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Criticisms trail reintroduction of old National Anthem

The passage of the bill to reintroduce the old National Anthem by the National Assembly has elicited criticisms, Daily Trust on Sunday reports. ‘Nigeria, We…

The passage of the bill to reintroduce the old National Anthem by the National Assembly has elicited criticisms, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.

‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’, composed by the Britons, was the national anthem of Nigeria used from Independence in 1960 until 1978, when it was replaced by a new anthem, ‘Arise, O Compatriots.’

The bill, which was simultaneously introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday, received an accelerated consideration and passage.

The speed with which both chambers of the National Assembly considered and passed the bill at a time Nigerians are facing more pressing issues occasioned by rising inflation and security challenges, has been criticised by opposition lawmakers and civil society organisations.

Those kicking against the National Assembly’s action argued that the bill ought to have been subjected to a public hearing to allow various stakeholders to make inputs.

This is as informed sources said there are already moves to ensure that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu assents to the bill ahead of May 29 to mark the first anniversary of his administration.

Analysts, CSOs fault bill

In an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, analysts and civil society organisations argued that the resolution of the National Assembly to revert to the old National Anthem was a misplacement of priority, and also a sign of disconnection with reality.

The Country Director of Action Aid Nigeria (AAN), Mr. Andrew Mamedu, in an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, said the bill to revert to the old National Anthem “is an absolute misplacement of priorities and an abuse of legislative privilege, especially given the numerous pressing issues facing the nation that remain unaddressed”.

He stated: “While the National Anthem is a symbol of our heritage, the urgent and concurrent approval of this bill stands in stark contrast to the lack of prioritisation and accelerated legislative action on critical national matters. Issues such as security, economic stability, education, healthcare and infrastructure development are in dire need of attention and resources.

“It is profoundly disappointing and frankly outrageous that the National Anthem is being prioritised over these vital concerns”, he stressed.

Similarly, Yiaga Africa’s Senior Communications Officer, Mr. Mark Amaza, told one of our correspondents that the actions of the federal lawmakers on the issue were “a misplacement of priorities”.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with our current National Anthem that warrants a change. Not only that, this episode shows how disconnected our legislators are from the challenges of Nigeria that at this critical juncture, they chose to prioritise a needless return to our former National Anthem”, Amaza said.

The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Comrade Ibrahim Zikirullahi, also decried that Nigeria continued to exhibit a disturbing trend of misplaced priorities.

According to him, it is disheartening to see the nation trapped in a cycle of ineffective leadership.

“Our senators, elected to represent the masses, seem disconnected from the pressing needs of the people. Who among the citizens indicated that changing the National Anthem was a priority?

“Nigerians are hungry, angry, and deeply disappointed. Trust in the government is at an all-time low.

“Changing the National Anthem does not address the urgent issues we face: it doesn’t put food on our tables, create jobs, improve security, provide reliable electricity, clean water, good roads, or quality healthcare,” Zikirullahi said.

On his part, a former senator from Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, said the parliament should have consulted widely before tampering with the National Anthem.

He said that altering the National Anthem without wide consultations would be seen as an attempt to dissolve Nigeria.

Commenting on his X handle, the former lawmaker said: “Tempering with or changing the National Anthem or National Pledge of Nigeria should be done after wider public consultation and should be factored in the process of constitutional amendments.”

A seasoned journalist and former Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, also faulted the lawmakers’ decision to reintroduce the old National Anthem.

He said: “The excessive embrace of the past is part of the metaphysical nostalgia that refused to appreciate the political economic choices and wrong leadership recruitment processes that led us to the deep pit we have been dug into.

“Instead of searching for far more rational and scientifically relevant instruments of problem solving, our lawmakers think an empty gesture of nostalgia offers an easy route.

“There is also an unacceptable demographic tyranny that Opeyemi Bamidele and his colleagues are attempting to impose on Nigeria, with the plan to revert to the old National Anthem. It is an anthem that would resonate with the generation born before independence and maybe immediately after. Let us unpack the facts”, he said in an opinion article published in Daily Trust on Saturday.

Lawmakers’ move in order – NOA DG

The Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Lanre Issa-Oninlu, said even though the bill was yet to become a law, the move was not a bad one.

“You see, there is so much in words that we speak and we hear. So, in communication, the impact of our statement resonates with us. There are some anthems that you listen to and then you see a call to it. They call you to action. They ask you to act and do certain things. And there are some that are just flags that are just like any other song.

“And anytime you sing them, you don’t feel any psychological attachment. No any feeling. It doesn’t call up any passion in you. It doesn’t really speak to your emotion, and doesn’t call up to your sentiment.

“And it’s important that you have an anthem that connects with your sentiment; that calls you to action so that when carrying out those actions, the impact of the anthem will now reflect in our lives”, he said in an interview on Trust TV’s Daily Politics.

Senate, Reps’ spokespersons silent

Efforts by Daily Trust on Sunday to get reactions of the spokespersons of the two chambers of the National Assembly were unsuccessful.

The spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Yemi Adaramodu (Ekiti South), could not be reached on phone. He also did not reply WhatsApp and SMS messages sent to him for comments.

In the same vein, spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Akin Rotimi, neither answered calls nor replied a whatsapp message sent to his mobile telephone line.

How N/Assembly passed bill

At the upper chamber, the ‘Bill for an Act to Provide for the National Anthem of Nigeria and Related Matters’, was introduced and passed for a second reading same day, unlike other bills which are introduced and debated at a later date during plenary.

The bill was introduced by the Senate Leader, Senator Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central).

But before it was passed, the senators had gone into a two-hour executive session presided over by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

Sources at the National Assembly told Daily Trust yesterday that some senators were opposed to the planned return of the old national anthem.

Senator Bamidele, who presented the bill, argued that the current national anthem was forced on Nigerians by the military, and pleaded with his colleagues to pass the bill to jettison it and reintroduce the old one.

The Senate president referred the bill to the Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, and mandated it to report back to the Senate in two weeks for further legislative action.

In the House of Representatives, however, the bill, which stood in the name of the House Leader, Prof Julius Ihonbvere, underwent an accelerated consideration from first, second and third readings.

Our correspondent reports that the bill was not listed on the main order paper for the day, but it appeared on the supplementary order paper.

The House, like the Senate, held an executive session before the commencement of plenary, which saw the accelerated passage of the bill at a plenary presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Okezie Kalu.

This was despite the opposition by the Minority Leader of the House, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) and some other lawmakers.

Ihonbvere, while leading the debate on the bill, said the time had come for Nigeria to reflect on the past, present and forecast the future by looking at the National Anthem as a national symbol of unity.

According to him, “the realities of the time call for a focus on a true renewed hope and it is pertinent to go back to the old National Anthem as it reflects more on the Nigerian spirit.”

But Minority Leader Chinda, while opposing the bill, questioned the need for bringing back the former version of the National Anthem.

He noted that the history of the former version dates back to the colonial times and was composed by Britons, adding that the new version was implemented to free Nigeria from the hold of colonialists.

He also stated that Nigerians do not see National Anthem as the pressing issue right now, and that the House should dwell more on insecurity, hunger and economic hardship.

Rep Ahmed Satomi, in contributing to the debate stated that Nigerians need the government to provide solutions to hunger and insecurity and not to tell them which National Anthem to sing.

But despite the opposition, the bill was passed for second reading and referred to the Committee of the Whole where it was passed and the third reading followed thereafter.

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