The United African Republic - Nigeria's proposed new name

By Nduka Orjinmo
BBC News, Abuja

Published
image copyrightGetty Images
image caption"The people formerly known as Nigerians now wish to be called Uranium"

What is someone from the United African Republic called? Uranium or Urea?

The answer is keeping many Nigerians awake as they chew over a proposal to change the name of the country.

For two weeks, federal lawmakers have been traversing the country collating citizens' views to amend the constitution.

The idea was to gather suggestions for amendments such as electoral reforms and the system of government.

But citizen Adeleye Jokotoye, a tax consultant, dropped something of a bombshell at the hearing in Lagos.

He wants the name of the country changed as it was an imposition by Nigeria's past colonial masters.

The name Nigeria was suggested in the late 19th Century by British journalist Flora Shaw, who would later marry the British colonial administrator Lord Frederick Lugard.

It is derived from the River Niger which enters the country from the north-west and flows down to the Niger Delta where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean through its many tributaries.

But Mr Jokotoye wants the name changed and his choice of United African Republic - to reflect the hundreds of ethnic groups that comprise the country - has blown a storm.

These Twitter users have a theory where the idea for United African Republic, or UAR, came from:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

There is already a new anthem, which isn't entirely new but a remix of the "old" Nigeria's:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

A new country needs a new currency, so:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Which made musician Timi Dakolo, famous for his patriotic Great Nation song which is a staple at some official events, wonder what becomes of his music. Maybe a remix, Mr Dakolo?:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

And there was a reminder of the small matter of the loans Nigeria owes the World Bank, IMF and China. Some figured that a new name means a clean slate:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But not everyone saw the joke in Mr Jokotoye's proposal and some were quick to set the country's priorities right:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But what is someone from the UAR called? The idea of Uranium - which Nigeria does not have - seems to have come from this comedian:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

And others piled in:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

And the small matter of radiation connected to Uranium:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

As if he knew that some of his compatriots would not be impressed by his choice, Mr Jokotoye came armed with an alternative - the United Alkebulan Republic (meaning: United Mother of Mankind Republic), which quite frankly doesn't sound as pan-African as the first, but does have the same initials.

He also made other suggestions for the constitution, such as proposing amendments to the structure of governance, and taxation control - but for some reason these have not excited the popular imagination in the same way.

In the coming weeks as lawmakers sift through the bags of suggestions from Nigerians, no-one is sure what other ideas will bubble out.

But it is unlikely that we will see a United African Republic on these shores.

Which is a shame, as I quite like the idea of being addressed as a Uranium - it has a powerful ring to it.

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