Its national flag was chosen before Nigeria officially became a country. The Federation of Nigeria was first a British colony. Great Britain spent many years building it toward independence before approving its self governed constitution in 1959. A competition was held to discover a national flag.
The winner of the competition was a young artist named Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi. The Nigeria flag is a tryptych with white in the center and green on either side. The white represents peace while the green symbolizes the country’s natural wealth. Akinkunmi’s original design also had a red radiating sun placed in the center of the white band.
A common variant of the flag is to place the Nigerian coat of arms in the center. The coat of arms depicts two white lines in the shape of a Y at its center. One line is for the Niger river, the other for the Benue. A black shield, representing Nigeria’s fertile soil, stands behind it. On either side is a charger horse standing for dignity. Above them is a green and white striped band upon which sits a red eagle of strength.
The base of the coat of arms is a green field speckled with Costus Spectabilis, the national flower. A banner waves across it. This depicts the country’s motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
Another variant of the flag has maritime use in the country’s navy. It is a white field with a smaller version of the national flag in the upper left hand corner. The negative space on the right holds a navy seal at its center.
The national flag designed by Akinkunmi was raised for the first time on the day of Nigeria’s official independence. The Nigerian government has strict rules for those wishing to fly the flag. It must be raised at sunrise and taken down at sunset. They say a flag of such importance does not sleep. If it is hoisted in a room than no other flag in the same room can be higher than the national flag. On Memorial days and during state funerals, the flag must be flown at half mast to show respect.