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Change your Ways and not the Anthem — By Sota Omoigui

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When I wrote my words for the anthem, in 1978, it was my dream for the country to move forward and take its place among the great nations of the world. But all that potential has been hijacked and degraded by a political leadership that constitutes a criminal enterprise. Many of our people now wonder if we were ready for independence.

The regressive reverting of our anthem to the colonial anthem is a betrayal of our independence. It is a symbol of a political leadership that is clueless and has so lost its way that it goes crawling on its hands and knees back to kiss the ring of its colonial master to adopt its anthem – music and lyrics.

There have been numerous reasons attributed to this speedy reversion of our anthem. What struck me the most was that the colonial anthem embodied more relevant values than our Nigerian anthem. Some have said that it would be a source of building patriotism.

What sheer hypocrisy. First the Nigerian anthem: The first two lines of Arise O Compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey is a call to action. It calls on us to serve our fatherland with love and strength and faith. There is nothing more patriotic than that. But our leaders have not the foggiest idea of the meaning of patriotism. They are too greedy and simply incapable of living up to the creed of the Nigerian anthem. An anthem with lyrics written by Nigerians and music composed by a Nigerian. On October 7th, 2006, in her visit to Nigeria, Beyonce as never before, fell in love with a piece of music that wasn’t her composition or planned by her team. Such was the power of our anthem, pulsating with our African drums. Our culture, music, movies song and dance are exported and celebrated by different races all over the world. Radio stations and clubs in cities from Alaska to Argentina play Nigerian Afrobeat. Yet in the birthplace of that culture, the leaders reject their own anthem for a colonial anthem. Nigeria, the hitherto giant of Africa that led the liberation struggles of Africans to defeat apartheid and colonialism now reduced to a midget crawling back and crying mama to her colonial master. But no surprise here. Our leaders steal from the poor because the much they have is never enough. They have failed to serve the fatherland with love and strength and faith. They have failed to create one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity. They have failed to be guided by God, and are unable to teach our youth in love and honesty to grow as they neither have love nor do they have honesty. They live corruptly and have failed to live just and true.

Now let us analyze the colonial anthem: It was the right anthem at the right time in our history. But that time is long gone. They want to now force Nigerians to sing Nigeria, we hail thee. They want us to hail the 53% unemployment rate of our youths and the 34% unemployment rate of our adults. . They want us to hail the minimum monthly wage of N30,000.00, whose earners have to work for three months to purchase a bag of rice that costs N100,000.00. They want us to hail no electricity, roads, pipe borne water, dilapidated and unsanitary schools with no roofs or windows and our children learning knee deep in flood waters under open skies, as rain beats the knowledge out of their heads, dilapidated health care systems including some of our university teaching hospitals, that are death traps, where there are limited medications, few supplies or equipment and in many cases not even running water. We should hail being terrorized by bandits and boko haram who kidnap our children from school, hijack our citizens on the highway and kill our farmers when they go to their farms. 133 million Nigerians, or 63% of the population, should hail being “multi-dimensionally poor,” meaning they suffer simultaneously from multiple disadvantages, including a lack of access to clean energy, housing, health care, water and sanitation, according to the November 2022 National Bureau of Statistics Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey by the Federal Government of Nigeria of nearly 57,000 households. That’s up from 54% in 2018, and more than any other country, including India, which has seven times more people. Our youth whose skeletons are bleached dry by the hot desert sun of the Sahara desert and whose bodies lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea, where they died trying to escape the hopelessness and lack of opportunity of their own not dear native land, are not alive to hail their country. Those left behind see the greed, looting and pillaging by their leaders, have no opportunities for economic empowerment and resort in internet scams, and fraud, prostitution, banditry and kidnapping to make ends meet. Thus innocent people both inside the country and globally, have life savings stolen as they are made to pay the price for the corruption of our leaders.

