The Coat of Arms of a country or football club is a shield specially designed to symbolise their identity. The Coat of Arms of Nigeria, along with the country’s flag, national anthem and pledge, passport, national ID card, the currency, the constitution, and the Super Eagles, are some symbols most Nigerians hold dear.
These symbols are rooted in the country’s tradition, culture, history, and heritage and distinguish Nigeria from other countries. The Coat of Arms and the likes aim to unite the people via visual and verbal symbolism. The importance is to promote national unity, highlight the history and culture of the people, identify with shared values, serve as a tool for motivation during dire situations or global sporting competitions, and remind us about our past as we reflect on the future.
We can retrace the origin of a Coat of Arms to medieval Europe, where countries on battlefields used it as a means of identification. It metamorphosed into being used to show family descent, alliances, and property ownership. When you hear ‘Coat of Arms’, a country’s symbol of national unity and authority, comes to mind.
Coat of Arms of Nigeria
Before gaining independence in 1960 and becoming a republic in 1963, Nigeria’s Coat of Arms comprised the name of the country, the British flag, and sitting at a corner, the Coat of Arms of Britain in all its colonial majesty. We shouldn’t fail to point out the image of a hexagon with a crown on a red circle at the centre.
The euphoria that greeted the country’s independence and being a sovereign state heralded the need for a new symbol to reflect this status change. However, the Nigerian flag was first redesigned in 1959 and hoisted for the first time on October 1, 1960. This national symbol was designed and approved the same year as the Nigerian flag, in line with the national flag and Coat of Arms edict No.48, 1960. Unlike the national flag used with little ado, the Coat of Arms, adopted in 1975, requires approval from the government.
Who designed the Nigeria Coat of Arms?
Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi is the answer to the question: who designed the Nigerian flag? In the case of the Coat of Arms, the designer is not officially known. They can safely be called an unknown originator.
Unsurprisingly, two reports tried to put a name to this unknown originator of the national Coat of Arms. The first one linked the designer to Rev. Dr Hervis L. Bain Jr., a priest, and artist, who came up with the concept around the time the national flag came. This report claimed that Queen Elizabeth II approved the new Coat of Arms on December 7, 1971. The second report gave no name for the designer but stated the fresh one came into existence during the military dictatorship of General Murtala Mohammed.
But what we are sure about is that before the official adoption of the Coat of Arms, each of the political units, including the Northern, Eastern, Western, and Mid-western regions, had a different one. The regions could also have their flag and anthem, except for printing currency and a separate armed force.
Nigeria Coat of Arms symbols, features & meaning
The Coat of Arms has seven features representing seven unique qualities attributed to Nigeria. However, the meaning of each feature is merely perceived because there is no document from the government explaining it.
The black shield with a white Y-shaped pall
The black shield represents the country’s fertile soil. Agriculture is one cornerstone of the economy from the east, west, north, and south. Yam, cassava, maise, rice, sorghum, and millet are some of the major staple crops in Nigeria. The cash crops include oil palm, cocoa, groundnuts, cotton, sesame, and ginger, including livestock farming.
The white pall that forms the letter Y represents the country’s major rivers – Niger and Benue. The River Niger is the third-largest in Africa, behind River Congo and River Nile. River Niger and Benue form a confluence of Lokoja, Kogi state.
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The two horses
The white-coloured horses on each side of the black shield symbolise harmony and nobility while also showing strength and peace. Their complexion shows purity and wealth.
The red eagle
This bright figure personifies the country’s strength, power, and pride.
The green and white wreath
Sitting on top of the black shield and providing the pedestal for the red eagle, the green and white wreath represents Nigeria’s potential in agriculture.
The green field and flowers
This is a call for attention towards farming and related activities that symbolises love for the country. Flowers called Costus Spectabilis, found in most parts of Nigeria, are on the grass to represent the country’s beauty.
The yellow banner at the base of the Coat of Arms is Nigeria’s motto: “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”. Between 1975 and 1978, though, the country’s ‘payoff line’ was “Peace, Unity, Freedom”.
We all need to personalise the meaning, even if perceived, of the Coat of Arms. Whether you are based in Nigeria or the diaspora or have faith in the country, what you cannot run away from is your shared values with other Nigerians. The Coat of Arms depicts some of these values, the flag, the national anthem and pledge, the passport, the national ID card, the currency, the constitution, and the Super Eagles. You may omit the last one. But what you have failed to realise is that football is the most important of all the most unimportant symbols and things!