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House of Representatives Considers Returning to Nigeria’s Old National Anthem

 

On Thursday, the House of Representatives moved a bill to its second reading, proposing that Nigeria return to its old national anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee.”

Julius Ihonvbere, the sponsor of the bill, emphasized the importance of patriotism and nationalism in his argument for the proposal. He noted that the old anthem, adopted in 1960 when Nigeria gained independence, had deep connections to the country’s colonial past. It was written by a British expatriate, Lillian Jean Williams, with music composed by Frances Berda.

The anthem was replaced in 1978 by the current anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots,” for several reasons. Many felt that the original anthem, with its British roots, did not fully capture the spirit and aspirations of a newly independent Nigeria. There was a strong desire for an anthem that reflected the country’s cultural diversity and united its many ethnic groups.

The 1970s were a time of growing national pride and a push for embracing indigenous culture. Leaders believed that a new anthem would better symbolize Nigeria’s journey and future goals. In this period of national reconciliation following the Nigerian Civil War, a new anthem was seen as a way to foster unity and national purpose.

Public sentiment also played a significant role. Many Nigerians felt that the old anthem lacked the emotional and patriotic fervor needed to inspire the nation. People wanted an anthem that resonated more deeply with their experiences and hopes.

To address these needs, a national contest was held in 1978 to create a new anthem. The winning entry, “Arise, O Compatriots,” was composed by the Nigerian Police Band under the direction of Benedict P. Odiase. The lyrics were a blend of contributions from five Nigerians: John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B.A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui, and P.O. Aderibigbe.

The new anthem was adopted to represent unity, peace, and progress, celebrating Nigeria’s independence and inspiring national pride.

 

Here is the old anthem:

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 honoured,  

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.

 

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