Changing the Tune

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Nigeria adopted a new national anthem by taking up a previous version dropped decades ago and that had been written by a British expatriate, a decision that has sparked widespread criticism especially because critics say it was rushed through the legislature, the Associated Press reported.

Last Tuesday, both chambers of Nigeria’s parliament – dominated by the governing party – passed the bill authorizing the change less than a week after introducing it. President Bola Tinubu signed it into law a day later.

The new anthem replaces “Arise, O Compatriots,” which was introduced in 1978 by Nigeria’s then-military government and composed when the country was still reeling from a deadly civil war. The older anthem spoke of national unity and honored the efforts of past heroes.

Instead, Nigerians will now sing “Nigeria We Hail Thee,” which was originally introduced in 1960 when the West African country gained independence from the United Kingdom and was written by British expatriate Lillian Jean Williams.

Supporters of the “new” anthem said it was inappropriate to maintain an anthem instituted by a military regime.

But the change has garnered substantial public backlash, with many Nigerians expressing their anger on social media and refusing to sing the new anthem.

Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister, criticized the adoption of an anthem with colonial connotations, pointing out that its terms “Native Land” and “Tribes” are outdated and offensive.

Observers said, meanwhile, that the bill’s speedy approval surprised many Nigerians because parliament usually takes weeks or months to consider important bills.

The changes come amid Tinubu’s turbulent first year in office, which has been marked by widespread criticism and protests against his economic reforms. Chief among these controversial measures was the removal of fuel subsidies that had previously kept essentials more affordable for Nigerians, Voice of America wrote.

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