As N’Assembly Revives Old National Anthem…

The decision by the two chambers of the National Assembly to return Nigeria to the old National Anthem is generating mixed reactions from citizens and several stakeholders, reports Sunday Aborisade.

The House of Representatives hurried the legislative procedure for lawmaking penultimate Thursday by passing an executive bill which sought to return Nigeria to the old National Anthem.

The bill was read for the first time at both green and red chambers on that day but it enjoyed accelerated  passage for second and third reading under one hour in the House of Representatives.

The situation was, however, different at the Senate as it’s leadership, sensing a possible public outcry because of the sensitive nature of the proposed legislation, called for an executive session in order to discuss the matter behind closed doors.

The closed session which the Senate President, GodswillAkpabio, initially said would not last more than five minutes did not end until after about two hours.

Investigation by THISDAY revealed that some senators vehemently rejected the idea of returning Nigeria to the old National Anthem while others welcomed it.

The development therefore stopped the final passage of the bill for third reading in the Senate penultimate Thursday.

The chamber adjusted its rules to accommodate the first and second reading of the bill.

The leadership of the red chamber after the closed session, at the plenary presided over by the Senate President, GodswillAkpabio, asked its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights And Legal Matters to carry out further legislative work on the matter.

The President of the Senate asked the panel to submit it’s report as soon as possible.

A few senators who contributed to the debate, embraced the idea saying the old version would encourage Nigerians to be more  patriotic.

Incidentally, Senator TahirMonguno,  Chairman, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, whose committee was asked to work on the bill also supported its passage for second reading.

The approach to the passage of the bill was faulted by some senators, including Adams Oshiomhole and Mohammed Goje, of the ruling party All Progressive Congress. The bill nevertheless scaled through second reading.

In his lead debate, the Leader of the Senate, who also sponsored the bill, OpeyemiBamidele, said the old Anthem, upon rendition, inspired and stimulated deep sense of patriotism in Nigerians.

According to him, “You will also 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 high sense of value and personal belonging among the citizenry. It was symbolic of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and nationhood.

“In retrospect, the Anthem served as regular and constant reminder of our journey, as a nation and provoked feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of the country’s early years. At this momentous time in our national history, it is imperative that we utilise any platform that seeks to unite the country and promote patriotism amongst Nigerians. “Accordingly, the old National Anthem, as a symbol of national pride, has provided insights for patriotic reflections on our aspirations, values and hope for a united and prosperous Nigeria. The rendition and musical accuracy of the Anthem, is better in content and context than the current one.”

At the public hearing on the bill, organised by the Senate committee on Judiciary Human Rights and Legal Matters, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. LateefFagbemi (SAN), asked the leadership of the National Assembly to carry out wider consultations before passing the bill meant to return the country to the old National Anthem.

Fagbemi urged the two chambers of the National Assembly to allow many Nigerians make their inputs before passing the proposed legislation.

He said, “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.

“Consequently, it is my considered view that the decision to change Nigeria’s National Anthem whether by replacing it with the old one or a new one, should be subjected to a wider process of citizen. There should be participation through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State, National and State Assemblies, etc. The outcome of this process is bound to be a true reflection of the wishes of the generality or majority of Nigerians.  

On his part, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, recommended that the scope should be expanded to include a robust issue on national identity rather than limiting it to change of national anthem.

Idris, represented by the Director-General of National Orientation Agency, LanreIssa-Onilu, noted that some lines in the old national anthem does not make a complete meaning.

He said, “The issue of national anthem is just a sub-sect. What we should be looking at is the National Identity Act.

“The challenge we have today is that we do not value national identity which the national anthem is one of them. It is not about singing in schools, it is about learning it and imbibing it”.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome,  supported the move to replace the current” Arise O Compatriots “ National Anthem with the “ Nigeria , We Hail Thee”, the country started with in October 1960 .

He said such a move was long overdue since the current National Anthem adopted in 1978 does not have the required gravitas and not inspirational to fire the passion and zeal for nationhood among Nigerians.

Nigeria, according to him, would not be the first country in the world to replace current National Anthem with the old one as over 20 countries like Russia, Austria, Chile, France, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, among others, have done so at different times in the past.

He expressed delight that the motion to return to the old National Anthem which he moved at the 2014 National Conference, was becoming a reality after a decade.

Ozekhome explained that the National Assembly has by the public hearing, concluded necessary legislative process for lawmaking.

Chairman of the Committee, Monguno said the National Assembly has done everything it needed to do to pass the National Anthem Bill.

He said, “The Bill has passed first and second reading at the Senate and the Public Hearing was advertised. Those who are not here have probably agreed with intendment of the proposed legislation”.

Other Stakeholders in their submissions, preferred the old National Anthem to the current one.

Consequently, the Senate, just like the House of Representatives, passed the Bill to change the National Anthem from “Arise O Compatriots ” to the old anthem, “Nigeria,  we Hail thee.” last  Tuesday after it considered the report of

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