New National Anthem: Ozekhome SAN lauds FG, says action in order

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome has pitched his tent with the federal government for introducing a new National anthem, “Nigeria, we hail thee”.

Osekhome, a human rights and constitutional lawyer made his position known in a statement made available to Blueprint on Sunday.

The anthem with three stanzas it would be recalled was written by a Briton, Frances Berda, whilst Lilian Jean Williams composed the lyrics.

The anthem was to last till 1978 when the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, caused it to be replaced with a new National anthem titled “Arise, O Compatriots”.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu few days ago assented to a bill bringing back the old anthem.

A wide spectrum of the society has criticized the President and the National Assembly for pursuing with such vigor, the replacement of the existing.

Their argument has been that, whether old or new, none of the National anthems has brought food to the tables of any Nigerian or constructed our dilapidated roads; or stabilised the Naira.

But while justifying the FG stance, the learned silk maintained that anthem evoked so much passion and nostalgia.

He said, “I give kudos to President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly on this.”

Ozekhome stated further that the anthem encompasses the entire dreams and aspirations of Nigerians, adding: “it also mirrors a conversation that took place in the early 1940s between Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello as to whether we should recognise or forget our differences

Justifying further, he said: “Section 24 (a): “abide by this Constitution, respect its ideals and it institutions, the National Flag, the National anthem, the National Pledge and legitimate authorities” .

“What the National Assembly just did on 29 th May, 2024, was actually my idea ten years ago, when on the floor of the 2014 National Confab which was headed by the now late Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (JSC) Rtd, with his deputy as Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, and the Secretary as Dr. Mrs Valerie Azinge, SAN.

“Just like Nostradamus, the man who saw into the future, I had moved a motion on Wednesday, 2 nd July, 2014, calling for the replacement of “Arise, O Compatriots” with “Nigeria, we hail thee”.

“Some of the reasons I gave, which I repeated on 27 th May, 2024, at the public hearing organised by the Senate during my contribution to the debate, is that the old National anthem possesses more nationalistic fervor, more patriotic gravitas and more inclusive and aggregative tendencies for a country yearning for nationhood than the bland and colourless “Arise, O Compatriots” which did not and could not energise Nigerians to see themselves as one people under one God.” The senior lawyer said.

Nigeria is not the first country and will not be the last country to change its National anthem. For the avoidance of doubt, the following countries at one time or the other changed their National anthem for various reasons. Such countries are Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brasil, Bulgaria, Chile, Cape Verde, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, South Korea, Kuwait, Mozambique, Netherlands, Niger, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United States of America, Vatican City, Vietnam, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe.