to divide and conquer us. They tore down the works of our ancestors, carted their best treasures to their country and made our ancestors second class citizens in their own country. We have a choice, we can be the owl that has no place on earth or in the skies by believing our culture inferior, but bear in mind that that a vanquished nation that retains its culture and best people is in general able to recover shockingly quickly from defeat(Think Germany and Japan), we have the people but we must become proud of our culture.

    Now for a bit of jingoistic nationalism, being Nigerian means reclaiming our lost territories in the so called Chad,Cameroun, Niger and Benin. The soldiers of Kanem-Bornu, Sokoto, Jukun Oyo and Abeokuta paid for their right to those lands in blood. They are ours!???

    TL;DR version, have fun today, stand a little taller in the presence of those Not-Nigerians, you’re the citizen of a great nation!! Ohh and for the downers on our independence, I leave a quote from a Man who knew a bit about patriotism

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Its really not hard to be a patriotic Nigerian, just remember that less than 2 centuries ago our ancestors ruled from the Congo to the very borders of Asante. If they could do it, we can too, the Not- Nigerians no near us!! UP NAIJA!!!!!!!

  13. bruno

    October 1, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    hoist nigerian flag ke? don’t lie how many people in nigeria have a nigerian flag. that green white green flag is a sign of shame and should be lowered. after how many f**king years we nigerians still havent gotten our shit together


    nigeria turned into a hot ugly mess immediately the whites left us to rule ourselves. it is a curse and a huge burden to be a nigerian. sometimes I ask my self why. why I’m I a nigerian. of all countries to be born in, it is this mess called nigeria. I dont even look or think or behave like a nigerian sef.

    what a very wicked mean heartless country full of wicked heartless people (the ALUU 4 video is still fresh in my mind)

    I am black and I am a nigerian and I am going to say it, black people shouldn’t be ruling themselves or anybody. blacks are not capable of achieving shit on their own. it is the truth.

    look at nigeria, look at africa. smh
    this is 2015 and the light is still tripping off. isn’t it shameful and embarrassing.

    if the British didnt leave nigeria, I can bet the nigeria of today will be a paradise on earth. there won’t be boko haram or power failure or corruption or asuu strike or any of that shit.

    white people pls if u people are reading this, pls comeback and help us clean this mess called nigeria. we need u people.

  14. Bowl

    October 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I lost hope Completely in this country some 5yrs back. That was until somebody pointed Fingers at me and called me Nigeria. Now all I see is hope . I can never give up on this country again. Bible says hope maketh not ashamed. I will never claim another country as mine in attitude or anything else. Myself and generation of children I wil raise wil turn things around for the better for this country. We will raise her place among the committee of nations. So help me God. Call me a dreamer. I believe more in this dream everyday. Nobody knows how faith works.

  15. Bowl

    October 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    On a more lighter note, there is a lot to be proud about. No black person on this planet works as hard as the Nigerian. No black person pulls the kind of swag , the nigerian pulls anywhere.see him in London , Zurich, Benjin, Newyork , you can never miss him. There is this aura about him(which is quite disturbing, if you consider what he has to contend with).other African nations. And world know this . I think . It may only be a matter of time before the real giant that she is , is revealed . I believe this strongly.

  16. Anonm

    October 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    What does being Nigerian mean to you?
    I am proud of being from the greatest black nation. Everywhere I go, I am proud to say I’m firstly Nigerian before anything else (based on documents I have.)

    Did anybody listen to Jeremy Corbyn this week? I still have goosebumps. He said during his speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton – “It was the great Nigerian writer Ben Okri who perhaps put it best: “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love.” Congrats to a great Nigerian.

    I have not seen one Nigerian media outlet mention this quote. Still sleeping…

    So what are the things you believe unite Nigerians?
    Football. When the national teams play, we are united.
    Music from different generations, genres and parts of the country.
    Sometimes food and drinks. Puff puff, meat pie (not Cornish pasty) jollof rice, egusi, miyan kuka, tuwo, pounded yam, amala, Ijebu garri, isi ewu, chapman, palm wine, zobo (different from how Jamaicans make their sorrel), fura de nunu…
    Different tribes will be slagging one another off, but when it’s time to eat for example edika ikong, people will forget it’s the soup made by Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom people (Efiks.)
    Pidgin English. You can tell the difference between ours and other West Africans.
    Our slangs – “na wa,” “gbensing,” “toasting,” “OYO,” “shayo.”
    A unifying quality – confidence. “Agbari.” We can blag our way out of any situation.
    Our beautiful names.