Our people who groan under the yoke of the endemic corruption that afflicts the land and does not allow them to breathe, are not going to hail Nigeria. Our people who suffer in poverty with a currency that has undergone a 1000% devaluation since we first wrote the anthem and a minimum monthly wage that creates food insecurity have nothing to hail Nigeria for. As I have stated in one of my prior speeches, when food prices exceed the salary of a worker, men sell their dignity and women their honor. Billions budgeted for palliatives to give the poor and needy are looted and shared among those in the political leadership. World Bank loans such as the USD $200 million for projects such as the Edo Storm Water drain, to alleviate flooding and develop the state were looted and shared by a governor who gets promoted to the senate and his accomplice who gets promoted to the governorship. The political class not content with pillaging and plundering the commonwealth expropriate the God given beauty of the land by converting public beaches to their personal property as done with Bar Beach in Lagos.

One line in the colonial anthem states:

Though tribe and tongue may differ

In brotherhood we stand.

We certainly have not lived up to that creed. Just six years and some after independence, the 1966 coup unleashed a pogrom of bloodletting consummated by a civil war where up to 3 million Nigerians were killed or starved to death. We remain divided in the country by both tribe and tongue.

The colonial anthem states: Our flag shall be a symbol, that truth and justice reign……To hand over to our children a banner without stain. My apologies to Lillian Jean Williams the British expatriate who wrote the colonial anthem. We have neither truth, nor do we have justice. A nation sweltering in the heat of injustice and oppression now forces its people to sing that truth and justice reign. Our children are handed a banner that is very much stained. Our children live in a nation awash in corruption with impunity and no one accountable for their actions. Political offices are purchased by the highest bidders who pay using the spoils of their pillage and plunder. Justice is dispensed to the highest bidder by our cash and carry judges.

Our national assembly is populated by dishonorable and rapacious men, ethical midgets, fraudster, looters, carpetbaggers and ex governors who have pillaged and plundered the commonwealth of their states and then rewarded by higher office. They have and continue to destroy lives far more than the murderers and armed robbers like the notorious Ishola Oyenusi and his gang that we executed in Bar Beach on September 8th, 1971, in the Nigeria of my youth. A similar fate would be more befitting for them.

The colonial anthem further states:

Help us to build a nation

Where no one is oppressed

And so with peace and plenty

Nigeria may be blessed.

This is nothing but a lie. Our leaders did not build a nation but they steal anything that is not nailed down. Our people experience neither peace nor plenty. The vast majority have no electricity, roads, pipe borne water, healthcare and social amenities. Nigerians are worse off today than at the time of independence. They are not benefiting from any wealth, rather the politicians are. The minimum wage is being negotiated from N30,000.00 while each Senator earns about N30 million every month. Changing the anthem and expecting a different result is insanity.

The Nigeria of our youth that we knew of in our anthem of 1978 sadly no longer exists. It has been replaced by a rapacious system of governance that is unsustainable and if unchecked, spells doom for the country.

To our political leaders, it is clear that you are unable and incapable of living up to the aspirational creed of either the Nigerian or the colonial anthem. Change your ways and not the anthem.

If you have to change the anthem, I suggest this verse for you to consider and which embodies your values that you can much more easily live up to

Oh Nigeria Oh Nigeria

Our haven of delight

From the swamps of the Delta to the hills of Somorika

In cunning we excel

Our hands may grasp, our pockets to fill

In secret deals we find our thrill

Let no one see our secret ways

In darkness we shall stay

With every lie and every bribe, and every loot we share

We seize another day

In conclusion, Arise my fellow Nigerians, you were born free. Your ancestors fought the slave traders; your founding fathers resisted the colonial masters. And now it is your turn to resist those who would put the neocolonial yoke around your neck. Arise and resist this modern day slavery. Arise and resist singing this lie of a colonial anthem they want you to sing. The only people that should stand up and sing sing ‘Nigeria we hail thee’, are looters, thieves, bandits, kidnappers, Yahoo fraudsters and the politicians who pillage and plunder the commonwealth of our people. Otherwise if you do not belong to any of these categories and you sing it, you are a liar.

Harriet Tubman, the heroine of the underground rail road freed a hundred slaves and could have freed a thousand more if only they knew that they were slaves.

God bless Nigeria

Arise O Compatriots!!! Nigeria’s call obey!!!

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