The history of Amala and that of Nigeria

November 21, 2017 Africa , Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Kristian Buus photo



Prince Charles Dickson



One does not eat “I almost” in a stew. (What one missed narrowly, one cannot enjoy at all)


Ladies and Gentlemen, from extensive and empirical research, it has been established that Amala and Gbegiri are 100% Yoruba food. Amala was first prepared by Aduke Agbedegbeyo Omo Onile ire, Opomoja Ilekan Omo Yakooyo, Omo Alokolaro of Abule Onipaki in Atakumosa local government in Osun state in 1052 in the days when Sango was the Alaafin of Oyo and Oya was his wife. That was the very year Sango spat fire for the first time.

Gbegiri on the other hand was first prepared by Anike Onibudo Omo Ajanlekoko, Omo Igi Tin Wo Loko Tin Pa Ara Ile, Omo Aja Tin Jin, Tin Pa Ero Ona. Omo Ajanaku Tii Mi Igbo Kiji Kiji. She prepared Gbegiri for the first time in 1156 at Tonkere village in Ibadan west local government of Oyo state. That was the time Timi Agbale Olofa Ina, Okunrin Bi Okuta was the Timi of Ede and his conflict with Gbonkaa of Oyo Empire was at its peak.

Alabi Abolonjeku Omo Buje Budanu of Molete in Ibadan tasted the first portion of Gbegiri. You guessed right. Abolonjeku happens to be one of the forefathers of Adedibu, the exponent of Amala politics. It was Abolonjeku of Molete that first combined the two when he visited Tonkere on one of his culinary related visits across the Oyo Empire in 1156.

I had to go through this much pain to explain this before one inbred Rhesus Monkey abi Spectacle-wearing Orangutan will come on CNN to say that this Yoruba specialty food originated in Futa-Jalon and was introduced to the Yorubas by a white missionary woman and that the best version is made in Botswana.


Some ten years ago, I wrote asking, what is a name and I asked us what Nigerian meant to us. And six years later I rephrased, asking; “What Does Nigeria Mean.” I find it appropriate in view of our present circumstances to re-visit that essay and ask us again some pertinent questions.


What is the history of Nigeria, do we have a history, and do we agree on our commonalities, our shared differences and unique oneness?

It is equally an admonishment to us as citizenry, and to those that have the privilege of leading us. The quicker we define, or rather re-define who we are the better…whether it be through new structures, restructuring of the non-existent ones, repair, fiscal federalism, or any high octane sounding word. We need to get our history right and address our future.

So, permit me to start in this fashion, after that amala gist.


My name is Prince Charles Dickson; each time I introduce myself most people move their heads trying to see a Caucasian, other times I am greeted with the question, where do you come from, amongst many other identity questions. Names…I am yet to see anybody who does not have one, the English language calls it a noun. Everyone and everything has one, from the very popular to those that are virtual unknown.

Most people have a vague idea what their name means, but few give them much more thought. The study of names is called onomastics, it is a Greek word that sounds like Onome, a Niger Delta name..ÉÕÉÀÉÕÉ Éø (onoma), which means, “name”. It is a field that touches on linguistics, history, anthropology, sociology, philology and much more.


Questions onomasticians try to answer about given names include:



*        What they mean – their etymology or origin.


*        How they affect the people, their cultures.


*        Why names are chosen.



So my first question would be what is the etymology of the word Nigeria? While we ponder on that, the name Nigeria first appeared in print in The Times in 1897 and was suggested by the paper’s colonial editor Flora Shaw who would later marry Fredrick Lugard, the first Governor General of the Amalgamated Nigeria. The name comes from a combination of the words “Niger” (the country’s longest river) and “Area”. Its adjective form is Nigerian.

In writing this essay I spoke to a number of historians, spoke with Nigerians and no one could give me a satisfactory explanation, definition, in one word no one could give me the etymology of the name Nigeria, the common thread was that the name was given to us by Flora Shaw. It means Niger Area and I asked how many of us would name our kids Abuja, Lagos or Kaduna Area because they were born close to those places without as much as knowing the origin of the names.

What is in a name, why is it that the Jonahs, Daniels, Ibrahims, Mohammeds, and Isas, in our political landscape have not behaved to name. Can someone show me a stealing or corrupt government official and I will tell you the history, the origin, anthropology and philosophy of the name whether Muslim, Christian or Pagan and the question then is why are they like they are. Do they respect the values that their names stand for, and talking about values, what value does the name Nigeria stand for?


We are in the PMB era; however how much of that anti-graft stance has spread to the populace remains to be seen.

Is it because we do not know the meaning of Nigeria or could it be because we do not know the origin of the name that we have attached a phenomenon to it called the Nigerian myth or the Nigerian factor?

I dare say at this point that hence Nigeria has no meaning, can we not start to give it an etymology, after all what we want as Nigerians is simple; a Nigeria that is as good as its promise. We need a Nigeria that is a definition of principles, of idealism, of character, not birthplace, creed, ethnic group or tribe. This lack of origin is one that has led to a weakness of attitude, which translates to weakness of character.

Our name Nigeria has left a sour taste in the mouth right from time, we have become fanatical, we cannot change our mind, we cannot change the subject, so we are still grappling with the same problems, only the styles that change and new terminologies developed but the ideology, be it corruption or ethnicity, remains largely the same. So our culture has been shaped by the Nigerian factor, one that we have been forced to develop for lack of direction, for lack of a beginning. So as a nation we have continued with a culture of indifference.


When we do not know the meaning of our name, we do not know why it was chosen, our case can then be only likened to getting a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. Telling our leaders who are Nigerians to tell the truth is like un-Nigerianizing them, they lie about everything, they are loved for what they are not, they speak of changing Nigeria, but they are not changing. For lack of an origin, we do not know the why of Nigeria, we have leaders that have integrity without knowledge, thus they are weak and rather useless, the other lot possesses knowledge without integrity and this equally portends danger and a dreadful end.

We say great nation, yet the likes of South Africa loom over us, Ghana takes better strides than us, and smaller nation develop swagger-like-steps in electricity, good governance, sports and many areas that cower us.

Great people, we still live in the shadow of the Woles, Achebes, Okochas, our production line of quality people seems to be depreciating, not when millions remain jobless, millions graduate, baked in some form and milled into a nation that lacks a strong definition other than an imagined resilience.


Do we appreciate Nigeria, if we do not, we do not deserve it, we want the Nigeria of our dreams, with this and that, with leadership made in heaven but we have refused to go back and ask patiently what is Nigeria, who is Nigeria, what makes Nigeria? Today it is all talk about transformation, yet we forget that these are not new; no one catches a fish in anger. That Nigeria has gone wrong, should we also go wrong with Nigeria, can we not help Nigeria take a new meaning, animals do not hate and we are supposed to be better than them. Yet we live in hate…

To our leaders, the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good. For us the ordinary Nigerians we cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. We cannot start to give a new meaning to this structure called Nigeria, we have to change it from a Niger area of corruption, an area of lawlessness, an area of bad leadership to an area of hope, an area of godly expectation, an area where all and sundry are treated fair and square. In contemporary Nigeria we have continued to exhibit that we have neither history nor heritage apart from all the scatters of cultures from Odua to Arewa, Biafra to South-South.

I end this with this encounter, a politician was charged with profanity for calling an opponent a bastard: the politician retorted, “When I call him s.o.b I am not using profanity. I am only referring to the circumstances of his birth.” What is the circumstance of the birth of Nigeria, can anything be done to bring destiny and fate to conjure up some good for us all?—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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