TUNDE ODESOLA FROM PUNCH
May we consider these two sentences: ‘You are stupid’ and ‘I am stupid’? While ‘You are stupid’ may be a wrong prognosis of another individual’s personality, ‘I am stupid’ is a dispassionate diagnosis of self. The former may draw arrows from the quill, the latter may draw pity or derision from the heart.
I’ll tell you what – the depiction of the symbols on the Nigerian Coat of Arms screams, ‘We’re stupid!’ If we, Nigerians, are not stupid, after almost 63 years of age, why can’t we, as a country, sensibly define the symbols on our coat of arms?
Information on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs identifies the country’s ‘map, coat-of-arms (sic), flag, anthem, and pledge’ as ‘National Symbols.’
Dryly, the ministry goes further to say, “Coat of Arms: The coat of arms of Nigeria consists of a black shield with a wavy white pall, symbolizing (sic; American English) the meeting of the Niger and Benue Rivers at Lokoja. The black shield represents Nigeria’s fertile soil, while the two supporting horses or chargers on each side represent dignity.”
There goes the beggarly information Nigerians and foreigners alike get about the country’s coat of arms, a supposed symbol of the quintessence of Nigeria. ‘Coat-of-Arms’ in one breath, ‘Coat of Arms’, in another. When both coats ram into each other, the wreckage is the coat of many errors that we currently have.
Please, hear how the National Museum of American Diplomacy describes America’s coat of arms on its website. It says, “The Great Seal of the United States is a unique symbol of our country and national identity. The Great Seal is impressed upon official documents such as treaties and commissions. The Department of State affixes about 3,000 seals to official documents yearly.
“In 1782, after six years and three committees, the Continental Congress decided on a less abstract seal and incorporated a design that reflected the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers ascribed to the new nation. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, designed the 1782 seal to symbolize our country’s strength, unity, and independence. The olive branch and the arrows held in the eagle’s talons denote the power of peace and war. The eagle always casts its gaze toward the olive branch signifying that our nation desires to pursue peace but stands ready to defend itself. The shield, or escutcheon, is “born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue…”
But, shamefully, Nigeria’s coat of arms parades an eagle that doesn’t exist anywhere in the plains or plantations of the country – a red eagle! And the way it stands spinelessly like a stray witch on the coat of arms, toeing the green and white arc on the black shield, is so depressing.
Even the Foreign Affairs Ministry website, sadly, has no words to describe the strange red eagle; it just perches there aimlessly, doing nothing, but its redness probably signifies the various blood-sucking leaderships that have afflicted Nigeria even before independence.
I observed that the Nigerian military has a penchant for white horses. There’s no explanation for the idiosyncrasy. But I suspect the military, like all other walks of Nigerian life, suffers post-colonial hangover. I have noticed, too, that white horses were used during the inauguration ceremonies of past Nigerian presidents in this political dispensation.
Since independence, however, no agency of government has ever explained the symbolism of the two white horses in the country’s coat of arms. Why use white horses? Why not use the more popular colour, brown? Or black, to proudly identify with our colour?
In this era of super-smart kids, what would the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, tell his grandchildren when they ask him questions about the stupidity in our coat of arms? What would Tinubu tell his grandchildren when they ask why Nigeria’s rivers Niger and Benue are depicted as white when they are not even beaches? What would he and his contemporaries tell their grandkids if they query the soundness of their forebears’ minds?