Protests erupt as Nigeria changes national anthem

A wave of discontent has swept through Nigeria after the national anthem was altered with minimal public input. On Wednesday, President Bola Tinubu signed into law a bill reinstating Nigeria’s previous national anthem, which had been replaced by a military regime in 1978.

The revived anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” was penned by Lillian Jean Williams in 1959 and set to music by Frances Berda. During a speech marking his first year in office, President Tinubu highlighted the anthem’s representation of Nigeria’s rich diversity. However, this decision has sparked considerable debate, with many citizens questioning the president’s focus amid the country’s severe economic challenges.

Online reactions have been particularly critical. Numerous Nigerians voiced their concerns over pressing issues like security threats, escalating inflation, and a volatile foreign exchange market. On the social media platform X, user @Gospel_rxx criticized the administration’s priorities: “A new national anthem is the priority for Tinubu & Co at a time like this, when our people can’t eat, insecurity is rife, & life is hell? What a sordid joke! Let’s see how they implement it…”

Similarly, X user Fola Folayan condemned the parliamentary approval process: “Changing the Nigerian national anthem written by a Nigerian to a song penned by colonizers is a stupid decision. It’s shameful that nobody in the National Assembly stood against it.”

Former Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili took to X to express her defiance, declaring she would never sing the revived anthem. She posted the lyrics to “Arise O Compatriots,” the anthem in use for the past 46 years, asserting her commitment to continue singing it.

As the discussion rages on social media, former presidential aide Bashir Ahmad offered a provocative viewpoint, suggesting that this change might prompt calls for broader national symbols to be reconsidered. He asked, “After the change of our national anthem, some people are now calling for the name Nigeria and the national flag to be changed as well. What do you think? Should we keep the name Nigeria?”

In contrast, Tahir Mongunu, chairman of the parliamentary committee that advanced the bill, brushed aside the criticism, labeling the change as “apt, timely, and important.” He argued that the new anthem would foster patriotism and cooperation, enhance cultural heritage, and pave the way for greater national unity.

Supporting this sentiment, Kano resident Habu Shamsu shared his approval with the media: “I think it’s more encompassing, and I like the way it flows.”

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