‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ and ‘Arise O Compatriots’’: Foreign Implications of Killing Nigeria Softly  Nigeria Softly 

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ was Nigeria’s first National Anthem, the lyrics of which was done in 1959 by Lillian Jean Williams and music of which was provided also in 1959 by Frances Berda. The Anthem was adopted as Nigeria’s National Anthem when Nigeria acceded to national sovereignty on October 1, 1960. But, for various reasons, including the need to promote indigeneity of ownership and also inspire Nigerians, the Anthem was replaced in 1978 under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, with ‘Arise O Compatriots.’ Inspiring Nigerians and securing public trust and support, especially after the reckless killing of Murtala Mohammed on 13 February 1976, a new anthem of the type of ‘Arise O Compatriots,’ became a desideratum in the mania of the former Soviet Union, which has changed its National Anthem two times: ‘The State Anthem of the Soviet Union was the national anthem of the USSR and the regional Anthem of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1944 to 1991.’ Before then, it was ‘The Internationale’ and was changed during World War II to inspire all citizens during the war.

When compared, Nigeria’s 1960 National Anthem had three stanzas while the 1978 National Anthem has only two. Again, while the 1960 anthem considered Nigeria as a ‘motherland,’ the 1978 anthem sees Nigeria as a ‘fatherland.’ The preference for fatherland may be explained by ‘too-ism’ policy of the Tafawa Balewa administration which protested to France against the use of ‘La Nigéria’ unless within the context of ‘La Fédération du Nigéria. Nigeria saw herself to be mature and therefore wanted to be referred to as ‘Le Nigéria.’ Put differently, Nigeria apparently asked why ‘Le Niger’ and ‘La Nigéria?’ The choice of ‘fatherland,’ rather than ‘motherland’ as from 1978 was to underscore the masculine factor, self-maturity, self-reliancism, leadership and determination to attain greater heights.

More important, the opening sentences of the two anthems are noteworthy. The 1960 anthem says ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee.’ The 1978 anthem says ‘Arise O Compatriots.’ With ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee,’ the authors of the anthem simply recognised the positives attributes of Nigeria in terms of diversity of tribes and language and togetherness by resolution. But these attributes are not good enough to build a sovereign nation, hence the concluding sentences of the third stanza: a request was made to the God of creation to kindly ‘grant this our one request, help us to build a nation where no man is oppressed’ in the hope that such a nation that will be free from oppression will foster peace, abundance and engender divine blessing for Nigeria.

As for ‘Arise O Compatriots’ it assumed that a Nigerian nation already exists and that the nation is either slumbering or sleeping, hence arising to serve the fatherland. In serving the fatherland, God is asked to direct and guide Nigerian leaders, help ‘our youth the truth to know, in love and honesty to grow, and living just and true; great lofty heights attain…’ Most unfortunately, however, the two anthems have been completely bastardised in breach of the anthem objectives and destroyed softly on daily basis, thus creating a bleak future for Nigeria.

Hailing and Killing Nigeria Softly

Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ was an anthem of patriotism, of better days to come and of a special expression of gratitude and a plea to God Almighty for a better self-reliant Nigeria. Even though the anthem had been replaced, it is argued here that, before it was changed, its essence had been completely neutralised. For instance, the expression of ‘though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand’ became meaningless with the 1962 crises in the then Western Region, the January 1966 coup and the counter-coup d’état that followed in the country, as well as the 1967-1970 civil war of national unity. In other words, there was nothing like brotherhood or any genuine intention to build a Nigerian nation. All that were done were more of promotion of ethnic politics and self-preservation. General Yakubu’s theory of 3-Rs (Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation), and particularly the pretention that there was no ‘victor and no vanquished,’ meant nothing, as the complaints and agitation of the Igbo people for a separate Sovereign Republic clearly show that the building of a Nigerian nation has been more of an aspiration. Nothing is truly being done to build a nation, not even with the introduction in 1973 of the NYSC scheme following the end of the civil war.

In fact, with ‘Arise O Compatriots,’ whose lyrics was composed by Ben Odiase, the Director of the Nigerian Band, it is Nigeria that is calling on all Nigerians to obey Nigeria’s call and to serve the fatherland. But which Nigeria is making the call on Nigerians to come out and serve? Chief Obafemi Awolowo is on record to have considered Nigeria as nothing more than a geographical expression. Has Nigeria changed from being a geographical expression? Indeed, rather than obey and serve, it is the gradual destruction of Nigeria that has come to characterise the political governance of Nigeria with particular emphasis on institutional corruption. 

First, what is the exact figure of litres of Premium Motor Spirit (Petroleum) consumed daily in Nigeria? The figure is currently generating much controversy. As queried by Colonel Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, during the hearing on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (2023-2025) before the House Committee on Finance, how do we explain that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) puts daily consumption of PMS at 60 million litres and 98 million litres are lifted daily from the depots?

