Old Anthem Turns New: What Uites Have To Say

By: Abdulrasheed Olokoto & Ugor Benedict

Either as a breath of fresh air or intent against former military Head of State and President Olusegun Obasanjo, it is no longer news that Nigeria on Wednesday, 29th of May, 2024 reverted to its old anthem, ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’.

The old anthem was adopted as the new anthem following its signage into law by President Bola Tinubu after the Senate had passed the bill to dump the former anthem, ‘Arise Ó Compatriots’.

Worthy of note is that the old anthem, ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’, was written by Lillian Jean Williams, a Briton, while the music was composed by Frances Benda. The anthem was sung from Independence on October 1, 1960, until General Olusegun Obasanjo changed it to the ‘Arise O’ Compatriots’ version under his military administration in 1978. This was because the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo was opposed to the colonial origin of the old anthem, and therefore replaced it with an independent and homebred anthem, which as claimed captured national values, ethics, and norms. Fifty years later, ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ has been legislated into respect.

A quick recap worth adding. The bill to adopt the old national anthem was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 23, with ruling party, and others supporting the change claiming that the old anthem helped promote national identity and unity, provoking, “feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of the country’s early years.”

Since the adoption of the new anthem, a huge stir has risen among Nigerians, without excluding students. The trail of reactions to the shortchanged anthem showed that there are a compound of perspectives on the re-foisted music.

Concerned Nigerians, including young citizens, questioned the reason an anthem should be Nigeria’s utmost concern when there are more serious issues troubling the nation, including crippling inflation, rising food insecurity, corruption, and economic hardship.

An array of students who spoke to IndyPress have shared different views. For Nnamdi Precious, a 200-level medical student, the anthem she said ‘is danceable‘. However, Abdulqoyum Alausa, another 200-level medical student, says “adapting to the new anthem is difficult” for him as he had unable to learn UI’s anthem completely.

There have been differing opinions among UITES regarding the lyrics and content of the new national anthem. Some students expressing dismay at its colonial origin and its disconnection from Nigeria’s current socioeconomic realities.

“I don’t even like the way it sounds,” remarked Zainab Ayomiposi, a 200-level law student. “I saw a line in the new anthem that reads: ‘A banner without stain’. Honestly, this administration is a joke… because I remember clearly in 2020 how many Nigerian flags were not just stained but soaked in blood,” she added.

However, Samuel Omofala, a student of the Faculty of Law expressed a positive view of the anthem’s lyrics saying “it acknowledges our diversity”. It added that “those saying it highlights our differences are just delusional people who want to overlook diversity”.

Conversely, Adekanbi Ezekiel A.K.A Easy, a 300-level Communication and Art Language student argued, “reverting to an anthem written by our colonialists shows we’re yet to free ourselves from the shackles of colonialism.”

Overall, the strongest opposition to the anthem change lies in its irrelevance with the challenges currently affecting the country. This is illustrated by Precious, a 400-level Statistics student, who said “at least, life first before looking into miscellaneous”.

Ayo, a 200-level Law student, also expressed his concerns saying “there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed in the country than an anthem that neither adds nor subtracts any benefit to the economy, and even the society”.

The University of Ibadan Students’ Union President, Aweda Bolaji labelled the change “a misplaced priority”. According to him, the anthem does not construct solutions to the myriads of problems of the common man. “What the common man cares is to have food on their table and better living conditions,” he said.

Despite two coin-sides of the issue, students at the University of Ibadan remain keen to see the impact it will have on the nation, particularly in an economy severely threatened by Nigeria’s handful crisis.



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