NIGERIA'S NATIONAL ANTHEM: Between Nigeria We Hail Thee and Arise O' Compatriots

30 May, 2024

Did you know that Nigerians criticised the choice of both women as the authors and composers of 'Nigeria, We Hail Thee' when it was first adopted as its official National Anthem, and that the second anthem 'Arise, O Compatriots' has been in use since 1978, until 2024, making it Nigeria’s longest-serving anthem?

Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria when it achieved independence, wrote the anthem’s lyrics, Nigeria We Hail Thee, in 1959, while Frances Berda composed the music around the same period.

However, the history of having a National Anthem for Nigeria began when the federal government launched a contest to compose an anthem for the country, offering a prize of £1,000, which Ms Berda, a ballet musician, won. Earlier, Ms Williams had won a separate prize for writing the anthem lyrics.

The late famous South African literary icon, Ezekiel Mphahlele, a former Drum Magazine reporter, who lectured at the University College (now University of Ibadan, UI), detailed the intrigues behind the adoption of ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ as an anthem in an article titled ‘Nigeria on the Eve of Independence in Africa Today’ published in September 1960. Among other details, he revealed that Nigerians criticised the choice of both women as the authors and composers of the anthems.

He wrote in the article, “In the name of independence, the winning entries should have been chosen from the 500 entries that came from Nigerians themselves. Others again argued that the music should have been composed first and then the lyrics fitted to it instead of the other way round."

The anthem was eventually adopted and used on 1 October 1960 to celebrate Nigeria’s independence.

When 'Nigeria, We Hail Thee' was first announced, the new national anthem faced criticism for a number of reasons. The Daily Service, a newspaper run by the Yoruba organisation Egbé Ọmọ Odùduwà, started a rebellious campaign against the national anthem, which led to a committee being established to collect signatures as a petition.

‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ was later dropped because it was British-brewed and did not include any Nigerian input. In 1978, John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, Babatunde A. Ogunnaike, O Sota Omoigui and P. O. Aderibigbe wrote the lyrics of the second anthem ‘Arise O Compatriots’.

In 1990, the Nigerian police band, under the directorship of B. E. Odiasse, composed the music for the second National anthem. The second anthem has been in use since 1978, or 48 years, making it Nigeria’s longest-serving anthem

Following its readoption in 2024, the song was again criticised for the lack of consultation during which the law designating it as the national anthem and for what was perceived to be misplaced priorities by the administration of President Bola Tinubu.

Former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, criticised the anthem's suitability given the presence of "pejorative" words like “Native Land” and “Tribes” and that she would continue to sing 'Arise, O Compatriots' as the national anthem. However, Mohammed Tahir Monguno, chair of the parliamentary committee that pushed through the anthem's readoption, said that the change was "apt, timely and important", while Tinubu said the anthem symbolised Nigeria's diversity.

Nigeria we hail thee
Our own dear native land
Though tribe and tounge may differ
In brotherhood we stand
Nigeria all and proud to serve
Our sovereign motherland

Our flag shall be the symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace and battle honour
And this we count as gain
To pass unto our children
As 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

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 leaders 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.

SOURCES: Wikipedia | PremiumTimes

#penglobalhistory #Nigeria

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