In this regard, he disagreed with the NNPC claims that petrol contributes largely to the amount of money set aside for subsidy. In his words, ‘the issue is not the smuggling of petroleum… If we are consuming 60 million litres of petrol per day by their own computation, why in the world would you allow the lifting of 98 million litres per day? … So how do we get to 60 million every day? If you say this petrol is smuggled, if you release 98 million litres, and then we use 60 million litres, the balance will be 38 million litres. How many trucks will carry 38 million litres? Everyday. That’s almost 500. Which road are they following? Where are they carrying this thing to? (Vide Channels Television report, September 1, 2022).

The point being made here is the fact of official institutional corruption. The NNPC is not apparently honest with the figures publicly given, especially in light of the arguments put forward by the Comptroller General of the Customs Service. This is one manifestation of the killing softly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For most enlightened Nigerians, the notion of Nigeria is not a big deal. It is still a child’s play.

Secondly, there is incompetent governance as a problematic. Professor Jide Osuntokun has noted that ‘our country is not mobilised for production and productivity. We all rely on collecting commissions on oil and gas exports and our people, apart from the salaried ones, do not pay taxes, and our country is almost unique in this respect. This is why we do not have a government that responds to the wishes of the people, because it can exist while ignoring the people because it does not depend on their taxes.’

Besides, in the eyes of Professor Osuntokun, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) is mainly challenged by insecurity, collapsed economy and corruption, over administration, too many States and too many Local Governments, over centralisation and concentration of too much power in the centre, and devaluation of the Naira, all of which ‘are intricately interwoven.’ What is noteworthy about these problems is not their existence but their raison d’être. 

Why their existence in the first instance? Insecurity is largely a resultant of both Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi made it clear to African leaders that there would not be peace in Nigeria until the country is divided into Muslim North and Christian South. It is therefore not surprising that wherever territory the Boko Haram succeeds in occupying, it always quickly installs its flag of independence and sovereignty. Thus, one objective of the Boko Haram insurrection is to make Nigeria an Islamic State and where it is difficult, to limit it to northern Nigeria to begin with. This is why Sharia law predominates in the North and why there is religious misunderstanding in the country. 

As regards Fulanisation agenda, not only has the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, revealed in Channels Television interviews on 16 September 2019 and on 15 February 2022 that foreign Fulani herders would benefit from the Federal Government’s Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) agenda and that Nigeria has a lot of ungoverned space that could be occupied and economically made use of by foreign Fulani herders. In other words, Nigeria is to play host to all Fulani herders coming from West and Central Africa. 

If we reckon with the AU agenda of continental integration, there is nothing wrong with accommodating one another in Nigeria, especially as a leading country in Africa. However, there is no terra nullius in Nigeria, and therefore the incoming Fulani herders can only be forcefully settled in Nigeria. This is precisely what is ongoing in Nigeria: forceful acquisition of titled land from legitimate owners and giving the land to Fulani herders. Again, this is killing Nigeria gradually and softly the future of which cannot but be very bleak.

Thirdly, according to the Chatham House, quoting the The Economist’s “Catch me if you can, African kleptocrats,” about $582 billion has been stolen from Nigeria since 1960 and not less than N11trillion has been diverted in the power sector alone since 1999 while N1.3 trillion public funds was laundered between 2011 and 2015. In fact, the quoted The Economist, has it that Britain’s International Corruption Unit says that it had confiscated $117m loot from Nigeria since 2006, and ‘another £791 million has been frozen worldwide thanks to its work.’

Fourthly, there is the issue of dirty petrol saga in which there is presence of methanol in four petrol cargoes imported through the Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) suppliers. ‘Under the DSDP contract, NNPC sells its crude oil to selected middlemen for refined petroleum products. But the contract of dirty petrol saga showed NNPC sold its crude oil to middlemen who sell the product to an international buyer, making super profits thereafter, proceed to get cheap petrol from another refiner in Europe.’ Most unfortunately, the number of middlemen is on the increase and they are bent on making more gains than adding value and by so doing, increasing the expenses of the NNPC. Dealing with middlemen and not with refiners directly is killing Nigerian softly (Oladehinde Oladipo’s Dirty Petrol Saga…’ Business Day, February 14, 2022.  

Foreign Implications

Nigeria is indisputably on the path of national disintegration apart from the domestic agitations for separation. Extra-Nigerian forces also appear to be aiding and abetting the dismantlement of Nigeria. France was once identified as aiding the Boko Haramists, a situation that has prompted a public protest and demonstration in front of the Embassy of France in Abuja some two years ago. And more recently, a French pilot, Rémy Quignolot, was arrested in Nigeria with his helicopter believed to be owned by General Abdulsalaam Abubakar. The helicopter was reported to be carrying food, ammunitions, weapons, to the bandits, kidnappers, insurrectionists, herdsmen and cattle rustlers. Consequently, the various manifestations of the killing of Nigeria softly cannot but continue to be of major interest to them. It cannot but be of interest to see the killing of Nigeria speedily and deepened.

