The Nigerian coat of arms is one of the two or three major symbols of the entity Nigeria. The flag and the national anthem are two of the other emblems. The story of the coat of arm is perhaps as interesting as the coat of arm itself. Here we bring you five of the things you need to know about the coat of arm.
1. It was adopted long after independence.
While Nigeria got her independence in 1960, most of her heraldic didn’t take shape the same year. The republic which removes the Queen as the head of state was adopted in 1963; naira became the currency in 1973; Abuja was adopted as the Federal Capital Territory in 1976; this current national anthem was adopted in 1978 replacing “Nigeria, we hail thee”; the presidential system was adopted in 1979 mirroring the American system. The current version of the Nigerian coat of arms, too, didn’t come at Independence.
2. The designer is shrouded in secrecy.
Unlike the Nigeran flag, the coat of arms designer is not well-known. On the one hand, it has been suggested that the emblem was designed by M.T Akinkunmi, the designer of the flag of Nigeria. Some claim Murtala Muhammed directed the design when he ascended to power in 1975. There is yet another strong claim that the coat of arms was designed by a Bahamian citizen and pastor, Hervis L. Bain Jr.
Why is the designer not well-known? This might be an indication, if not an indictment, of the Nigerian record system. Whatever it is, this does not undermine the great importance of this symbol.
3. Nigeria Coat of Arms: It has multiple meanings
There is no official information in any database in Nigeria or elsewhere detailing the meanings of the many aspects of the Nigerian coat of arms. These are, however, the general consensus as to the meaning of the coat of arms. It might have originated from a smart social studies textbook; it makes sense.
The eagle: The eagle in the coat of arm represents strength.
The two horses: the two horses sandwiching the eagle represents dignity.
The red flowers: This flower is known as costus spectabilis. It is said to grow in many parts of the country and is the national flower of Nigeria (not official).
The Y sign: This symbolises the two major rivers in Nigeria, the Benue and the Niger which together cuts across a large portion of the states of Nigeria.
The black shield: This represents the black identity of Nigeria being the largest black country on earth. There is also a belief that it represents the fertile Nigerian soil.
The golden band: This carries the national motto of Nigeria – “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”. This is a major differentiation of the earlier version of the coat of arms which carries the previous motto of “Peace, Unity and Freedom”.
The green and white wreath: This represents the green and white colours of the Nigeria flag. It is also believed that the green represents the rich agricultural heritage of the Nigerian State.
4. Nigeria used to have so many coats of arms
Before the adoption of this singular coat of arms, Nigeria had so many symbols. This can be divided into two – the colonial and the post-colonial period. During colonialism, Nigeria had so many coats. There was the Badge of the British West African Settlement represented by an elephant in a yellow background and green setting. There was the Badge of the Colony of Lagos represented by the same symbol as the West African Settlement except for the letter L. There was, too, the Badge Oil River Protectorate. Other badges covered the Niger Coast Protectorate, Northen Nigeria Protectorate and the Southern Nigeria Protectorate.
At Independence, Nigerian three and later four regions had their individual coat of arms. This became untenable when the country was divided into 12 states being one of the events just before the Civil War.
5. Every national seal is derived from the Nigerian coat of arms
The coat of arms is central to every important seal of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The coat of arms is the main aspect of the seal of the president and commander in chief of the armed forces of Nigeria. It is also the central part of the seal of the vice president, the seal of the Senate, and the seal of the House of Representatives. The Nigerian coat of arms is found in every denomination of the Nigerian currency, agency and official documents. Sometimes (erroneously) included in the Nigerian flag. The head of the mace which is the symbol of authority of the legislature without which no laws or words made or spoken in the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives has power.