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HomeNewsNASS move to return old National Anthem divides Nigerians

NASS move to return old National Anthem divides Nigerians

Last Thursday, Nigerians were taken aback when a bill seeking to replace the country’s current National Anthem with the old one was introduced in both houses of the National Assembly, NASS, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it expeditiously scaled the first, second and third reading on the same day.

On Monday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, became one of the leading voices against the hurried passage of the bill changing the National Anthem.

He told the National Assembly that the law regarding the National Anthem should not be enacted through legislative debate alone.

The AGF stated this at a one-day public hearing on a bill to revert to Nigeria’s old national anthem.

The AGF’s position is in direct conflict with the Senators’ stance.

Fagbemi warned that the national anthem law should not be passed without adequate consultation with the people in the form of a plebiscite or referendum, which he posited was the global standard.

He said: “In some cases, the national anthem emerges from open national competition among interested citizens. In other instances, the proposed national anthem is subjected to a plebiscite or referendum before its eventual adoption or declaration.

The essence of the foregoing is to secure the buy-in and confidence of the people and to ensure that the anthem meets their collective aspirations and suits their contemporary socio-political conditions.

Against the background of the foregoing, I am of the considered opinion that the revered issue of the choice of a national item should not come into being only by legislative fiat or presidential proclamation alone.

Consequently, it is my considered view that the decision to change Nigeria’s national anthem, whether by replacing it with the old one or a new one, should be subjected to a wider process of citizen participation through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State National and State Assemblies.

The outcome of this process is bound to be a true reflection of the wishes of the generality or majority of Nigerians.”

Similarly, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, recommended that the scope be expanded to include a robust issue on national identity rather than limiting it to the change of the national anthem.

The Minister, who was represented by the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, noted that some lines in the old national anthem do not make complete sense.

“The issue of the national anthem is just a sub-sect. What we should be looking at is the National Identity Act.

“The challenge we have today is that we do not value national identity, of which the national anthem is one aspect. It is not about singing in schools; it is about learning it and imbibing it,” he said.

Also cautioning the National Assembly on the expeditious passage of the bill, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, called for wider consultations for Nigerians to accept whatever National Anthem is proposed and buy into it.

According to him, the National Assembly should widen the scope of participation in the process of coming up with such an Act for general acceptability.

He, however, supported the move to replace the current “Arise, O Compatriots” National Anthem with “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” which the country started with in October 1960.

He said such a move was long overdue since the current National Anthem, adopted in 1978, does not have the required gravitas and is not inspirational enough to ignite the passion and zeal for nationhood among Nigerians.

According to him, Nigeria will not be the first country in the world to replace the current national anthem with the old one, as over 20 countries like Russia, Austria, Chile, France, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, etc., have done so at different times in the past.

One of those who have cried blue murder about the development is the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Maxi Okwu.

He agreed that the lawmakers have abandoned important issues of economic hardship and insecurity which have driven millions of Nigerians into abject squalor to pursue an issue that has no bearing on the improvement of hunger and insecurity in the land.

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He described the moves as a kind of idleness and lack of focus on the part of the lawmakers. “It is such an irrelevant issue that they have time for such diversionary activity. I am shocked that the Bill passed the first, second and third reading on the same day.”

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“Look at the level of emergency in the country. Look at the level of hunger, anger and frustration in the land and the lawmakers are talking about the national anthem. We have lost focus completely,”.

For Adebowale Wifred, an entrepreneur, the lawmakers are just acting like jesters.

“They have just decided to chase shadows instead of the substance. But, why are we like this,” he queried.

He is also of the opinion that Nigeria is being buffeted from all angles by various problems ranging from economic to religious and security issues, a development that has brought untold hardship to millions of Nigeria, lamenting the lawmakers have chosen to abandon all those and push for the return of the old national anthem.

Will that put food on the table of any Nigeria? Will it stop the banditry, the kidnapping, the wanton spilling of blood across the country? Why can’t we be serious in this country for once?

Nigeria is at the verge of collapse and all the lawmakers could think of is how to return the old national anthem. People are dying of hunger; bandits are riding roughshod on Nigerians; Fulani herdsmen have prevented farmers from going to farm and Nigerians are facing acute food crisis but our lawmakers do not want to do anything about that.

It is how to return the old national anthem that they are concerned about. We are finished in this country,” he said in an interview with DAILY POST.

Also reacting to the development, a social worker, Mrs Vivian James, threw her weight behind the lawmakers.

She believes that the wordings in the old national anthem are more of uniting Nigerians than the current one.

“I think the lawmakers are right. The old national anthem makes more meaning in terms of uniting Nigerians, particularly the verse, ‘though tribe and tongue may differ; in brotherhood we stand.

“You know that Nigeria is made up of several ethnic tribes with many languages. As such, the country needs an anthem that promotes unity in every ramification and I think the old national anthem is just apt.

The current national anthem does not promote unity in diversity and that is what the country needs at this material point in time. So, I support the move to revert to the old anthem,” she stated.

For Marcellus Onah, a legal practitioner, the lawmakers are not living up to the expectations of Nigerians.

He believes that there are so many issues weighing down heavily on Nigerians, which they are expected to offer lasting solutions through legislation, but lamented that they have completely abandoned those important issues that would impact positively on the lives of the people.

“What are we even talking about? How can anybody be talking about the national anthem as the problem in Nigeria today? Nigerians are suffering; people cannot no longer feed because inflation has gone to such a level that our Naira is valueless.

There is insecurity everywhere ranging from kidnapping, banditry to Boko Haram insurgency and farmers/herders clashes.

Corruption is almost crippling the economy and bringing the country to its knees, yet the lawmakers have chosen to waste their energy on mere national anthems.

I just wonder how reverting to the old national anthem would solve the problem of corruption which is almost becoming a norm in the system. How will that solve the exchange rate issue in the land which has affected the price of virtually all imported items in Nigeria, even the locally produced goods?

How will that solve the problem of hunger in the land? How will it arrest the issue of insecurity that has made life so miserable for almost everybody in Nigeria today?

I think our lawmakers should be made to know that Nigerians are suffering and they are required to churn out legislation that would bring succor to the people at this point in time,” he noted.

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