A popular Nigerian phrase that promotes standing up against bullying and deception is causing controversy following a police warning that it may incite rebellion.
Although not a new phrase, the pidgin English expression “No gree for anybody” and its derivatives have gained popularity since the beginning of the year as a mantra for self-sufficiency and perseverance in challenging situations.
In 2024, the saying has become a motto for enduring difficult times in Africa’s most populated nation, which is facing challenges such as high living expenses and security threats from militant groups and abductors.
The national police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, cautioned against using the phrase last week, sparking a discussion on social media.
“The new slogan for 2023 and 2024 for our young ones is ‘No dey gree for anybody’. We have been informed by intelligence that this slogan is coming from a revolutionary sector that may likely cause problems across the country,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The phrase “No dey gree for anybody” may seem like a harmless expression, but within the security community, it is viewed as an extremely dangerous slogan.
It was uncertain if Adejobi was indirectly mentioning the EndSars protests led by youth in 2020, which resulted in the largest anti-government demonstrations since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
According to local media, the phrase “no go gree” originates from an old gospel song. It is common for Nigerians to combine English, pidgin, and one of the country’s indigenous languages such as Yoruba, Igbo, or Hausa.
“We began using the phrase sometime in the latter part of last year. It conveys the message of being resilient and persevering,” stated Prosper Udeagha, a 30-year-old taxi driver in Abuja. “I understand the perspective of the police, as they are concerned about potential violence resulting from people expressing their dissatisfaction.”
Adejobi’s remarks sparked an online conversation, with certain individuals arguing that the police should focus on more pressing issues rather than the latest slang.
The Nigerian military is engaged in combat against extremist groups in the northern part of the country, while also facing challenges from criminal groups and widespread abductions in the north-west. Additionally, there has been an increase in conflicts between different communities in central states.
Aisha Yesufu, a critic of the government, commented on the slang warning, stating that it reveals their priorities.
But shortly after the police released their statement, a military spokesperson began using the colloquial term to describe Nigerians who are not willing to show mercy to armed groups. “They will not tolerate terrorists, and they will not tolerate those responsible for causing insecurity,” Major General Edward Buba stated.
Last week, the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, expressed his well wishes to Nigeria’s Super Eagles football team for the Africa Cup of Nations. He stated, “I am eagerly anticipating their first match and the message to them is clear – ‘Don’t let anyone defeat you.'” He added, “Bring home the Nations Cup.”
Unfortunately, things did not begin well as the three-time champions tied their opening match against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.