Not many people know that the name, NIGERIA, came from the girl friend of our colonial Master, Governor-General, Lord Legend in those good old days before we got independence. It was Flora Shaw who gave Nigeria its name. She suggested it to the man who later became her husband and he accepted it. How did the name come to be?
The name Nigeria, was minted in the 19th century, in the year 1897. It happened during the colonial era when most African countries had not been in existence. As of then, Nigeria was referred to as merely geographical and not a country.
“The word Nigeria is a mere distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not” Obafemi Awolowo.
The origin of the name “Nigeria” lies within the river Niger. Niger is the British way of referring to Blacks. Before the naming of Nigeria, it used to be called The Royal Niger Company Territories. The naming of my former country was done by a woman who isn’t a Nigeria, not even an African. Her name was Flora Shaw.
Lady Shaw was a British journalist and activist; fighting against Slavery. She worked as an editor of The Times.
In an essay that first appeared in The Times on 8 January, 1897, by “Miss Shaw”, she suggested the name “Nigeria” for the British Protectorate on the Niger River. In her essay, Shaw made the case for a shorter term that would be used for the “agglomeration of pagan and Mahomedan States” to replace the official title, “Royal Niger Company Territories”. She thought that the term “Royal Niger Company Territories” was too long to be used as a name of a Real Estate Property, under the Trading Company in that part of Africa. She was in search of a new name, and she coined “Nigeria”, in preference to terms, such as “Central Sudan”, which were associated with the area by some geographers and travellers.
She thought that the term “Sudan” was associated with a territory in the Nile basin, the current Sudan. In The Times of 8 January, 1897, she wrote: “The name Nigeria applying to no other part of Africa may without offence to any neighbours should be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.”
She died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929, aged 76, in Surrey.
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