Nigeria has reinstated a national anthem that was written by a Brit and abandoned nearly 50 years ago.

President Bola Tinubu has signed a bill to revive Nigeria’s former national anthem. Senate President Godswill Akpabio revealed this announcement at a meeting with the Senate and House of Representatives.

On May 28, the national legislature of Nigeria adopted the bill in both of its chambers, and the country’s president, Bola Tinubu, endorsed it in a move that sparked criticism. The federal parliamentarians introduced and passed the bill in less than a week – a remarkably quick process for significant legislation that typically takes weeks or months to review.

But what is Nigeria’s new anthem and why has it caused outrage?

What is Nigeria’s new anthem?

The new version, Nigeria We Hail Thee, was introduced in 1960, when Nigeria gained independence from Britain, before it was dropped by the military nearly 50 years ago. The anthem was written by Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who was living in Nigeria at the time.

It replaces Arise, O Compatriots, which has been the official anthem since 1978. It was composed at a time when the country was reeling from civil war and calls on Nigerians to “serve our fatherland with love and strength” and not to let “the labour of our heroes past (to be) in vain”.

Why has Nigeria’s new anthem caused outrage?

This move sparked outcry due to the absence of public input during the changeover process.

Inflation hit a 28-year high of 33.2 per cent during Tinubu’s first year in office, and the change in the national song was written off by some as a cynical diversion from the worsening economic crisis.

In light of the cost-of-living challenge, many have questioned the president’s priorities.

On X, Nigerians responded by claiming that the nation’s most urgent issues were foreign exchange crises, rising inflation, and insecurity.

One user tweeted: “Changing the Nigerian national anthem written by a Nigerian, to the song written by colonizers is a stupid decision and it’s shameful that nobody in the National Assembly thought to stand against it.”

While another agreed: “A new national anthem is the priority for Tinubu & Co at a time like this, When our people can’t eat, insecurity is rife & life is hell?”.

Oby Ezekwesili, the former minister of education, declared that she would never sing the anthem. She said: “Let it be known to all and sundry that I, Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili shall whenever asked to sing: 1. the Nigerian National Anthem sing Arise, O Compatriots…”.


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