On the 1st of October 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the colonial masters and till today, we celebrate our freedom, tagging it the birthdate of Nigeria. In 2023, Nigeria celebrated its 63rd independence anniversary.
Independence celebration in many countries of the world that had history of colonization is a usual practice and a day to reflect more than rejoices. A day to recount the journey that led to the new entity and a need to appraise progress made so far. Independence Day, however, is not the same as citizen’s day. Independence Day is a reminder of slavery, a reminder of past loss where another from another land ruled. A day that often blind the citizens to their existence prior to independence.
Before colonialization, our people existed and a day must be set aside to sing our songs of unity, a day to rekindle pride in our identity, our histories, a day of great stories, a day of reward for good citizens, a day to celebrate heroes past and heroes present.
Permit a digression into the concept of mental slavery and a mark that never forgets that a people once ruled you and you were incapable of handling your affairs either in the face of threat, fear, or intimidation. Many children growing today do not know who they are and where they are from beyond the history of another forming their identity. A common example is, “who discovered River Niger”? The chorus answer would be Mungo Park and that indeed is a fact but not the history of the Nigerian child. For a Nigerian child, River Niger had always existed, and our forefathers were visibly present. For the whites, their citizen who succeeded in reaching the confluence after several failed attempts is Park. John Ledyard planned to discover the Niger via Egypt but died in Cairo. Lucas, and Houghton in 1789 and 1791 respectfully attempted to discover the course of Niger, prior to Mungo Park first and final expeditions which yielded in the first discovery in 1796 and in 1805, when he discovered the actual course and termination of River Niger successfully.
It is trite that October 1st, 1960, is a significant day in history as well as 1914 where the southern and northern protectorate was amalgamated. The truth however is that what we have handed over to us was a country of different tribes, faith and culture. A country of people who must thereafter work to build a united front to succeed and to not keep falling. Nigeria in her beautiful map, bounded by strength, love and faith must revisit the foundational structure to ensure that her building will not collapse.
The advocacy is for a new Nigeria where the citizens see themselves as one and that desire for a United Nigeria birthed the #IAmANigerian campaign. There will be another opportunity to talk about the beauty of being united in Nigeria but the focus is a need to have a day set aside in Nigeria to celebrate ourselves as people of this nation. While the country has days set aside for religious celebrations and workers day, there is an urgent need for a day that is not for any religion or region, a day that is not for any class of citizen, but a day for all Nigerians, the IAMANIGERIAN day. The IAmANigerian day is a solution to the disunity we have experienced so far. If a day is set aside for this purpose, children unborn will come to know of a day when we are all one tribe united in green, white, green, raising the flag and bearing the coat of arms in our hearts. A day Nigerian child abroad can visit the nation, a day you can work into your establishment anywhere in the world with pride. A day the naija sprit can rejoice in her own land.
For a very long time, the IAmANigerian day proposition was unheard of, indeed within Nigeria, the idea was not conceived until Bisayo Busari-Akinnadeju started the campaign officially in 2015. The fact is that every great nation has had to come to a point where their unity is a fabric that must be woven by the citizens themselves.
Many would see an American citizen wears the American identity with pride, not because USA is free from poverty, diseases, corruption or insecurity but a foundation was laid as far back as In 1951, when the President of the United States gave the following directive; “Now, Therefore, I, Harrys Truman, President of the united States of America, under and by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Congress through Public Resolution 767, approved May 3, 1940 (54 Stat. 178), do hereby designate Sunday, May 20, 1951, as “I Am An American Day”, and do set aside that day as a public occasion for the recognition, observance, and commemoration of United States citizenship, and for the special recognition of those of our youth who have attained their majority and of those foreign-born who have become citizens through naturalization during the past year.” Therefore, setting aside a day to celebrate citizens in Nigeria is not a strange practice.
To demystify the proposition and to continue this advocacy, Project One, a prominent organization in Nigeria, One Nigeria Citizenship Appreciation initiative, has recently rekindled its “IAMANIGERIAN” campaign, advocating for the designation of May 25th as the “IAMANIGERIAN Day”. This ambitious project, “IAMANIGERIAN” campaign commenced officially in the year 2016.
It was the brainchild of Bisayo Busari-Akinnadeju, a Nigerian lawyer, philanthropist who had devoted her time from childhood to the Nigerian ideology and promoting the greatness of the brand.
The “IAmANigerian campaign is a national project that shapes the narrative of the country to strengthen national unity, recognition of our past hero’s, celebrate the rich cultural tapestry of Nigeria, and reinforce the collective Nigerian identity. In this article, we will delve into the significance of the IAmANigerian campaign and its journey towards establishing May 25th as a special day for all Nigerians.
The IAmANigerian campaign has been a hallmark of Project One’s efforts over the last seven years. The campaign’s primary objectives are: To instill in the Nigerian child a sense of pride in national identity, to build a brand that defines the Nigerian citizen and to build a nation where unity is our strength and among the black race
Busari-Akinnadeju is the founder and convener of the Project One – IAmANigerian Conference