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OBJ, Osinbajo, Gowon, others praised and mocked for New Year song

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It’s the country of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and pop stars Davido and Wizkid. But a more unusual set of singers grabbed the spotlight in Nigeria this week with their New Year message.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo led a choir including former president Olusegun Obasanjo and military ruler Yakubu Gowon in a rendition of the 18th century hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past”.

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” it wasn’t. Yet it was hard not to see parallels in the video, with the political heavyweights singing earnestly into microphones, headphones over their ears.

There were cutaway shots of symbols of Nigerian pride — the National Theatre in Lagos and the parliament buildings in Abuja — as well as some less than tuneful singing.

The video was meant as a gesture of peace and goodwill in a country riven by strife, from Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast to oil rebels in the south.

At the same time, some say divine intervention — or at least an effective economic plan — is required to lead the oil-rich nation out of a damaging recession.

“We pray to God to continue to grant us better peace and unity that this country dearly deserves,” said Gowon, who seized power in a July 1966 coup and headed a military government until 1975.

Obasanjo, another former military head of state before becoming a civilian president in 1999, added: “God created Nigeria as we are. God doesn’t make any mistake. We should thank God for that.”

One user on Twitter called the video “inspirational” while another said it was “so touching”.

But the good intentions were widely mocked.

One called it “a waste of everyone’s time” while on Osinbajo’s Facebook page, many blamed past leaders for Nigeria’s current woes.

Another top official, Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe, however, acknowledged mistakes were made.

“I am grateful to God for accepting us, despite the mess we have made of ourselves and the country,” he said in the message.

Nigeria’s government has previously used songs to promote national unity. Last month, the country’s military, paramilitary and police released a Christmas music video.

Uniformed officers were seen lip-synching and dancing to the Jose Feliciano song “Feliz Navidad” — (

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