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June 1, 2024

Harmless questions about the National Anthem!

National Anthem

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Both the traditional and social media in Nigeria have been literally on fire since Wednesday, May 29, 2024 when news about President Bola Tinubu signing into law, the Bill reverting to the Old National Anthem broke.

Foreign media also were not left out of writing about the trending issue.

Why is reverting to the old National Anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”, the country’s anthem from its independence in 1960 until 1978, when it was replaced by “Arise, O Compatriots”, a big subject? That’s a simple and harmless question! And most of the answers and comments have been condemnatory.

People think President Bola Tinubu’s administration is like the man who goes about chasing rat while his house is on fire.

Many Nigerians believe that a new national anthem or worse still reverting to the one written by an English woman, Lillian Jean Williams in 1959 and composed by Frances Berda is not the answer to the teeming problems the masses are facing today. It’s a misplaced priority! Talk about inflation, unemployment, corruption, poverty, insecurity, tribalism, power supply, brain drain etc; these are problems demanding urgent solutions.

First, let’s take a look again at the two anthems. The old anthem by Williams goes this way:
Nigeria we hail thee,
Our own dear native land,
Though tribe and tongue may differ,
In brotherhood we stand,
Nigerians all, and proud to serve
Our sovereign Motherland.
Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign,
In peace or battle honour’d,
And this we count as gain,
To hand on to our children
A banner without stain.
O God of all creation,
Grant this our one request,
Help us to build a nation
Where no man is oppressed,
And so with peace and plenty
Nigeria may be blessed.

Fact is the words in the 1959 anthem by the British are powerful and speak to our our sad condition even now that we appear divided more than ever before. “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.” Many Nigerians believe they also speak to our state at the time. They reflect that important period in the nation; a time the people were liberated from colonial rule and so, needed to move forward as one. But at the same time, some Nigerians believe we’ve gotten past that period especially since the just discarded National Anthem was composed by indigenes, also reflecting the time it was composed. These Nigerians probably saw late 70s as a period that the people needed to rise and build a nation where unity, peace, and justice shall reign.

Definitely, Williams and her people knew what was at stake at the time; the marriage of people with diverse tribes and tongues was not going to be a rosy union. Hence the message, ‘though tribes and tongues may differ’ yet in ‘brotherhood we stand’. But if one may ask, did the lyrics of William’s composition do any magic in uniting the people? Not at all, not with the coups and counter coups that followed and the widespread hostility that pops up each time our unity is tested. So why its re-adoption? Since one can remember, the unity of Nigerians has always been questionable. In fact, Nigeria has never been divided like it is now since the history of the country. The disunity heightened during ex-president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. It was so bad that the president was seen as the champion of division; many thought he was a tribal bigot.

Hatred for each other, especially against the South Easterners again showed up during the 2023 general elections. The suppression was glaring. These people were openly asked to go back to their place and vote if they were not going to vote for APC. It wasn’t just some tugs in Lagos State, some prominent individuals participated in that shameful act. So where is the unity?

Now, take a look at the now trashed National Anthem; “Arise, O Compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey.
To serve our fatherland.

With love and strength and faith.
The labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain.
To serve with heart and might.
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”
Oh God of creation, direct our noble cause
Guide our leader’s right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.

Looking at the last line on the first stanza which says, “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity”, you’d begin to ask yourself if having a national anthem has any relevance at all. Have there been freedom, peace and unity? Your answer is as good as mine. Even the last line of the second stanza pricks our leaders’ conscience the more; “To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign” Where is the justice, when a revered individual vying for a prominent post tells his supporters to snatch and grab power, and the courts turn a blind eye on evidence of severe irregularities in an election and chose to dwell on technicalities instead, you’d ask, where is justice? When certain people are disenfranchised during an election because of where they come from, you’ll agree that Nigerians are far from living out what their anthem says.

In addition to condemning the federal government for re-absorbing the old National Anthem, many Nigerians can’t understand why the bill was passed and signed with such speed. Is there anything they’re not telling us?

People are now presenting a list of so many important names and things to revert to. It is time to reverse every reversible! They are of the opinion that the name ‘Lagos’ given by the Portuguese should be changed to the original name, Eko. Also, Nigerians want the name ‘Nigeria’ which was also given by the colonialists to be changed to something like the Republic of Wazobia the same way Ghana changed its name from Gold Coast at independence in 1957. Some others have used the opportunity to start demanding for restructuring; that we also go back to the old regional system. Honestly, it’s high time we began practising true federalism. What we have currently has not helped. This democracy has not given the people good governance as desired. The masses are also asking this government to revert to old fuel price.

A look at the reactions of Nigerians who have not stopped expressing their opinions through different platforms on this issue tells you how disappointed they are with this administration.
Alex Done wrote, “Naija sef, is the national anthem the problem of Nigeria? Failed government, confusion everywhere.”

Anthony Azubuike wrote, “Na wa for our leaders oooo! It’s like APC is in auto reverse mode. The previous government took us from top to bottom and the present one is now taking us from the bottom to underground. APC we hail thee!”

Eniola Akinkuotu wrote: ”Nigeria reverts to its old colonial era national anthem. The anthem was amended in 5 days. This is a reminder on how easy it is for Tinubu to pass a law through the National Assembly where his allies are fully in charge. Why not use this power to make investment-boosting laws?”

Osi_Suave on X wrote, “There is nothing defensible as regards this national anthem thing.
It reeks of self-respect and national pride to ditch an anthem composed and written by a Nigerian for one written by a foreigner. There are pressing issues to deal with: Inflation, Security, FX market.”
Ani John wrote, “Who does that? Will the changing of national anthem put food on our table? Just dey play.”

@iamsirfrenkie: “The National Anthem is not responsible for our bad economy; it’s not responsible for the insecurity of lives and property, it won’t change anything.”

Doubara Johnson wrote, “That’s what you get when people lack ideas. How does anthem affect the Nigerian current realities?”

@hackSultan: They’re selling 4 peppers for 500 naira and want me to be learning a new national anthem…”

Paschal Ifeanyi wrote, “There’s old fuel price, old clearing rate, food price, NEPA rates, old dollar rate. But No! Bulaba only remembered old anthem.”

@actionpastor: “Changing national anthem to old one is misplaced priority when economy and Nigerians are bleeding! Let them take us back to when fuel was 65 naira per litre!”

Mc FunnyLips wrote, “Which one is Nigeria we hail thee? Nigeria should be hailing us. Living in Nigeria alone is a whole lot of work.”

@sheikhanalo: “Why exactly is reverting to the old national anthem such an important issue that it was hurriedly signed and approved? How does the old National anthem improve the lives of Nigerians!!!!”