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Justice minister cautions against imposing national anthem on Nigerians

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Prince Lateef O. Fagbemi (SAN), has cautioned the National Assembly against the imposition of National Anthem on Nigerians.

Fagbemi said the change of national anthem should be a true reflection of the wishes of the majority of Nigerians and not only by legislative fiat or presidential proclamation. 

He spoke on Monday during a public hearing on a bill seeking to return the October 1, 1960 national anthem in the country.

Recall that the House of Representatives and the Senate last week accelerated the passage of the bill, which was greeted by criticisms from civil society organisations (CSOs), university dons and other Nigerians.

Fagbemi said the decision to change the national anthem whether by replacing it with the old one or a new one, should be subjected to a wider process of citizen participation.

He said it should go through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State, National and State Assemblies among others.

He said, “A national anthem is expected to enjoy universal acceptance and veneration amongst the citizens, for it to attain the status of an official song that commands respect, patriotism and national consciousness.

“In some cases, national anthem emerges from open national competition among interested citizens.  In other instances, the proposed national anthem is subjected to plebiscite or referendum, before its eventual adoption or declaration.

“The essence of the foregoing is to secure the buy-in and confidence of the people and to ensure that the anthem meets their collective aspirations and suits their contemporary socio-political conditions.

“Against the background of the foregoing, I am of the considered opinion that the revered issue of choice of a national item should not come into being only by legislative fiat, or presidential proclamation alone.

“It is not out of place for Nigeria to be guided by the process of evolution of a national anthem in other jurisdictions. For most African countries, the national anthem symbolises the end of colonialism. Hence, former British colonies jettisoned ‘God Bless the Queen’ to adopt their home-made national anthems, which were all notably written by their own citizens.”

However, the National Chairman of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, has urged Nigerians to support the National Assembly’s decision to repeal the current national anthem and revert to Nigeria’s original anthem.

Making the call on Monday in Abuja at a media briefing, Nwanyanwu, said that the original national anthem evoked a better sense of patriotism among Nigerians than the military-imposed anthem currently in use.

He also urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to waste no time in assenting the bill in the interest of national cohesion and development.

“Many countries of the world have retained their national anthem for several centuries as long as they existed as a nation. Nigeria, unfortunately, has become a guinea pig that everything is experimented on without a convincing reason.

“The 1960 National Anthem of Nigeria touches the very core of our diversity, and religious complexities. That National Anthem evokes emotions and the call for a united Nigeria where equity justice will reign supreme, with no citizen oppressed and a section being preponderant over others with clear equality of citizens,” Nwanyanwu said.