The Reason behind the Changed Nigerian National Anthem


The change in the Nigerian national anthem was driven by the desire to replace a colonial-era legacy with something that better reflected the country’s identity and aspirations post-independence.

After gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria sought to establish a national identity that resonated more with its diverse cultures and aspirations. The original anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” was written by a British expatriate, Lillian Jean Williams, and composed by Frances Berda. While it served as the national anthem initially, there was a growing sentiment that it did not fully capture the Nigerian spirit and heritage.

In 1978, the Nigerian government organized a national contest to create a new national anthem that would be more reflective of Nigeria’s identity. The new anthem, “Arise, O Compatriots,” was composed by the Nigerian Police Band under the directorship of Benedict E. Odiase. The lyrics were a collaborative effort by five Nigerians: John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B. A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui, and P. O. Aderibigbe.

The new anthem aimed to promote national unity, patriotism, and a sense of collective responsibility. Its lyrics call on Nigerians to rise to the nation’s call, serve with love and strength, and uphold the country’s honor and glory. This was in line with the government’s efforts to foster unity in a country marked by ethnic diversity and historical regional tensions. “Arise, O Compatriots” was intended to be more culturally resonant and emotionally inspiring for Nigerians. By involving local contributors in its creation, the anthem was meant to be something that Nigerians could connect with on a deeper level.