Balewa, Awolowo and Odin of Asgard – Is Nigeria a place or a people?

While championing regionalism in the 1940s, two of Nigeria’s founding fathers described Nigeria thus:

Obafemi Awolowo writing in 1947 said: ‘Nigeria is not a nation. It a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘Englishmen’ or ‘French.’ The word ‘Nigeria’ is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.’

Tafawa Balewa (who later became Prime Minister) writing in 1948 said: ‘Many Nigerians deceive themselves by thinking that Nigeria is one… this pretence of unity is artificial.’

Meanwhile, Shehu Shagari (who later became president) wrote in the same 1948, arguably the most relevant song of Nigeria, captured in these moving lines:

Lord we beseech your help
To guard us from the iniquities of the world

Let our country grow and be known
All over this broad earth

Let everyone prosper in it
Without fear and without persecution

Help our land find honour
Place her on the path of truth

Help her develop and become renowned
Let her be an example to Africa

Let her prosper, let there be wealth
Everywhere in Nigeria

So that we all will be people to be proud
That we are living in Nigeria

And thank God
That he placed us among the people of Nigeria

In the movie, Ragnarok, Thor’s father, Odin says, ‘Asgard is not a place but a people. In the movie, How to train your dragon 3, Hicop says that his country is not a place but a people. Is Nigeria a place, a people, or both?

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