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May 30, 2024, 12:34pm EDT
africa

The strange case of a ‘new’ Nigerian national anthem

Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images
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Nigeria’s president signed into law a bill to change the national anthem, sparking criticism from Nigerians. The “new” anthem returns to a version used from independence in October 1960 until 1978, a year before the first era of military rule ended.

The lyrics and music of the former anthem, titled “Nigeria We Hail Thee,” were composed by two British women, Lilian Jean Williams and Frances Berda. “Arise, O Compatriots,” on the other hand, was created by five members of the Nigerian police band and has since been sung and played across the world for nearly 50 years.

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The bill for the new anthem passed through parliament within a week. Ruling party supporters of the change say the old anthem helped shape national identity and unity, provoking “feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of the country’s early years.”

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The speedy amendment has rankled many Nigerians. Made official on the day of the president’s first anniversary, proclaiming a new-old anthem smacks of a hasty attempt at contriving a feel-good anchor to distract from a difficult year for residents.

If only there have been similarly rapid solutions to the spiraling prices of food and medicine, and for achieving stability for a still depreciating currency.

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