Nigeria’s new national anthem, written by a Briton, is sparking criticism after a controversial law was passed

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria adopted a new national anthem Wednesday after lawmakers passed a law that replaced the current one with a version scrapped nearly half a century ago, sparking widespread criticism over how the law was rushed passed without much public input.

President Bola Tinubu’s assent to the bill comes a day after it was approved by both houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling party. Federal lawmakers introduced and passed the bill in less than a week, an unusually quick process for major bills that typically take weeks or months to consider.

The national anthem ‘Arise, O Compatriots’ that was replaced had been in use since 1978, when it was introduced by the military government. Composed at a time when the country was reeling from a deadly civil war, the anthem calls on Nigerians to “serve our homeland with love and strength” and “not let the labor of our heroes go in vain.”

The new version, which takes effect immediately, was first introduced in 1960 when Nigeria gained independence from Britain before the country’s army dropped it. It’s called ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ and was written by Lillian Jean Williams, a British expat living in Nigeria at the time.

The new national anthem was played publicly for the first time during a legislative session attended by Tinubu, who marked his first year as president on Wednesday.

However, many Nigerians have taken to social media to say they will not sing the new national anthem, including Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister and presidential candidate who said the new law shows the country’s political class does not care. about the general interest.

“In 21st century Nigeria, the country’s political class has found a colonial anthem with pejorative words like ‘Native Country’ and ‘Tribes’ admirable enough to foist on our citizens without their consent,” Ezekwesili wrote on X .

However, proponents of the new national anthem argued that it was wrong for the country to adopt an anthem introduced by the military.

“Anthems are ideological recitations that help people to be more focused. It was a very sad development for the military to have changed the national anthem,” said public affairs analyst Frank Tietie.

Chinedu Asadu, The Associated Press

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