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N/Assembly passes bill to return first national anthem

The National Assembly on Thursday passed a bill to return the national anthem adopted when Nigeria got its independence on October 1, 1960.

First, in the Senate, the bill passed for a second reading, following its presentation during plenary by Senate leader, Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central).

Before its passage, the senators held an executive session for almost two hours which was presided by the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio.

At the commencement of the plenary, Bamidele said, “You will agree with me that those who were around in the 60s and the late 70s, would attest to the fact that the anthem played quite a significant and crucial role in shaping Nigeria’s national identity and unity, as well as engendered a high sense of value and personal belonging amongst the citizenry.”

After passage, Akpabio referred the bill to the Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs and asked it to report back to the committee of whole as soon as possible.

Similarly, the House of Representatives passed for third reading, the bill reverting to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”, the country’s old national anthem as the new anthem.

The bill which stood in the name of the house leader, Prof. Julius Ihonbvere, underwent an accelerated consideration from first, second and third reading on the floor of the house.

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee” was the former national anthem of Nigeria, used from Independence in 1960 until 1978 when it was replaced by a new anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots.”

The passage of the bill at plenary presided by the deputy speaker, Ben Okezie Kalu, came despite opposition by the Minority Leader of the House, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers), and some other lawmakers.

Ihonvbere, while leading debate on the bill, emphasised the need for Nigerians to see the anthem as a national symbol and sign of authority; one which does not deny the realities.

Titled: “A Bill for an Act to provide for the National Anthem of Nigeria and for Related Matters (HB. 1470),” the bill among other provisions stipulates that the second stanza of the “Arise O Compatriots” anthem shall be formally recognised as the national prayer to be recited at all state functions.

Furthermore, the bill makes it mandatory for all primary and secondary schools to incorporate the new national anthem as part of civic education and organise pupils and students to learn it.

Ihonvbere said the bill underscores the imperative of comprehensive civic education to engender a renewed sense of patriotism and dedication to the principles espoused by the nation’s founding fathers.

But Chinda while opposing the bill argued that the old national anthem was composed by Britons and that reverting to it at this point was tantamount to bringing back the memories and heritage of the colonial masters. He called for withdrawal of the bill.

Also opposing the bill, Rep. Ahmed Satomi (Borno, APC) also questioned the relevance of the house debating the issue of reverting to the old national anthem at a critical time the country was battling biting hunger and security challenges.

Notwithstanding the opposition and a walkout staged by some of the lawmakers, the bill scaled through to third reading at the house.