Nigerian Lives: 7 Nigerians React to the New National Anthem

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National anthem

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee” served as the national anthem of Nigeria from the country’s independence in 1960 until 1978, when it was replaced by “Arise, O Compatriots.” However, in a symbolic move, President Bola Tinubu signed into law a bill on May 29, 2024, reinstating “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” as the nation’s official patriotic song. It’s not unusual for countries to alter their national anthems to better align with contemporary values and shed associations with past injustices. After the apartheid ended, South Africa adopted a new anthem to move away from the racist overtones of its predecessor. In the aftermath of World War II, Germany embraced a third stanza of its anthem, denouncing the first two due to their Nazi connotations. There have also been calls in the United Kingdom to secularize the “God Save the King” anthem to make it more inclusive. 

So how do Nigerians feel about this new update? Culture Custodian spoke to 7 Nigerians to gauge their thoughts on the new national anthem.

Osarumen, Asaba

They are unserious. I haven’t even listened to the new one. There are so many things the government can focus on but they would rather focus on irrelevant things. 160 people were killed up north a few days ago. The economy is in shambles. There is no light even as I speak but sure let’s roll out a new national anthem. So unserious.

Michael, Lagos

The scrapped anthem was the product of six Nigerian men born and raised in Nigeria, while the first one was the handiwork of two British women. This means that the former has a Nigerian cadence lacking in the older version, making a mockery of the claim that the new anthem is better for national identity. Anthems are sometimes set to tunes composed by foreigners—Germany’s anthem is set to a tune by Joseph Hadyn, an Austrian—but usually their lyrics are written by a country’s citizens. This is true for Spain, Angola, Germany, Gabon, to name a few. By reverting to its old anthem, Nigeria joins the smattering of countries—The Gambia included—whose anthems are composed by foreigners, tune, and lyrics both. And because the foreign composers of the Nigerian anthem were British, the political implication is damning: Nigeria comes off as still beholden to its former colonial overlords. 

I would rather a gender-neutral anthem that is bled dry of religious phrasing. And I wouldn’t mind an anthem rendered in Pidgin English. 

Tope, Lagos

I’m actually too emotional (I’m so angry) to string together any coherent thought. I’m so angry. This thing feels like mockery. My patience is so thin already and it’s like those government people sit in their offices and think of new ways to provoke the public. And they’re so good at it. 

Deborah, Lagos 

I believe that it is one of the most unnecessary things the Nigerian government has ever done, especially now that the country’s economy is in shambles. It took less than a month for this decision to be made. Meanwhile, there are other important things deserving of such quick decision-making. It just proves that the government does not have the best interest of its citizens at heart. Also even if we didn’t have other pressing issues, changing the national anthem from what was written by a Nigerian citizen to what was written by a non-national is just baffling. 

I will not be learning the new national anthem. Also, I doubt I will ever be in a situation where I have to learn it and even though I have to attend events where the national anthem has to be sung, my contribution to society will be not be making attempts to learn or pay attention to it. 

Jessica, Imo State

Comparing the old anthem to the new one, it’s bullshit. The reason why they say they’re changing it is because they said it unifies Nigeria. That’s not even what Nigeria needs to be unified. It’s nonsense. I have a conspiracy theory, I’m wondering, are they using it to distract us? Is it some kind of colonial contract? Because isn’t it better for the anthem to be more anti-democratic than colonial? I don’t get it.

Brown*, Ibadan

I think there’s a deeper angle to it. It’s a terrible policy, but it’s a type of terrible I’m not sure I’ve seen since I was born. You can at least see the reason behind others, be it corruption, incompetence, or stupidity. But this doesn’t even add up. As regards the policy itself, it would be a national embarrassment if we revert to the old national anthem. This would be the country actually regressing instead of shaking off the vestiges of the colonial era so we can meaningfully progress. It speaks a lot about our leaders’ will and unwillingness to properly tackle the problems they were elected to solve. I always had a theory that our elected leaders were the most pessimistic of us about the Nigerian project, and they seem to be proving me right. The bill was literally passed in record time too! Since Buhari, every single day of being Nigerian has felt like Animal Farm. Now it feels like we’ve finally reached the end of the story. 

Julu, Lagos

If the anthem should be changed, it should be a fresh one, but it looks like our leaders love reminiscing on the “Good old days” while making the present hell. The anthem is catchy no doubt, but is that a priority? And except it’s coming to fix Afrobeats, it should go away. I won’t be learning it, maybe not deliberately, I don’t see myself being in a situation where I’ll be required to sing it anytime soon.


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