• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

In numbers: Did Nigeria make the right national anthem choice?

Kemi-national-anthem

Nigeria’s national anthem debate has come to a close, with President Bola Tinubu signing a bill on May 29th, 2024, that reinstates “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” as the country’s official anthem.
This move marks a return to the anthem that served the nation for 18 years from its 1960 independence until 1978.

The big picture

Nigeria has a unique history with its national anthems. “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” composed by British expatriate Lillian Jean Williams and Frances Berda, was adopted at independence. However, in 1978, a committee of Nigerians—P.O. Aderibigbe, John A. Ilechukwu, Dr. Sota Omoigui, Eme Etim Akpan, and B.A. Ogunnaike—penned a new anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots,” with music by Nigerian composer Benedict Odiase. This anthem, seen by some as more unifying and focused on national service, held sway for 46 years.

Key differences

The two anthems differ in a few key aspects. Authorship is a major point: “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” is a foreign creation, while “Arise, O Compatriots” is entirely Nigerian-made. There’s also a tonal shift. “Arise, O Compatriots” has a more overtly inspirational and unifying message, urging Nigerians to serve their nation. “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” may be perceived as less unifying, with some suggesting it emphasizes different tribes.
Also, while Arise, O Compatriots has two stanzas, “Nigeria we hail there” is made up of three stanza.

What next

Despite their differences, both anthems are short, memorable, and express love for Nigeria. Interestingly, both were also replaced through legislative action. As of today, May 30th, 2024, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” reclaims its place as a symbol of national pride. While no one can predict the future of this new-old anthem, Nigerians for now will be hailing their nation with a familiar tune.