“Nigeria, We Hail Thee”, Senate Passes Second Bill to change Nigeria’s national anthem

Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria when it achieved independence, wrote the anthem’s lyrics while Frances Berda composed the music.

A bill seeking to revert to the old Nigerian National Anthem has passed a second reading at the Senate.

The bill seeks to replace the current National Anthem with the former one, which was adopted on Independence Day on 1 October 1960 but was dropped in 1978 by the then-military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo.

It was first read during the plenary on Thursday and passed for first and second readings after most senators supported it when the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, put it to vote.

The senate president thereafter referred it to the Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters and Internal Affairs for further legislative action and report back as soon as possible.

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee” was adopted as the country’s first national anthem upon gaining independence from Britain in 1960.

The Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, led the debate on the bill.

Mr Bamidele said the old anthem contributed immensely to the national identity and unity of Nigerians than the existing anthem.

“The anthem, upon rendition, inspired and stimulated a deep sense of patriotism in Nigerians. You will also agree with me that those who were around in the 60s and the late 70s would attest to the fact that the anthem played quite a significant and crucial role in shaping Nigeria’s national identity and unity, as well as engendered a high sense of value and personal belonging amongst the citizenry.

“It was symbolic of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and nationhood. In retrospect, the anthem served as a regular and constant reminder of our journey as a nation and provoked feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of the country’s early years,” he added.

The senate leader urged his colleagues to support the replacement of the existing anthem with the old one.

“Mr President, my dear Colleagues, at this momentous time in our national history, it is imperative that we utilise any platform that seeks to unite the country and promote patriotism amongst Nigerians.

“Accordingly, the old National Anthem, as a symbol of national pride, has provided insights for patriotic reflections on our aspirations, values and hope for a united and prosperous Nigeria. The rendition and musical accuracy of the anthem are better in content and context than the current one. On this note, permit me, at this juncture, to reproduce the anthem to serve as a reminder and reflection.

“The new anthem “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” will inspire in us the zeal to build a fully integrated and indivisible nation, whereby all citizens will live in unity and harmony,” Mr Bamidele added.

Most senators who contributed to the debate supported it and urged the Senate to consider public hearings on the issue before final passage.

Jimoh Ibrahim (APC, Ondo South) argued that the old National Anthem portrayed brotherhood and unity more than the existing anthem.

“Who are the compatriots? If you say compatriot, what about those who are not compatriots, are they not Nigerians? Mr Ibrahim queried the existing anthem.

The old anthem discussed brotherhood. If I know you are my brother, I will ensure you are safe,” he added.

Mr Ibrahim, however, urged the Senate to conduct a public hearing on the issue.

“Let us conduct data and find out how many secondary school children can recite the National Anthem. I urge you to conduct a public hearing to hear the views of Nigerians. If we get the National Anthem right, we will get Nigeria right, and if we fail to do so…” he added.

Victor Umeh (LP, Anambra Central) also supported the bill.

“The old one which we are seeking to bring back is the one that has all the ingredients we need. In other words, we are planning Nigeria above all considerations.

“National Anthem is supposed to be motivational. The old National Anthem is motivational; it contains brotherhood slogans. When I was growing up, I looked at Nigeria as my symbol of life,” Mr Umeh said.

Dyke Plang (APC, Plateau Central) argued that for Nigeria to be united, its people must see themselves as brothers.

Unity can only be acquired when there is brotherhood. For Nigerians to be united and be one, you will need a lowest common multiple and that lowest common multiple is that we are brothers.

“The component of brotherhood in our national anthem is very important,” Mr Plang added.

Titus Zam (APC, Benue North) and Asuquo Ekpenyoung (APC, Cross River South) also backed the bill.

Mr Ekpeyong urged the leadership of the Senate to engage Nigerians adequately before considering passage of the bill.

Culled from Premium Times