Nigerians outraged as President Tinubu changes national anthem amid economic crisis

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Nigeria’s president has suddenly changed the national anthem, angering residents who questioned his priorities as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis in a generation.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu said the decision to bring back an old version of the song -- which begins “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” -- was a tribute to the nation’s diversity, “representing all people and how we pledge together to be brothers and sisters.”

But the move has frustrated Nigerians struggling to make a living after Tinubu brought in reforms last year that have had a devastating effect on the economy.

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#Notmynationalanthem has been trending on social media and Nigerians in the capital Abuja told AFP they were exasperated.

“We need to focus on being able to eat, not the national anthem,” said Obamoh Kemi, a 27-year-old cashier at a workers’ canteen.

“I have a six-month-old baby, I do this job every day, and I still can’t afford what I need.”

Tinubu signed the National Anthem Bill into law at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday as he marked his first anniversary of taking office.

Many Nigerians remember it as a year since Tinubu made another sudden announcement -- the scrapping of a costly fuel subsidy.

The move, coupled with other reforms, has led to a tripling of petrol prices and a spike in living costs as the naira has slid against the dollar.

Many poor Nigerians have had to skip meals and give up products such as meat, eggs and milk, while in the north the economic crisis has forced people to eat poor-grade rice used as fish food.

The president has promised the reforms will help the country in the long run.

‘Inspire patriotism’

Politicians from his ruling APC party say the new anthem will benefit Nigeria too.

Senator Tahir Monguno said it would “inspire a zeal for patriotism and cooperation” and “chart a path to greater unity,” according to Nigerian media.

The enthusiasm was not shared on the streets of the capital.

“There’s not much to be proud about,” said 27-year-old IT worker Nelson Ubi. “Tinubu should tackle the constant power cuts and provide job opportunities first.”

The bill was passed in a matter of days and took many by surprise, but Tinubu has long wanted to return to the previous song.

“If I had my way I would bring back our old first national anthem,” he said in an interview before becoming president.

“That describes us much much better. I don’t know why we changed it -- it’s about service, it’s about diversity, it’s about commitment to value our nation-building.”

The reintroduced anthem was used from Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule in 1960 until 1978 and starts with the verse:

“Nigeria we hail thee / Our own dear native land / Though tribes and tongue may differ / In brotherhood we stand / Nigerians all, are proud to serve / Our sovereign motherland.”

It was written by Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate, and replaced by “Arise, O Compatriots” under the military government of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978. That song starts:

“Arise, O Compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey / To serve our fatherland / With love and strength and faith / The labour of our heroes past / Shall never be in vain / To serve with heart and might / One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”

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