National Anthem law not enacted through legislative debate – AGF, others warn NASS


The Nigerian National Assembly was informed on Monday that the law regarding the National Anthem should not be enacted through legislative debate alone.

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, stated this at a one-day public hearing on a bill to revert to Nigeria’s old national anthem.

The AGF’s position is in direct conflict with the Senators’ stance, even as the bill, which originated from the Executive, was sponsored by Senator Michael Bamidele Opeyemi and passed through the first and second readings on the same day last week expeditiously.

Fagbemi warned that the national anthem law should not be passed without adequate consultation with the people in the form of a plebiscite or referendum, which he posited was the global standard.

He said: “In some cases, the national anthem emerges from open national competition among interested citizens. In other instances, the proposed national anthem is subjected to a plebiscite or referendum before its eventual adoption or declaration.

“The essence of the foregoing is to secure the buy-in and confidence of the people and to ensure that the anthem meets their collective aspirations and suits their contemporary socio-political conditions.

“Against the background of the foregoing, I am of the considered opinion that the revered issue of the choice of a national item should not come into being only by legislative fiat or presidential proclamation alone.

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

“The outcome of this process is bound to be a true reflection of the wishes of the generality or majority of Nigerians.”

In his submission at the public hearing, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, recommended that the scope be expanded to include a robust issue on national identity rather than limiting it to the change of the national anthem.

The Minister, who was represented by the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, noted that some lines in the old national anthem do not make complete sense.

“The issue of the 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, of which the national anthem is one aspect. It is not about singing in schools; it is about learning it and imbibing it,” he said.

Also cautioning the National Assembly on the expeditious passage of the bill, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, called for wider consultations for Nigerians to accept whatever National Anthem is proposed and buy into it.

According to him, the National Assembly should widen the scope of participation in the process of coming up with such an Act for general acceptability.

He, however, supported the move to replace the current “Arise, O Compatriots” National Anthem with “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” which 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 is not inspirational enough to ignite the passion and zeal for nationhood among Nigerians.

According to him, Nigeria will not be the first country in the world to replace the current national anthem with the old one, as over 20 countries like Russia, Austria, Chile, France, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, etc., have done so at different times in the past.

Other stakeholders, in their submissions, preferred the old national anthem to the current one

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