The word Naija aptly captures the variety of emotions I feel for my country, especially as it celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.
We Nigerians are confident people - proud of our culture and identity, industrious, hard-working, ingenious and great survivors.
Let's face it, we need to be resilient - Nigeria can be extremely frustrating, annoying and inefficient.
But an optimistic outlook on life makes it a place where anything and everything is possible.
No wonder a survey once found that Nigerians are the happiest people in the world - we have a great capacity for laughing at ourselves.
Whether things are going well or whether it seems the world is about to come to an end, "Naija!" -also written 9ja - expresses it all.
It is about the food, the flamboyant dressing, the mannerisms, the boisterous - some say loud - interaction among complete strangers who on meeting immediately feel bonded by their "Naija-ness".
Like your family, you love them and you hate them at the same time.
You love them so much you would die for them, and yet you get so exasperated at the way they drive you up the wall.
And for the young, the word has entered their slang - spreading rapidly through social networking sites and through music.
My Nigerian colleague Peter Okwoche says this is because Naija denotes a new beginning or dawn for Nigeria.
"The word was coined by the country's youth as a way of distancing themselves from the old guard who they blame for Nigeria's woes," he says.
"Nigeria has a bad image abroad but the youth want the world to know that change is happening from inside the country."
And Naija is a word we Nigerians guard jealously.
We are most particular about how its pronunciation.
It must be punchy - both syllables should be emphasised but with a hook for the "Nai" and jab for the "ja".
Then you know you are in with the crowd. You are accepted. You are trusted.
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