Home Nigeria How lawmakers accelerated, passed bill to change Nigeria’s National Anthem

How lawmakers accelerated, passed bill to change Nigeria’s National Anthem

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The House of Representatives, on Thursday, passed a bill to revert to the old National Anthem. The process was done in the green chamber amid opposition from lawmakers across party lines.

The bill, sponsored by the House Leader Julius Ihonvbere (APC, Edo) and titled: “Act to Provide for the National Anthem of Nigeria, and for Matters Related,” was given a speedy passage during plenary.

Tinubu’s interest in old anthem

The manner of passage of the bill in the House and the Senate gives the impression of vested interest in the legislation.

President Bola Tinubu has in the past advocated the adoption of the old National Anthem in place of the current anthem.

In 2011, Mr Tinubu, as the leader of one of the main opposition parties, called for the adoption of the anthem in place of the current one.

“Abandoning the post-independence anthem, which arguably evoked a strong spirit of patriotism and brotherliness, to compose a very drab replacement, is far less inspirational,” Mr Tinubu said during a speech at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, Jos, Plateau State.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Tinubu also expressed hope to return to the old anthem.

He will mark a year in office on Wednesday. Although the president has ordered a low-key celebration, however, this old anthem may provide a symbolic win.

The 2014 National Conference also recommended the adoption of the old anthem. The conference regarded the old anthem as a better symbol of unity, peace and prosperity.

Closed door session

The House commenced Thursday’s session around 11:15 a.m. but later dissolved into executive session that lasted about 40 minutes.

It is unclear what the lawmakers discussed behind closed doors though sources said it was not unconnected with the issue of the anthem.

Upon resumption, the lawmakers continued legislative activities, but the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Ben Kalu, later introduced a supplementary order which had only the Anthem Bill.

From first to third reading

Following the introduction of the bill, Mr Ihonvbere led the debate on its general principle. He said the current anthem lacks the rigour of the old.

“I have taken time to look at the old anthem and the new, and as a Nigerian who has been involved in the struggle to make Nigeria a better place either as a student to the student union movement including the “Ali must go” movement or as a university teacher; having been secretary, vice chairman and chairman of ASUU or as a pro-democracy activist who spent twelve and a half years in self-exile, I believe that the old anthem, encompasses, contains, exudes the kind of energy, resourcefulness and a sense of vision that I believe is good for Nigeria,” he said.

Speaking on the bill, the Minority Leader, Kingsley Chinda, countered the submission of the leader, stating that the old anthem is a symbol of the past.

He also highlighted the fact that it was written by Lillian Jean Williams and composed by Frances Berda, who he described as a “symbol of colonialism”.

“While it is our function to make laws, but for every law there must be a spirit to it. If we are asked what is the essence of this law?” Mr Chinda, a lawmaker from Rivers State, said.

He said there must be a “clear cause” to make law, and that the lawmakers will be taking “ourselves back” by passing the bill to revert to the old National Anthem.

“What value will it add to us as a nation? I stand to oppose it. I asked the leader to withdraw the bill,” he said.

Ahmad Satomi (APC, Borno) also spoke against the bill by calling into question the usefulness of the bill to hunger and insecurity.

“Let’s do something that will bring development in the eyes of the international community. Let us think of something that will bring progress,” he said.

Another Borno State lawmaker, Ahmad Jaha (APC, Borno) supported the bill by questioning the content of the current anthem.

Following the conclusion of the debate, Mr Kalu put the bill to voice vote and the voice of those who said “nays” were louder but he ruled in favour of those who said “ayes”.

The ruling generated mild uproar in the House as some lawmakers expressed disapproval.

Unperturbed by the dissenting voices, the deputy speaker, rather than referring the bill to a committee for public hearing, listed it for consideration at the Committee of the Whole.

At the Committee of the Whole, the opposition to the bill appeared to have waned as only the minority leader raised concerns over the typos in the bill but Mr Kalu got his way.

Following the clause-by-clause consideration at the committee, Mr Kalu listed the bill for the third reading and it scaled when it was put to vote.

Content of the bill

Clause three of the bill makes it mandatory for the anthem to be recited at some of the following events:

Opening and closing ceremonies of Federal Executive Council, and State Executives Council meetings.

Opening and closing of sittings of Legislative Houses in Nigeria,

Constitutional oath-swearing ceremonies,

Flag-raising ceremonies,

Major celebrations, major award ceremonies, major commemorative ceremonies, national memorial ceremonies and the like, which are organized by MDAs,

Major diplomatic activities,

Major sporting events,

Other occasions as may from time to time, be determined by the minister responsible for education with the consent of the president.

Furthermore, clause four forbids the alteration of the lyrics of the anthem

“The Performance and singing of the national anthem shall follow the lyrics prescribed by the Federal Government of Nigeria,” clause 4 of the bill reads.

The bill also proposed that ”The Ministry responsible for information shall organise the review and approval of the standard for performance of the national anthem, and record the official recording of the national anthem to be played.

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“The standard and official recorded versions of the national anthem shall be published on the Federal Government of Nigeria’s website.”

According to the bill, the lyrics of the anthem is going to form parts of the civic education curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

“Primary and Secondary schools shall make the lyrics of the national anthem part of the civic education and organize pupils and students to learn the national anthem,” clause seven reads.

The bill is proposing to make “the second stanza of the current national anthem the national prayer.”

The bill also passed second reading in the Senate and is expected to be passed by the upper chamber before it is sent to President Tinubu for assent.

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