In a significant move, the Nigerian Senate has passed the National Anthem Bill 2024, aiming to revert to the country’s old national anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee.” The bill swiftly passed its first and second readings on Thursday and now awaits President Bola Tinubu’s assent to become law.

The legislation proposes replacing the current anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots,” with “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” which was Nigeria’s anthem from its independence on October 1, 1960, until it was replaced in 1978 during Olusegun Obasanjo’s military regime. The old anthem, with lyrics by British expatriate Lillian Jean Williams and music by Frances Berda, played a significant role in shaping Nigeria’s national identity and unity during the 1960s and 1970s.

Senate Leader Opeyemi Bamidele highlighted the anthem’s historical significance: “Upon rendition, it inspired deep patriotism among Nigerians. Those who lived through that era recognize its crucial role in our nation’s history, evoking nostalgia and fond memories of our early years.”

The Senate conducted a public hearing on the bill on Monday. Bamidele, representing Senate President Godswill Akpabio, mentioned that the second stanza of the current anthem might be retained as the national prayer. However, he emphasized that further consultations would be necessary.

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, supported the amendment but stressed the need for broader consultation to ensure it reflects the general wishes of Nigerians. Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mike Ozekhome also endorsed the change, recalling his advocacy for the old anthem at the 2014 National Conference (CONFAB).

The House of Representatives has also passed the bill, which now requires harmonization by both legislative chambers before being sent to the President for final approval.

The lyrics of “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” are as follows:

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’d,
And this we count as gain,
To hand on to 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 bill’s passage marks a step toward rekindling Nigeria’s early post-independence spirit, aiming to unify the nation by returning to its historical anthem.