“Great Nation” Should Be Nigeria’s National Anthem

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
timi dakolo great nation

Anybody interested in a prosodic analysis of a poem, a piece of music or an anthem will need to focus on only four elements. Those elements are the sounds, the diction, the rhythm and the imageries which these sounds, diction and rhythm evoke.  Every other consideration is banal, puerile and of little consequence or relevance to the contemporary discussion regarding change of the Nigerian anthem from the new to the old.

We will assume that when we refer to the ‘sounds’ of a song or poem, we hope that you understand something of the role that vowels and consonants, the tresses and stresses play, and how they alliterate or rhyme to create deep labyrinths of meanings. The other element, diction – the words – are often the vehicle with which the author pursues an idea, a path or a condition. Whilst it has been said that there is no art to tell the mind’s construction in the face, nothing tells about the state of mind of a composer more that the words with which a poem, a piece of song is written. It is how the words and the sounds sing and dance together that create rhythm, a pattern and a flow that creates certain pictures or images in the mind.

I have put the old Nigerian Anthem, which has somewhat now become an anathema, through the rubric of the above four elements. First the sound – the anthem sounds like a cacophony and sounds – no beauty, no gist, no flair and the relationships between the cadence groups creates disharmony. The words are bland, drab and do not inspire in any way. The first line in itself, ‘Nigeria, we Hail Thee’, appears to be a summons from a very old and ailing man from the 50s, to the new generation who are of AI, the internet and the fast pace of fashion, creativity and entrepreneurship. Netizens would have seen a recent video of music culled from the sounds made by an angry cat to understand something of the quantum leaps that the future has become. Our old now new national anthem basically only expresses an optimism that the different tribes and tongues that make up Nigeria may work together in unity. It is the most lack-lustre song anyone can ever listen to at this epoch. And then the very disturbing second line of the first stanza – our own dear native land – giving the impression either that we are a native people being addressed as such by a colonial power, or that we are ‘natives’ – a derogative word used by the colonial masters to describe us. Apart from not projecting into the future, it completely cuts off most of our young people, a significant demographic group responsible for the massive upsets in the last presidential elections. Many of these young people seek to make their mark in life through the music industry, and I can imagine what damage those very uninspiring messages coming out of that anthem would have done to their psyche. Nobody listening to that old anthem would be able to ascribe it to a Nigeria of Asake, Rema, Wizkid, Ade Bantu, Arya Starr, Burna Boy, Charly Boy, D’banje, Davido, Don Jazzy, Femi Kuti, Frank Edwards, Korede Bello, MI, Omawumi, PSquare, Ruggedman, StylPlus, Tems, Tiwa Savage, TY Bello – young Nigerians who have made indelible marks in contributing to Nigeria’s new imagery as the new music capital of the world.  I can imagine someone who has listened to songs that have come out from Nigeria in the last decade, struggle to come to terms with something as antediluvian as this.

As a marked departure from the ‘Nigeria we Hail Thee’ anthem is another anthem, ‘Great Nation’, by Timi Dakolo. I have put it in the blast furnace of the four elements of prosodic analysis. All I got were goose pimples and a rev of my imagination at the greatness that Nigeria holds.  Here are a few of the words:

Here we stand as a people/With one song, with one voice/We’re a nation, undivided and poised/We will take our stand, and build our land/With faith to defend what is ours/Here we are as a people/With one heart, for one cause/We’re determined to rebuild and restore/Where freedom reigns, and truth prevails/A land where there’s hope for us all/A land where there’s hope for us all.

In January 2014, in Switzerland, Timi Dakolo sang this song at the World Economic Forum. That day I hear that all of those present –  then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Fidelia Njeze, Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Distinguished Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed and his wife Aisha, British-Ghanaian top fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu had goose pimples as well at the depth, dignity and the mystique that this song evoked of Nigeria.

Sometime around 1993, a group of researchers from the US visited the University of Benin in Nigeria. In a seminar after their work, talk around the table was about the restoration of the university to its ‘lost glory’. One of the Americans, visible disturbed as this ‘lost glory’ trend stood up to chide his hosts. I remember his very words: Talk about a ‘lost glory’ in an institution such as this has no place in a world launching into the future to conquer new horizons.

I verily believe that our president belongs to that school of adventurers seeking to reclaim Nigeria’s so-called ‘lost glory’. I believe also that the backlash he has received in foisting on us his old views is very well-deserved – in the calls that not just bringing back the old anthem, but also bringing back the ‘lost good old days’ – where you go to the market with just one naira and return in a taxi laden with foodstuff.  

This misadventure of Mr President forcing an old and irrelevant anthem down our throats has gone down as one worse than his harried and thoughtless fuel subsidy removal. It basically only shows that he does not consult very far or well before he reaches most of the decisions that he has taken thus far as president.


Image: Timi Dakolo

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