    There’s nothing I love more than being on my way and someone stops me in my tracks to ask and then say oh, yes I know Nigeria. A few months ago I took my daughter to the hospital and the consultant asked us where we were from. I said Nigeria. He told me how his English grandfather lived all over Nigeria during Lugard’s era.

    We need to forget all the Biafra talk, talks of dividing, tribalism and accept our heterogeneous nature. Most foreigners don’t see us differently.

    There are bad people everywhere. It’s a minority that spoils the larger group. The biggest fraudsters aren’t Nigerians. The worst politicians aren’t Nigerians. The most fetish people aren’t Nigerians. The worst Pastors aren’t Nigerians. Nigeria isn’t the most unsafe place in the world. We have problems, yes, but who doesn’t. What has failed us is leadership.

    Happy Independence Day.

  17. *curious*

    October 1, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    For me being a Nigerian means perseverance, not giving up hope and not giving up on your family. We have been through a lot as a nation: Biafra War, near daily insults regarding your tribe of origin, down NEPA, 🙂 UP NEPA…and the list goes on.
    I see us as family. A family member may upset so much so that I rather not see him/her in that moment; but at the end of the day, I love you and I’m not giving up on US until God says enough.
    Happy 55th! mmmmuah!!

    2 Chronicles 7:14

    • *curious*

      October 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      *upset me

  18. *curious*

    October 1, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    BN, where is my other comment?

  19. maga

    October 1, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    hapi independence to all Nigerians.I want all of us to note that what we need is to examine ourselves d role we are playing individually to redeem our image than complaining at every bit. the future is bright.

  20. Optimistic

    October 1, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Being a Nigerian means the constant longing of wanting to come back home and grow old with my people but, reality tells me, that even though I have great and wonderful things I would like share and add to the development of my Country, I find myself stuck in limbo. 20 years in the white man’s land, well educated, successful, but never truly belonging, Sadly, the Nigerian government makes it almost impossible for those of us who have such dreams, of once more spending beautiful nights and days laughing with family and friends, to do this again. We have to dash in and out of our own country because of how terrible things still are. ‘Mr president We, diaspora dont want to have to think about our color everyday, consciously and subconsciously. ‘Rasicm is real and affects a lot of us, and our children, as we try to bring them up in another man’s land. How does one operate a successful hospital, or business at without water or electricity. This leads to constant frustrations…. After 55 years? Our neighbouring countries laugh at us as they offer to help us with electricity, yet, we are easily one of the richest (in resources), to be on par with the likes of Dubai and South Africa. Message to the government of Nigeria, please spend the next 50 years getting your act togethe”r and stop dancing to the tune of those who “once´colonized us. Please, allow us to come home!! We want to come home!!

  21. nnenne

    October 1, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    It means a land blessed with so many resources, human and natural.
    It means a place where majority has all it takes but can’t manage themselves. ..poor time management, marry wives for the fun of it, have children they can’t afford. Pray from dawn to sun set , expecting God to jump from heaven to help them.
    it means a land thrown into anarchy by colonization.
    It means a land cursed with bad leaders. It means a country without systems and structure. It means a place where most are self- centered and have no love for country.
    it means the land of my ancestors. It means a place here I have no choice but to love unconditionally.
    It means my native land.

    Happy anniversary folks. Time for reflection.

  22. Ekun

    October 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Nigeria is a corrupt nation, i agree. We need change, very true. But expecting Mr. President alone to bring about this change is very wrong. Successful Nigerians are in the diaspora implementing changes to other countries and they are busy complaining about how under developed their country is. The ones at home are clamouring for change meanwhile they do nothing at all to bring about this change. The US is what it is today because its citizens know what they want and went for it. Nigerian know what they want but they are waiting for someone to give it to them on a silver platter but that”s not going to happen. We are all asking for something we cant give. Let us all try to seek opportunities instead of waiting for it in the comfort of our houses. #[email protected]

  23. Tee&Fii

    October 2, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    If only we can see that all we need is Love. lets us all come together and claim our country back in love, unity and togetherness, yes it mights seems impossible, which is way we need love, we might be going through our own Doomsday now but brighter days are coming, We don’t need to be saved, we can save ourselves by coming together. Right now in the midst of all things, NOT to love is primitive.

    Let us think of our children’s future. Happy Independence day Nigeria, despite everything you’ve been through, we’ve been through, we still love you! We are proud of you. We know that you can still rise for your citizens across the globe, we know you can still LOVE. We thank heavens for Great Grace for Nigeria. xoxo

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