Nigerian Government Advocates for Wider Consultations on Proposed Change of National Anthem

The Nigerian government has announced plans to seek broader consultations regarding the potential change of the country’s National Anthem. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, revealed that the government is proposing consultations through zonal public hearings, and resolutions from the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Council of State, National and State Assemblies, among others.

Mr. Fagbemi made this announcement during a public hearing on the bill aimed at reverting to the old national anthem, titled “A Bill for an Act to Provide for the National Anthem of Nigeria, and for Matters Related.” The hearing was jointly organized by the Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, and Interior.

The government has urged members of the National Assembly to ensure the Nigerian National Anthem Bill undergoes extensive consultations before passing. Fagbemi emphasized the importance of involving various stakeholders in the decision-making process to ensure that any change to the National Anthem reflects the collective will of the Nigerian people.

“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 participation through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State, National and State Assemblies, etc.,” Fagbemi stated.

Highlighting the significance of a national anthem as a symbol of national identity and culture, Fagbemi suggested that such an anthem should enjoy universal acceptance and veneration among citizens. He proposed that the composition of a new anthem, if decided upon, could emerge from a national competition or be subjected to a plebiscite or referendum.

Mr. Fagbemi also noted that the current national anthem, which was adopted after the 1960 independence anthem was replaced due to its British authorship, was a product of national submissions and collective effort, symbolizing national ownership and pride.

At the hearing, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, recommended expanding the scope of the bill to address broader issues of national identity beyond just the anthem. Human rights activist Mr. Mike Ozekhome, SAN, advocated for the change, citing the old anthem’s content as more fitting for resolving contemporary challenges. He also proposed changes to the national flag and the country’s name during the 2014 CONFAB, although these were not adopted.

The Director General of The Flag Foundation of Nigeria, Mr. Ajiri Chris, supported reverting to the old national anthem. Senate Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, representing the Senate President, affirmed that the Senate followed due process in sponsoring the bill, which has passed its first and second readings.

The proposed consultations aim to ensure that any decision regarding the national anthem is inclusive, participatory, and reflective of the aspirations and values of the Nigerian populace.

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