History Of Nigerian National Anthem

Before Nigeria gained Independence, the special British anthem was sung at all official or important events. However, months before the country’s freedom from the British rule, a Nigerian National anthem was composed.

It was written by Miss Lillian Jean Williams and was rendered by Miss Frances Benda. Both the music composer and the writer were Britons.

Subsequently, this song which was popularly called ‘Nigeria we hail thee’ was adopted by the country on the 1st of October, 1960, the Nigerian Independence Day.

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The wordings of this National Anthem is as follows

Nigeria we hail thee,

Our own dear native land,
Though tribes and tongues may differ,
In brotherhood we stand,
Nigerians are proud to serve,
Our sovereign motherland.

This anthem was quite impressive and it remained a national symbol for many years, precisely between 1960 and 1978. It was often sung at official events and occassions but was eventually abandoned for a couple of reasons:

It was written by a Briton
The anthem highlighted our differences: “…Though tribes and tongues may differ…”

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This led to a call by the Federal Government to create an open competition for Nigerians to send in submissions for the lyrics of a new anthem. There were over a thousand submissions precisely, one thousand four hundred and forty nine (1449).

At the end of the day, 5 individuals were chosen. Those who wrote the selected Nigerian National Anthem were given N1000 for their intellectual works and they are:

  1. B. A. Ogunnaike
  2. Eme Etim Akpan
  3. John A. Ilechukwu
  4. Sota Omoigui
  5. P. O. Aderibigbe

The compositions from these five composers were blended into one and the new composition was handed over to the head of music of the Nigerian Police Force, Benedict Elide Odiase on the 10th of May 1978.

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Benedict Elide sought the help of the Professor Akin Euba and consequently the lyrics of the anthem were rendered into music by the Nigerian Police Band. This new anthem was adopted and sang for the first time on the 1st October, 1978, during General Olusegun Obasanjo regime. It is in two stanzas.

The anthem was applauded by many as it glorified the rich vibrant culture and heritage of the country. Also, the patriotism expected of every Nigerian is deeply embedded in the lyrics of this anthem. Basically, this great song is national call for all Nigerians to serve their motherland not just passively but with love and compassion.

The song also takes into account the historical past particularly the struggles of the national heroes pre-independence and it also infuses the aspirations of the future generation.

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Unlike the previous national anthem, this anthem highlights the single chord that binds the citizen of this great nation no matter where they are.

1st stanza

Arise, O compatriots

Nigeria’s call obey

To serve our fatherland

With love and strength and faith

The labour of our heroes past

Shall never be in vain

To serve with heart and might

One nation bound in freedom

Peace and unity.

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The anthem has a second stanza, although not as popular as the first stanza, it is a unique call. Basically, this is a prayer which is offered to the Creator to guide the nation, the leaders and the youth aright. In this respect, the blessings of the lord are prayed for so as to guide the nation towards prosperity whilst ushering an era of peace in the country.

2nd stanza

Oh God of creation

Direct our noble cause

Guide our leaders right

Help our youth the truth to know

In love and honesty to grow

And live in just and true

Great lofty heights attain

To build a nation where peace

And justice shall reign.

You’ll probably hear this stanza in solemn gathering like churches or mosques. As a matter of fact, the Federal Executive Council in 2012 decided that the second stanza should be the official national prayer and was to replace the separate Christian and Muslim prayers often offered at official gatherings and events.

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Overall, the Nigerian Anthem speaks to the heart of every Nigerian and it is indeed the dream of every citizen of this great nation. The anthem has been translated to other languages such as Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo.

We certainly can’t talk about the National Anthem with mentioning the National Pledge. The pledge is often recited after the anthem with one hand raised or placed on the left side of the chest.

It was written by Professor Felicia Adebola Adedoyin in 1976. Although, the pledge is a short recitation it is very powerful and the wordings are as follow:

“I pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest. To serve Nigeria will all my strength, to defend her unity, uphold her honor and glory, so help me God.”

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Finally, the Nigerian National Anthem is a symbol of national significance and the roots and reality of this anthem should never be forgotten if you’re a Nigerian.

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