Monday, June 24, 2013

What Are The National Symbols of Nigeria?

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By Atala

Big Ben. The Empire State Building. The vuvuzela. The Great Wall of China. The samba. I'm sure that you all recognise these as national symbols of the countries that they're in. And the worldwide recognition that these symbols have not only does wonders for the tourism industries of their respective countries, they also serve as a means for reinforcing the identities and the national pride of the citizens of those countries.

The interesting thing about these symbols is that in many cases, they weren't created with the express intention of becoming national symbols. In fact, in many cases, the nations that the symbols serve to identify weren't even in existence when the symbols came into being. It's just that the symbols were so outstanding, either because of their sheer size, their beauty or the way they caught people's imagination that they became well known in their countries, and thus they became a candidate for being chosen as a symbol.

This got me thinking about what Nigeria's national symbols were. I know that we have the coat of arms - two horses leaning against that shield with the stylised confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, with an eagle on top. But honestly, the only time most people see these symbols is when they are looking at an official letterhead or a government sponsored message in the media. So they don't pervade the national popular consciousness as a national symbol should.

But there are other symbols that can be regarded as uniquely Nigerian, either because they are associated with Nigeria, or with a large section of Nigerians - a section that cuts across culture and religion. They are:

1. Gari - whether the sour 'Ijebu' favoured in the south west or the plain 'yellow' preferred in the south east, the love of gari is something that is shared by many Nigerians, especially in the south.

2. The Super Eagles - probably the only eleven men that can make Nigerians weep with joy or pain.

3. Pidgin English - the de facto lingua franca for many Nigerians.

4. The National Theatre, Iganmu. I'm sure that there are many magnificient buildings in Abjua, but this has featured in so much promotional literature that it's earned its place.

5. The black and white kerb markings that you see at the edge of many urban roads

6. Nollywood, whose fame has spread beyond Nigeria's borders.

7. Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Many years after his death, the influence of his songs continues to reverberate, to the extent that a musical has even been made in America about his life.

8. Oil. This is still something that Nigeria is still strongly identified with, even though it has had its negative sides.

9. A symbol consisting of two rounded rectangles crossing each other like an X, with a square with curved edges superimposed. This is usually found in northern artwork and designs.

10. The palm tree. Even though this varies in density as you go north, this is an ubiquitous feature of the landscape, and it's much loved for its utility

So that's my list. Did I miss anything out? Are there symbols that you feel are unique to Nigeria and are deserving of the status of national symbol?


  1. It will be good if we have a giant sculpture of the coat of arms that will compete with Christ the Redemer

    1. Love the idea of the giant sculpture, Chiezugolum. But it shouldn't be a sculpture of the coat of arms... it should be something that fires our imagination, that we haven't seen before.

  2. Most of the things you listed are southern if I may say so. What of Tuwo, or Groundnut pyramids, or the beautiful buildings in Abuja or the Emir palaces?

    1. Anonymous,

      Tuwo is a good one. I also wanted to list kunu, but I didn't want the list to become too food-dominated.

      Groundnut pyramids - do those still exist? I'm not sure.

      Buildings in Abuja or emir's palace - regarding buildings, a national symbol should be one that is so famous that many Nigerians can instantly recognise it on seeing it. I don't know if there are many buildings in Abuja or palaces that meet this criteria. Maybe we should be doing more publicising and celebration of the beautiful buildings that we see.

  3. How about Aso rock?

    1. Good contribution, Anonymous. Are you talking about the actual rock, or the place that the Nigerian president lives?

    2. The National Assembly building has overtaken National theater.

    3. I don't think so.

      This link shows what happens when you search for images of the National Assembly Nigeria:

      And this shows what you see when you search for images of the National Theatre Nigeria:

  4. I support the actual Aso rock, before it had no meaning to me but during Nigeria's 50th anniversary, a giant writing of NIGERIA @ 50 was placed on it. and you can sight the rock fro almost anywhere in Abuja. Zuma rock too should be on the list. I've never been to Abeokuta but I can tell whenever I see Olumo rock. I am a northerner by the way and what you were referring to as a big X is the northern star as described by ancient hausa people. Almost like how the Israelites have the star of David.

    1. Now I'm confused, Ella. Are Zuma Rock and Aso Rock one and the same? Now I think about it, I know what Zuma Rock looks like, but I'm not so sure of Aso Rock. I think Zuma Rock would be a fitting addition to the list of symbols.

      I think that Olumo Rock is very recognisable, but is it 'national' enough?

      Thanks for the info on the 'Northern Star'.

    2. Zuma Rock and Aso Rock are different.

      Zuma is an intimidating structure (rock) along d expressway heading to Suleja while Aso is somewhere very close to the Presidential villa - and not so big nor notable.
      Aso villa thus derived its name from Aso rock.

      I think Zuma Rock is shown on one of the currency notes. N50 or so.

  5. Zuma Rock, Abuja Nigeria.

    Doesn't have to be on any currency jare!

  6. I thought jollof rice would be there. Zuma rock I agree.
    Our yellow buses. Third mainland bridge

    1. I agree with jollof rice - great suggestion, Ginger!

      Not so sure about the Third Mainland Bridge, though. There's nothing distinguished looking about it.

      Now, that new bridge that links Lekki and Ikoyi... that's more eye catching. Maybe in a few more years...

  7. Swiss Knife,
    Irish potatoes,
    German Shepard,
    French fries,
    Indian hemp,
    China plates,
    Arabic Gum,
    Persian Carpets,
    Italian Pizza,
    Spanish shoes,
    Belgium cars,
    Argentine Horses,
    English wax,
    Senegalese Tailors,
    Brazilian samba,
    Russian roulette,
    Egyptian pyramid,
    American yankee,
    Dutch courage.

    What is associated with Nigeria?

    1. sadly I would have to say 419

  8. So I'll take nollywood and gari! Those are the ones I can relate to as national symbols. I would have said pidgin too but other countries speak it as well

  9. Next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really thought you'd have something interesting to talk about.
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