After hearing of the proposal of some delegates at the ongoing confab that we should revert to the old national anthem, I sat by my piano and played both anthems. Playing and singing to the current anthem “Arise O’ Compatriot” was basically easy because I had done that countless times and I wasn’t even looking at the piano keys as I sang through the verses.
I downloaded the lyrics of the old anthem just to be sure I was singing the right words. I know the tune by heart because my dad frequently sang it to me when I was a little school boy. And I felt nothing as usual singing it. But right from the first line of the old anthem “Nigeria We Hail Thee”, I felt a strange sense of pride and patriotism. I felt very strange because like every Nigerian, I am saddened that as a country, we have lost our way.
We are a giant tied to undeveloped nations, and kept in bondage by our leaders whose corruption and greed demonstrate a lack of love for their own people. As I got to the point that says “Though tribes and tongues may differ and in brotherhood we stand”, I discovered that I had stopped playing the piano and was just reciting the words.
Struck with the fact that the composers took to mind our vast ethnic differences and even proffered a solution that in “brotherhood” we will stand strong against adversaries, home or foreign. Our tribal and ethnic differences have been at the bottom of every problem we have faced as a country.
President Obasanjo had all the right in the world to dream, a leader who does not dream, hardly accomplishes much, but my point is that a leader has to dream right, and not take the nation on a pipe dream. There were lots of bridges our nation needed to cross at that time. There were lots of things a good leader should have seen happen, before going after such an unwarranted project of changing the national anthem.
Singing further, it became clear to me why the old anthem must have been changed immediately I saw the line that says “To hand on to our children a banner without stain.” The words of this anthem can only resonate in a country with moral leadership, starting from its leaders and permeating all tiers of the government from top to bottom. Corruption is no longer a problem in Nigeria as it has become a full fledge institution and a way of life.
Every morning at schools, chorus of voices try to hit the high notes of the current anthem, which have proved uninspiring even for the little kids. Ask our politicians why they always muffle the lyrics. In fact, many people consider ours the world’s least singable national anthem. I think it is time for a revert to the old anthem. Just like the confab delegates have pointed out.
It is obvious that we can no longer be comforted by the drum roll in the current national anthem. I haven’t seen any Nigerian smiling with pride whenever it is being played. I am sure Pa Odiase won’t be smiling at me now from heaven for saying this. But truth be told, the music of our current anthem has failed to inspire one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.
A lot of Nigerians have become too comfortable being tone-deaf and have resisted every attempt for their hearing to be restored. A lot of Nigerians love the tone of deceit as much as to dance to it. I have sung the current anthem countless times but my literary appreciation and criticism would not allow me to accept it. I kept asking myself what evil have we committed as a nation to warrant our leaders to seek escape from a vow to “hand over to our children a banner without stain.” They have changed the prayers in the old anthem to fading echos. Little wonder the country is at the brink of collapse.
We love Nigeria and believe in her great potential, but we must also address issues of oppression and injustice within her as written in the old anthem. I love the part that says “Our flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reigns.” Today, wherever you find the Nigerian flag, it is either torn or rumpled so bad or on make-shift poles that you wonder if our leaders in government and people ever consider such symbols as important at all. How can you indoctrinate your people on how to appreciate and value their citizenship and nationality if symbols like that mean nothing to you? And when you don’t value what you have, how do you expect other nationals to value it? It all boils down to the nation doing what it needs to do to make its citizen proud to belong. Our governments, state and federal, just don’t value such things.
The current anthem talks about love. But our political leaders show only love for themselves and their immediate family. We are living the opposite of everything called for in the current anthem. Our leaders with their blindness are unable to see the car crash waiting to happen. They should know that the history of this nation can never be altered or erased no matter how hard they try.
THE OLD ANTHEM (1960 – 1978)
Nigeria we hail thee, Our own dear native land, Though tribes and tongues may differ, In brotherhood we stand, Nigerians all are proud to serve, Our sovereign Motherland.
Our flag shall be a symbol, That truth and justice reign, In peace or battle honour’d, And this we count as gain, To hand on to our children, A banner without stain.
O God of all creation, Grant this our one request, Help us to build a nation, Where no man is oppressed, And so with peace and plenty, Nigeria may be blessed.
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