Why did we give up this anthem that ought to have been a constant reminder to us all about what our allegiance to the country requires? I have heard all the argument about the colonial undertones in the anthem as well as how derogatory the word tribe was. These do not provide sufficient explanation, it really had to be something more. Something really BIG! Somehow we need to get our conspiracy theorist to look at this.
My opinion? I think General Obasanjo and his group changed the anthem in 1978 because they gave up on handing over to our children “a banner without stain” as stanza 2 of the anthem required us to. It sort of dawned on them that, as a nation, we were incapable of doing that. It was also probably that they were visionaries. They saw the future and noted that the generations of rulers we would have won’t be thrilled with a stainless banner. If they consider handing over any banner at all, they would rather have it stained, torn and shredded! As visionaries, Obasanjo and his team might have seen that Nigeria was not going to be a land “where truth and justice reign”. They must have deeply thought about it and concluded that they do not want to be sycophants or pharisaic and it was better they expunge such onerous commitments from the anthem.
How else can we explain the current situation in Nigeria in the light of what it used to be? My kids, who have been beneficiaries of God’s grace, attend schools with facilities that are amazing. I usually tell them of the facilities that we had in my days in Ibadan that they were equally comparable to what they are having now. In response, they say “Daddieeee”. That is their word for incredible, too good to be true!
Growing up in Bodija, with “incredible” roads and well laid out houses interspersed with green vegetation was lovely. That environment was comparable to any environment you have in the suburbs of London or any other international city of now. Again, my kids will say “Daddieeee”. I spent years of my youth in Agege and Akoka. While these places were not as amazing as Bodija, we had tarred roads and public water was a reality. Going round these areas now is a pointer to how bad things have become – an open sore that has failed to heal.
When NYSC, in its wisdom, sent me miles away from home to the South East, one of the immediate learning was how blessed Nigeria was. The journey was 8 hours by J5 (not many will remember that Peugeot contraption that was the vehicle of choice for commercial transportation by Roadtune) through lush vegetation crossing the beautiful River Niger bridge at Onitsha. Absolutely no pot holes on the roads. I travelled a section of that journey a few years ago by flying to Port Harcourt and then by road along similar terrains. The roads were gone, erosions have created gullies all over and the journey took almost 6hrs. Note that this journey was less than 1/8th of what I used to cover in 8hrs.
I sort of understand my children’s measuring yardsticks. They’ve seen it all in their years – the deplorable state of infrastructure around them as they grew up. The insecurity of lives and properties and the general lack of care for anything good by the majority of our people. Now, added to this , is the terrible news that, day after day, is being churned out of that space of this earth called Nigeria. I have stopped being bothered by their “Daddieeee”. I would have given the same response (if not more, though I might have ended up getting a few slaps) if I were in their shoes.
NIGERIA’s NATIONAL ANTHEM 1960-1978
Nigeria we hail thee,
Our own dear native land,
Though tribe and tongue may differ,
In brotherhood we stand,
Nigerians all, and proud to serve Our sovereign Motherland.
Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign,
In peace or battle honour’d,
And this we count as gain,
To hand on to our children
A banner without stain.
O God of all creation,
Grant this our one request,
Help us to build a nation Where no man is oppressed,
And so with peace and plenty
Nigeria may be blessed.