Nigeria Reverts to Colonial Anthem: Why Bill Passed in Record Time

May 23, 2024 0 Posted By Kaptain Kush

The Nigerian House of Representatives has set a record for the fastest bill passage in the country’s history. Within minutes, the bill to revert to Nigeria’s old national anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” went through the First, Second, and Third Readings at lightning speed. 

Simultaneously, the Senate passed the bill through the First and Second Readings and then referred it to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters for review. The committee’s report is due in two weeks.

Why the Rush?

The bill’s rapid progression has sparked speculation and suspicion. Why the urgency? To understand this, we need to delve into the history and context of Nigeria’s national anthems.

The Colonial Anthem: “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”

At the time of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the British colonial administration perceived Nigerians as lacking the creativity to craft their national anthem. 

Consequently, they enlisted Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate, to write the anthem and Frances Berda to compose its music. This anthem was imposed on Nigerians without their input or participation, and it contained lines that some felt mocked Nigeria’s diversity:

Though tribe and tongue may differ,
In brotherhood we stand

Many Nigerians felt the anthem did little to foster a true spirit of brotherhood, and some even refused to sing it.

The Birth of a Truly Nigerian Anthem

Following the civil war, General Olusegun Obasanjo, then the head of state, sought to break away from colonial influences and heal the nation. In 1978, his regime initiated a national competition for a new anthem, resulting in contributions from diverse Nigerian writers: P. O. AderogbuBabatunde OgunnaikeJohn IkechukwuEme Etim Akpan, and Sotu Omoigui

Their writings were fused into the current national anthem, with music composed by Benedict Odiase, then the Director of Music in the Nigeria Police band. This anthem resonated deeply with Nigerians, symbolizing unity and national pride and reflecting the country’s post-war reality.

Today’s Controversial Decision

Today, the National Assembly’s decision to discard the indigenous anthem in favor of the colonial one has ignited controversy. Critics argue that the move undermines Nigerian creativity and identity, reverting to a symbol imposed by colonial rulers. 

Proponents of the bill believe the old anthem aligns better with the current administration’s vision and promotes unity.

The People’s Verdict

The debate now shifts to the public: Does the reinstatement of the old anthem make sense? Should Nigeria hold on to the anthem crafted by its citizens and symbolize its post-independence unity and creativity, or should it return to the colonial anthem? The swift passage of this bill has left many questioning its motives and potential impact on Nigeria’s national identity.

Ultimately, the judgment lies with the Nigerian people as they reflect on this significant shift and its implications for the nation’s future.

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