On September 23, 2017, the South Southern State of Akwa Ibom rolled out the drums to commemorate its thirty years anniversary of Statehood.
Like any other State function, the occasion was well attended by top dignitaries within and outside the State and was graced by one festivity or the other, particularly the street party that saw top hip hop artistes like Wizkid perform to the cheers of thrilled fans.
I will not be so quick to forget the colorful events that took place inside the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on that day. By the time the short hand of the clock hit the hour of 10 a.m, this magnificent thirty thousand seat capacity edifice was already filled up to its capacity so that those who came later than that time had to struggle to at least find a spot on which to put their legs.
Fortunately for me, I had learned a bitter lesson about crowds some months ago when the Super Eagles played a FIFA World Cup Qualifier match against the Chipolopolo of Zambia in the same stadium, a game the Eagles won by a lone goal. I will not forget how my friend and I were forced to trek the whole distance from the stadium to our home, a journey that a N250 tricycle ticket fare would have covered had we found one.
But there was none as almost everybody were scrambling to hail these guys to go their way at the same time. Although a harrowing experience for me, it helped reinforced an age old dictum that urged one to wake up earlier than the devil. And so I trudged into the stadium that day, attired in a robe of patriotism and a spirit on high alert. Or so I thought. Anywhere, the beautiful scenery that played out on the stadium was effectively dominated by one color that had come to be a heroic anthem of sorts for the beautiful people of the State. But I am getting ahead of myself.
However, the story of the occasion of the thirtieth year anniversary of the State would be incomplete without shedding light on the iconic catchphrase of that period. It was a master stroke creation never before witnessed in the history of State anniversary celebrations in Nigeria. In fact, it was this singular invention that made the thirty year anniversary celebration radically different from the previous twenty-nine celebrations. You can’t be wrong! It was the ‘Color Me Orange’ craze that erupted through the social media space and swam into every street, every corner.
Speaking of streets, the Akwa Ibom State Government through its Ministry of Culture and Tourism commissioned every major road to be adorned with massive billboards carrying colorful photos of the State Governor, His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel, beautifully colored in splashed orange background. Indigenes of the State were not left out, particularly those with active social media presence.
All one needed to do was to upload one’s preferred photo on the Color Me Orange app, hosted online. After filling out the required details of one’s full names and choice of color for one’s photo, the app would automatically generate the Color Me Orange portrait of one’s photo. One could then decide to color, in a sense, one’s social media life, by simply uploading the portrait as one’s profile picture. The idea was infectiously viral; one in three social media conscious Akwa Ibomites had a Color Me Orange portrait on his/her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, or blog accounts. The Color Me Orange craze did not only conquer the social media and street battlefields; it spilled onto the neighborhoods.
Everywhere one went, one would hear eager indigenes as well as non-indigenes hail themselves in loud, jocular or hearty greetings of Color Me Orange. It was virtually impossible to walk from Ibom Plaza to Itam Flyover and not hear loud chants of Color Me Orange! Color Me Orange! There again, you are right: neither old nor young was left out. Amazing, wasn’t that?
But what’s the thing about the Orange color that has carved for itself a ginormous niche in the cultural permutations of the State in the last six years or thereabout? Prince Chris AbasiEyo has done a fine article on this:
In psychology, orange is bolder color as it is one of the colors of the sun. This is why it is often called the sunshine color. Orange is a color of colors as it aptly arrests one’s attention as the sun captures the attention of the day… As a citrus fruit, Orange is to human health (through the vitamins it carries), what sunlight is to photosynthesis and to life generally as a source of energy. Orange is the true color of fire and therefore expressive of the inalienable truth that, the God of Akwa-Abasi Ibom State, is a consuming Fire, buring off every obstacle standing on the way of Akwa Ibom State to take the rebirth of her manifest destiny in the sun.
It is, I believe, these intrinsic psychological properties of the Orange, that prompted the State Government to name Orange as the official color of the State.
The Color Me Orange brand couldn’t have come at a better time than that year. Let’s be sincere about one thing. Despite the nearly perfect cultural homogeneity of the three dominating tribes (Ibibio, Annang and Oron) in the State, which can and should foster an unbreakable unity, the State has often been plunged into a state of senseless political divisions split along ethnic lines, a surprising result in view of the aforementioned fact. It would be vividly recalled that during the last administration under His Excellency, Chief (Dr) Godswill Akpabio, the dominating ethnic group in the State (the Ibibios) were often pitted against the Annangs (the ethnic group of the then Governor) in a war of mutual suspicion and political misgivings, a war that saw to the exchange of deadly political fireworks in the print media and especially in the polls of 2011. Attempts at reconciling and reuniting the warring factions in the wake of the 2015 General Elections have been successful, albeit to a degree. The Color Me Orange was deployed not only to make a cultural statement on the sands of time, but to serve as a rallying cry for unity in the midst of political diversity, abstract and/or selfish as some of these are prone to be. And those who witnessed the Orange Festival of that year can agree on this one thing: its chief objective of unity was achieved.
In a little under seven months from now, Akwa Ibomites will once again go through the operose process of deciding their destiny for the next four years. In another trifling twenty-something days from now, our dear State will be a year older in a matter of days. Guess the question on everybody’s lips? You’re right! Who will color me orange? In the brewing political crisis that is about to implode, who will color the State with the famed unity color, which as yet, had one color that bespoke coherence, one mindedness and foretold a prosperous future for all? Make no mistake. The year 2018 is far more crucial than 2017. Like any election year, the penultimate year has traditionally been regarded as the ultimate decider of the outcome of elections in Nigeria. As such, it is pretty much typical for Nigerian politicians to be a lot closer to their people in the months leading to the elections than at any other time since it appears that many Nigerians find it easy to either forgive or forget sins that are matched with recent performance. With 2018 being a penultimate year to 2019, the task of ensuring the unity of all groups at all cost has become not only a political necessity, but a survival tactic. Following the shocking and unexpected defection to the All Progressive Congress (APC) by the immediate past State Governor and Senate Minority Leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) last month, there has been a wave of hurried solidarity movements by various interest groups in favor of the present administration. While this has been perceived by many political analysts as a strategy to mitigate the possible political effects that the defection of the revered leader could potentially give birth to post-2018, the truth remains that another deep political rift has been created, one that will take more than shallow and perhaps, artificial patch ups to repair. It will require a strategy as far reaching, far unifying and tribally blind as the powerful Color Me Orange craze to bring all to the table of brotherhood.
So who will color me orange this time?