Nigeria, we salute thee!


Nigeria, we salute thee!


In 2014, delegates of the national confab unanimously adopted a recommendation for a return to the old national anthem, “ Nigeria we hail thee.”

As a matter of fact, it was reported that they had risen to their feet and in unison, sung the first stanza of the old national anthem gleefully. When this happened, I guffawed, regarding them as a group of revisionists who were so sentimentally attached to remote modus operandi. I thought that they were stuck in the past, lacking the fortitude to move on while relishing on memories of the so-called “good old days”. If providence had not been so altruistic, I should have choked on my words and mourned the ignorance that had possessed me to regard the delegates as clueless almost three years ago.
That year, I took on the task, for the first time in my existence as a Nigerian, to search for the words of our old anthem. The moment I read the words of the old anthem “Nigeria we hail thee”, in that year, like blind Bartemaeus, I received my sight but simultaneously, I was buffeted by a cocktail of emotions. I was tremendously envious of the older generation that were privileged to sing “Nigeria we hail thee” and despicably piteous of myself and posterity who would not have their lives impacted by the very poignant words of “Nigeria we hail thee”. Like a forsaken koala in the heart of the eucalyptus, I wailed within my soul for this generation. However, I exited the cinema a brand new Nigerian in 2014 and that change has remained with me. While reeling from the effects of the words of the old anthem in 2014, I remembered the confab’s recommendation.
I began to nod vehemently in affirmation. They were absolutely right. Perhaps it is time we went back to singing “Nigeria we hail thee”.
“Nigeria we hail thee” was the former national anthem of Nigeria and it was used for almost two decades until “Arise, O Compatriots” was adopted in 1978.” Perhaps, this change was because the lyrics of the anthem were written by Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria when it achieved independence and the music for the anthem was composed by Frances Berda, another Briton but truth be told, these Britons understood the entity of Nigeria and wrote deeper, soul piercing words that depicted the nucleus of the nation.
In our bid to shed all vestiges of our colonial heritage, we blindly erased a crucial ingredient of our collective national greatness. The inspiration, emotion, nationalism, unity, hope and progress interred in the deep words of Lilian were washed away in the torrential downpour of half-hearted nationalistic fervor merged with impatience to brandish the green freedom we were doled.
When the adoption of “Arise, O Compatriots” was announced, it faced criticism from the Daily Service, a newspaper ran by the Yoruba organisation Egbé Omo Odùduwà. Today, I sincerely wish that the opposition had held its ground and I am certainly not the only Nigerian who belongs to this school of thought. If a referendum is taken, a lot of well-meaning Nigerians, the true patriots, will advocate for a replacement of the current anthem. The old national anthem encapsulates the image of the nation when it was on the right track before it detoured via corruption and avarice. The old national anthem would exhume a reminiscing in the minds of those that sang it in their school days of the beauty of Nigeria before the civil war which happened because we ignored “Nigeria we hail thee”. For, if we had continued walking in brotherhood, seeing every man as equal, as admonished by the anthem, there wouldn’t have been a civil war.
It would remind them of times when the Nigerian pound, and later the Nigerian naira, was stronger than the American dollar. When students lived luxurious lives in the federal universities- ate as the regal with milk, chicken and fruits as part of their meals; only students who weren’t brilliant sought admissions in foreign universities; they will, of a surety, remember when Nigeria was the country of dreams for other African citizen who migrated into our shores in the face of apartheid and economic problems.
The old anthem was indicative of whom and what we truly are; it spoke of brotherhood in diversity, of truth and justice, of service to our dear motherland, of legacy to posterity, of equality, of peace and abundance. This is why the footballers of old cried when the national anthem was played before the match. The lyrics were like a soothing balm; the music a pleasant melody that pointed to the clear blue skies after the cloud.
Nigeria would be 57 by the weekend but we are yet crawling, eating the bread of sorrow and besieged by recession. We are being oppressed by evils; both self orchestrated and alien. Our prosperous lands have been ravaged by famine, diseases and floods. Our daughters have been forcefully harvested into whore-mongering. The home of peace has become a desolation and a human abattoir of incessant killings, our naira has experienced an unhindered fall in value, our temples of justice desecrated, our youths are losing their lives in an attempt to migrate to other climes for greener pastures, parents are shipping their children out of these shores for quality education, unemployment reigns supreme. It was not always like this. The time has come for an overhauling. We need healing for our lands, our economy, and our politics but where can we find such potent elixir?
For over three dozen years, we have sung “Arise O Compatriots” whose bland lyrics were got from entries into a national contest. Ironically, the nation is crawling in diapers. Perhaps, it is time to put the cynicism aside and return to Hailing Nigeria and maybe, the sleeping giant will awaken. After all, Lord Lugard after a cup of tea in 1914 amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates. We maintained that status quo but resolved in defiance, to annihilate the powerful words that flowed from the fountain of Lilian’s soul.

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