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Controversy Erupts as Nigeria Debates Return to Colonial-Era National Anthem

The House of Representatives is rapidly advancing a bill to replace Nigeria’s current national anthem with an older one composed during colonial times. Within minutes, the bill passed its first, second, and third readings. The Senate treated it with similar urgency, propelling it through the first and second readings before sending it to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters for further review, with a report expected in two weeks.

Many Nigerians, including Hon. Ahmed Satomi of Borno State, vehemently oppose this bill. In a compelling argument presented in the House of Representatives two days ago, Satomi stated, “Countries that rely on prayers will always depend on countries that do think.” He urged the legislature to focus on initiatives that would bring stability, progress, and prosperity to the nation and improve the lives of ordinary Nigerians.

To evaluate the merit of this bill, let’s compare the two anthems. The first anthem, composed by Lillian Jean Williams with music by Frances Berda, was handed down by our colonial rulers. Its lyrics emphasize our differences rather than unity. Conversely, the current anthem, written by Nigerians with music by Benedict Odiase, the former Director of Music in the Nigeria Police Band, is a clarion call for patriotism, peace, and unity. This anthem has become internationally recognizable, thanks to the achievements of our sportsmen and women.

Switching back to the colonial anthem can be compared to allowing someone else to name your child. In contrast, the current anthem is like naming your own child, a source of national pride. The present anthem, much like our flag, is integral to our national identity. Proposing to revert to an old anthem, which underscores our differences, is not only anachronistic but also regressive.

Moreover, the idea of relearning an abandoned anthem from nearly 50 years ago is impractical. Even if we consider this proposal, it lacks substance. The bill would have been more compelling had it proposed adopting the second stanza of the current anthem, which is equally inspirational, rather than reverting to the colonial-era anthem.

Honorable members and distinguished senators, this bill is frivolous and should not occupy your legislative agenda. There are far more pressing issues demanding your attention. The minimum wage matter remains unresolved, moving at a snail’s pace and deserving urgent intervention. Insecurity plagues the nation, requiring strengthened efforts and improved security measures. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs remains without a minister, while billions allocated for palliatives languish unutilized, which could alleviate the suffering of the less privileged.

Millions of unemployed graduates roam the streets. Expanding the National Civil Defense Corps could help address unemployment and bolster security. Numerous infrastructure projects, such as incomplete highways, are progressing slowly. Firefighting equipment is inadequate, leading to preventable losses in fires. Legislative efforts should focus on empowering INEC to conduct local government elections, replacing the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC).

If reverting to the old anthem could bring tangible benefits such as reducing inflation, creating jobs, or putting food on the tables of ordinary Nigerians, it might warrant consideration. However, since it does not, the proposal should be left in the past. Singing that “our tribes and tongues may differ” is an outdated notion and should remain so.

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