PMB rightly believed that his RUGA policy settlement would ‘attract a lot of  investments to Nigeria’ and that ‘in the next  five years, each RUGA settlement will provide nothing less than 2,000 employment opportunities…job creation, access to credit facilities, security for pastoral families and curtailment of cattle rustling.’ However, as much as PMB is looking at the benefits of his RUGA policy, he is also most unfortunately ignoring that foreign investors cannot but have their own politico-economic objectives, which may include the dismantlement of Nigeria for obvious reasons: neutralise Nigeria that has been the main leader in Africa challenging the Euro-American hegemony in global governance. It is not in the interest of the West to have any strong African State with the capacity to successfully challenge it in international relations.

In the same vein, it is probably only in Nigeria that we can have a public institution, generating not less than N2.54bn annually and also expending the same amount as running costs, meaning that there is no business gain. It is also in Nigeria that about 90% of generated revenue can be diverted to a controversial petroleum subsidy, which many people also consider as very fraudulent. It is only in Nigeria that people will be openly and officially indicted, or impeached or sacked from work and will still be eligible to contest in elections and win. In other words, bad behaviour is not an issue in electoral politics in Nigeria. 

Internationally, observers do not take kindly to situations of the Nigerian type. Airline operators cannot have their legitimately earned foreign exchange from sales of tickets, compelling them to issue threats of checking out of Nigeria, a development that has also prompted the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide about $250m bail out. Nigeria’s international image cannot in any way be helped with this situation. In fact, the mere fact that the EU ambassadors held a meeting with the PDP standard flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, last week to investigate the likely pattern of Nigeria-EU bilateral relations in the event of a PDP government in 2023, cannot but be an opportunity to delineate what future there is for Nigeria. This means that Nigeria will be under constant watch.

In fact, the problem of foreign exchange scarcity has critically affected the aviation sector. At the domestic level, the airline operators have complained about foreign exchange scarcity and high cost of Jet AI (aviation fuel). The Federal Government, as explained by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, believes that ‘energy crisis is real and it is global. Today, there is aviation fuel problem all over the world. From America to New Zealand. It is aggravating in Nigeria because we don’t produce the product.’ Besides, ‘it is aggravated also because the foreign exchange is scarce in Nigeria and the source of earning the foreign exchange has also dwindled.’ The implication of this is that the Nigerian environment is increasingly becoming unfriendly to foreign direct investments.

Without doubt, Nigeria has also become very expensive to live in. Self-supplied electricity and living costs are prohibitive, particularly for the poor, while the well-to-do Nigerians are living the life of a bourgeois. For instance, a Nigerian Senator earns $2,183,685.00 per annum, compared to a US Senator’s $174,000.00; Canadian Senator’s $154,000.00, German Senator’s $119,500.00, British Senator’s $105,400.00 and South African Senator’s $104,000.00. Thus, the Nigerian Senator earns the highest. Nigerian political leaders hold their meetings in Europe, not in Africa, not to mention holding them in Nigeria. This is also to showcase high society mentality.

And perhaps more disturbingly is the creative sophistry with which public funds are unduly spent or embezzled by public officials in Nigeria. One style is to consciously slump during investigations into acts of impropriety. One popular case is that of the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Daniel Pondei, in 2020. There was a hearing on the NDDC on why Daniel Pondei should be expending money based on an expired budget. He paid N536m to a group associated with ‘Save lives in the Niger Delta.’ He slumped and he was rushed out to escape further inquiry. The current Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was accused of impropriety by the National Assembly. He too accused the National Assembly of his alleged offence, The Chairman of the hearing committee was compelled to announce that further discussions would thereafter be in camera.

Again, and most importantly, there is the case of the $33m monthly payment in execution of the Azura Power Plant Contract with the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET). The NBET signed the agreement with Azura Power Plant unilaterally and decided to be paying the amount without official approval. The Chairman of the House Finance Committee, Honourable James Faleke (APC-Lagos), said the contract was done without approval and contrary to the advice of the Minister of Justice. In his words, ‘as we understand it, it means a government agency here signed an agreement with an investor for a fixed amount of commodity, gas for power companies or power to supply to Nigerians. In very simple terms, what this means is that, whether the amount the agency signs to take is taken or not, the agency still pays that investor for the fixed amount signed for.’ 

In essence, it is not clear whether PMB is in charge of politico-economic governance of Nigeria. If he is, questions must be asked on the NBET-Azura Power Plant contract. Nigerians will need to know more about how a payment contract can be executed without the approval of the Federal Executive Council and contrary to the advice of the Minister of Justice of Nigeria. Monthly payments of $33m to the investor to supply gas for the purposes of electricity generation and without regular supply of electricity is an expression of disrespect for treaty obligations. In this regard, can it be true that there was no Federal Executive Council approval for the contractual payments? Indeed, Nigeria’s old and new National Anthems, ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee’ and ‘Arise O Compatriots’ did not bargain for this type of Nigeria of deliberate frauds and political chicanery. Hailing Nigeria in the 1960s and early 1970s was genuinely for a better Nigeria. Calling on Nigerians to build a better Nigeria in 1978 was also to upgrade the spirit of ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee.’ The Nigeria has been victim of gradual killing since 2015 and this cannot be the objective of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria. Consequently, killing Nigeria softly is disempowering Nigeria internationally, strengthening the foundations of disintegration, and paving way for greater jihadist terrorism in the West and Central African regions.

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