National Anthem Reversal Trend: Like other countries Nigeria Reverts to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”

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On Wednesday, May 29, 2024, President Bola Tinubu marked a significant cultural shift for Nigeria by signing the National Anthem Bill 2024, which officially replaced the longstanding anthem “Arise, O Compatriots” with “Nigeria, We Hail Thee.” This legislative move, passed by the House of Representatives on May 23, heralds the return of Nigeria’s original national anthem, first adopted in 1960.

The outgoing anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots,” had been a fixture at public events since its introduction in 1978. Its lyrics, designed to inspire unity and patriotism, have been ingrained in the national consciousness for over four decades. However, the revival of “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” signals a nod to Nigeria’s early post-independence identity and heritage.

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee” was penned by Miss Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who resided in Nigeria at the time of its independence. The anthem, reflecting the aspirations and sovereignty of the newly independent nation, was initially adopted in 1960 and remained the national anthem until it was replaced in 1978. The reintroduction of this anthem is seen as a move to reconnect with the nation’s roots and embrace the original spirit of independence.

Nigeria’s decision to revert to its first national anthem follows a trend seen in other countries where national anthems have been changed to reflect shifting political landscapes or cultural renaissances. For instance, Rwanda introduced a new anthem, “Rwanda Nziza,” in 2001 to foster unity and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. Similarly, Zimbabwe adopted “Simudzai Mureza wedu WeZimbabwe” in 1994 to establish a distinct national identity separate from the pan-Africanist “Ishe Komborera Africa.”

South Africa’s post-apartheid era saw the merging of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” and “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” into a new anthem in 1997, embodying the country’s new democratic ethos. The Democratic Republic of Congo also reverted to its original anthem, “Arise Congolese,” in 1997 after the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko, having previously switched to “La Zaïroise” in 1971.

Ghana altered its anthem in 1960 to “Lift High the Flag of Ghana,” reflecting its transition to a republic, while Namibia adopted “Namibia, Land of the Brave” upon gaining independence from South Africa, replacing the South African anthem that had previously been in use. Libya, under Muammar Gaddafi, changed its anthem in 1969 to “Allahu Akbar” to promote Arab unity, but reverted to “Libya, Libya, Libya” following Gaddafi’s fall in 2011.

These examples underscore how national anthems can serve as powerful symbols of a country’s evolving identity and political transformations. In Nigeria, the return of “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” is a poignant reminder of the nation’s enduring journey and a tribute to its historical roots as it forges ahead into the future.

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