History of the Nigerian Flag

Green White Green! Does that sound familiar?

Certainly, it does. That’s the colour of the Nigerian flag and in this post; we’ll take a look at how this flag came into existence and the person behind this great design.

History of the Nigerian Flag

The first ever flag used by Nigeria was the Union Jack. This was the official flag of the United Kingdom and because Nigeria was a British colony, the flag became the default flag of this colony. The Union Flag is also a ceremonial flag in some Commonwealth countries. For instance, it is a ceremonial flag in Canada by parliamentary resolution and known there as the Royal Union Flag.

Also, it is used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas territories. The Union Flag also appears in the canton (upper left-hand quarter) of the flags of several nations and territories that are former British possessions or dominions, as well as the state flag of Hawaii.

The origin of the Union Jack can be traced to 1606 when Kings James VI of Scotland inherited the English and Irish thrones in 1603 as James I, thereby uniting the crowns of England, Scotland, and Ireland in a personal union, although the three kingdoms remained separate states.

As a result of this union, a new flag was endorsed to represent this regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the flag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George’s Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire on a blue background, known as the Saltire or St Andrew’s Cross), would be joined together, forming the flag of England and Scotland for maritime purposes.

The current design of the Union Flag dates from a Royal Proclamation following the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The flag combines aspects of three older national flags: the red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland (which two were united in the first Union Flag), and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland.

Nigeria relinquished the Union Jack in 1960 when it became an independent nation. The flag was replaced by the Green White Green flag.

The national flag was designed in 1960 by Mr Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi. At that time, Taiwo Akinwunmi was a student in England.

His design was adjudged as the best among the other entries for prestigious National Flag Design Competition held at the university campus in 1959. It was the Nigeria High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, M.A. Martins that endorsed the ensign and passed a proposal to adopt this design as the national flag of Nigeria.

During special events or ceremonies, the Nigerian Flag is usually hoisted in the morning during sunrise and lowered at sunset.

Also, the national flag is usually hung or half flown on days of state funerals or important memorial days. If it is a situation where the flag is in a room, then no other flag should be placed higher than that and if the flag is torn out it shouldn’t be flown or used but rather burned or destroyed.

Each colour of the national flag is quite symbolic. The green colour represents the fertile land and agricultural diversity of the land while the white stands for peace and unity. It is also representative of the Niger River that passes through the whole country and is invariably a part of its geographical identity.

Thus, the national flag of Nigeria truly reflects the Nigerian nationalistic fervour and sentiments.

Basically, the design of the flag is a vertical bicolour triband of a green, white and green; charged with the coat of arms in the centre. The flag of Nigeria was designed in 1959 and first officially hoisted on 1 October 1960.

Let’s talk a little about the designer of the Nigerian flag, Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi. At that time, Akinkunmi was a 23-year-old student studying at Norwich Technical College in London, England, when he saw an advertisement in a newspaper that submissions were being accepted for the design of a new national flag of Nigeria.

The original submission had a red radiating sun badge in the central white vertical band with a green vertical band on each side. After the badge was removed by the judges, the flag has remained unchanged.

It was first officially used on 1st of October 1960, the day Nigeria was granted independence from the United Kingdom.

Akinkunmi mailed his submission to Lagos a short time later, and in October of the following year received a letter inviting him to the London office of the Commissioner for Nigeria in the United Kingdom, where he was told that his green and white design had been selected. He had won 100 pounds ($281 in 1959) as well as a place in Nigeria’s history books.

Akinkunmi was well-known during the early days of the new National flag, he was admired by many Nigerians and he was popularly called Mr Flag Man.

When he returned to Nigeria in 1964 after his education, Akinkunmi worked as a civil servant until he retired. He was in the civil service for 29 years later. He was supposed to work for 35 years but he was advised by his superiors to go into early retirement because of illness.

Akinkunmi is currently residing in his home in Ibadan. He was honoured in 2014 when the then-president Goodluck Jonathan gave him a national honour and placed him on a lifetime’s salary of a presidential special assistant – around N800,000 (roughly $4,000).

Prior to this event, Akinkunmi was one of the 50 distinguished Nigerians that was honoured by the then-Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili during the golden jubilee celebration in October 2010.

Also in 2008, Akinkunmi was given a cheque for two million naira as fee for his appearance on a TV show. The money was used by his son to build the house of dream for his father painted with the colours of the Nigerian flag.

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