The Nigerian national anthem – “Arise, O Compatriots” was composed by the late Pa Benedict Odiase, then director of the Nigerian Police Band.
The history of the Nigerian National anthem goes far back to 1960 when the country gained its independence from the British government. Prior to then, Nigeria adopted Britain’s anthem – God Save the Queen. However, upon gaining its freedom in 1960, citizens saw the need for an anthem that not only identified Nigeria as a completely independent state but also one that would unify the country’s entire ethnic regions.
“Nigeria, We Hail Thee” became Nigeria’s first national anthem until in 1978 when it was changed to the current “Arise, O Compatriots,” which was composed by the late Pa Benedict Odiase.
Why was the Previous Nigerian National Anthem Changed?
The current Nigerian National anthem officially came into existence in 1978, which is about 18 years after the country’s independence, and eight years after the gruesome Nigerian civil war.
The previous anthem “Nigeria we hail thee”, which was credited for reflecting the history, culture, and identity of the people, was later criticized of being embeded with colonial relics, plus the fact that it was gifted to us by the colonial masters, Lillian Jean Williams and Frances Berda. These two wrote and composed the anthem without any contribution from a Nigerian.
Thus, there was a call for a new anthem made by a Nigerian to be evolved and supported with a National Pledge of loyalty to the country. Following different criticisms thrown at the first anthem, and an agitation to have it urgently changed, a national competition was organized for the purpose of choosing a new one with a committee created to choose the best entry.
At the end of the competition, the lyrics of five winning entries were taken and fused into one. The entries were from P. O . Aderogbu, Babatunde Ogunnaike, John Ikechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, and Sotu Omoigwi.
Benedict Odiase who Nigeria was the Director of Music of the Nigerian Police band, selected the lyrics, fused and composed it to what we now have as the Nigeria national anthem. Below is the lyrics of both the old and current Nigerian National anthem;
The Old National Anthem
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
And this we count as gain
To pass unto 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
The Current Nigerian National Anthem
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labor of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace, and unity.
Oh God of creation
Direct our noble cause
And guide our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace And just
Who Composed the Second Stanza of the Nigerian National Anthem?
The second stanza of the current Nigerian national anthem was not composed by a singular person. The lyrics were gotten from the five entries already mentioned above.
Dr. Sota Omoigui, one of the five composers of the wordings, revealed in an interview that he composed the last lines of each stanza in the anthem. The last lines of each stanzas which centers on ‘No justice, no peace” is believed to be the story of Nigeria to date.