The true history of the national anthem.
There was a notion that the Nigerian national Anthem was composed by late Pa Benedict Odiase but the interview conducted by the Nations seven years ago gives detail analysis how the national anthem came to be and the people that were practically involved. See interview below
Contrary to the widely held impression, Pa Benneth Odiase, who died on June 12, 2013, was only the composer of the music and not the wordings of the national anthem. Dr Sota Omoigui, a Nigerian consultant anesthesiologist and pain specialist based in the United States, who was one of the five composers of the wordings of the anthem, in this interview with LEKAN OTUFODUNRIN, speaks on the history of the anthem and other related issues.
I am saddened by the passing away of Pa Benedict Odiase who composed the music of our national anthem. As one of the five co-authors of the wordings of the anthem, I had looked forward to the day when the country would bring us all together – composers of both the words and music – to celebrate what we created in 1978 – 35 years ago.
The words and music replaced the old colonial anthem of “Nigeria, we hail thee” and were composed to inspire all of us -citizens and leaders – to build a great nation. Alas, death gave our leaders a long time to get this done, but death can only wait so long. I wish Pa Odiase God speed and journey mercies as he unshackles the bonds of this earthly world. May the good Lord console his family and give them the strength to bear his loss. They should take solace that where the Lord abides, death will have no sting and grave no victory.
The nation can be comforted that whenever the drum roll of our national anthem is played, Pa Odiase would be smiling from heaven. May we continue to be
one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.
As one of the composers of the words of the Nigerian national anthem, it must mean much to you than all of us who recite it. What kind of feelings do you get when you hear the anthem?
Pa Benneth Odiase who composed the music of the national anthem died during the week; what kind of tribute do you want to pay in his memory?
I have mixed feelings when I hear our anthem. I have pride in our country and its potential to take its place as a great nation. Nigerians are achievers who thrive anywhere in the world they go. But I feel sadness that we as a country have lost our way. We are a giant shackled to the underclass of nations, and kept in bondage by our leaders whose corruption and avarice demonstrate a lack of love for their own people. Love is mentioned in each verse of the anthem. But our political leaders show only love for themselves and their immediate family. Our hospitals can remain mere consulting clinics with few drugs and outdated equipment as long as they can travel abroad for medical treatment and earn foreign exchange for themselves and their family while receiving the best medical care. This is the opposite of all the virtues we called for in the anthem. Our leaders are living in a bubble and fail to see a train crash waiting to happen.
Can you recall your involvement in composing the anthem?
Very much so. I was in Kings College, Lagos at the time, and there was a national competition for the anthem organized by the National Publicity Committee on the Draft Constitution/Return to Civilian Rule in Nigeria. I sent in my entry, and, to my great surprise, I saw my name in the Daily Times newspaper as one of the top five selected out of a total of 1,499 entries submitted. The final words of the national anthem were formed from these five entries.
What particular words are yours in the anthem?
The last lines of each verse.
What informed your words in the anthem?
It was my desire for a great nation bound in love, social justice, peace, freedom and unity. Justice and peace are two sides of the same coin. As the late great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would say: No justice, no peace. And that is the story of Nigeria to date. When the undertrodden have no justice, the ruling class will find no peace.
You said in your press release that the anthem was composed to inspire all of us -citizens and leaders – to build a great nation; has this been achieved?
Unfortunately, we as a nation have failed to achieve our potential. In fact we have lost our way. I will give you two examples.
First,when I drive on the 405 freeway which passes next to Los Angeles International Airport, I can see planes coming in to land. The national insignia on the aircraft is very visible. I see national airlines from many developing countries, such as Ethiopian Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and even from small pacific islands, such as Air Tahiti Nui. But I feel a pain in my heart that I do not see the Nigeria Airways insignia on any aircraft. We cannot even run our own national airline. And that is a nation that has lost its way.
Second, the Channels TV video that showed the rot at the Police College, Lagos – This is a glaring example of leaders who do not care for their people.
How do you go to work in the foremost police college ofthe country with any conscience and supervise the training of future police officers in such dilapidated and appallingconditions ?
How do you sleep at night knowing that your trainee officers are living in such squalid conditions?
How did we as a country deteriorate to such an extent, where no one is held accountable? I will take the liberty to quote my sister-in-law, Mrs Moira Omoigui, whose response to the video was a prayer that “May you and your loved ones never meet the products of such an institution at a checkpoint” That prayer sums it all.
These and the underdevelopment of our nation bring up the salient question whether we were ready for independence and if we can rule ourselves.
Who are the other co-composers?
These records are available online. The other co-authors of the anthem lyrics are John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B. A. Ogunnaike and P. O. Aderibigbe. The music was composed by the Police Band under the directorship of
Benedict Elide Odiase You said you had looked forward to the day when the country would bring together – composers of both the words and music – to celebrate what you all created in 1978 – 35 years ago; why do you think this didn’t happen?
The origin and history of the anthem had been forgotten by those in government. Pa Odiase was awarded the MON in December 2001 for the anthem.
However, the composition of the anthem comprised both music and lyrics. This was a lost opportunity to bring together all those who created the anthem. Do you feel cheated that you and your co-composers have not been acknowledged and rewarded like Pa Odiase?
Not at all. The origin and history of the anthem have been forgotten and that explains why none of the other composers has been acknowledged. This is a reflection of our government as well as the state of our media when our journalists go to press without doing the minimum research or fact finding.
ALL the newspaper reports since the transition of Pa Odiase have described him incorrectly as the composer of the national anthem. This is not to take anything from the greatness of Pa Odiase and the indelible musical legacy of the anthem he has left behind for our country. I am very pleased that he was acknowledged in his lifetime.
But history is history. It cannot be altered and we must document it as it is. With a few keystrokes search on the Internet, any reporter or government official can obtain the proper history of our national anthem, including the names of the composers of the lyrics as well as the music. This is just recent history dating back to 1978, and we cannot get it right. Compare that to the UK where they acknowledge their history dating back a thousand years such as the conquest of King Harold by William the conqueror on October 13th, 1066. This should be a wake-up call for all of us.
A nation that forgets its history has no guide to its future.
Now irrespective of our failure to remember our history, I cannot feel cheated when the average Nigerian is cheated of constant power supply, cheated of potable water, cheated of good roads, cheated of basic health care, cheated of good education, cheated of security for life and limb and cheated of good governance.
Will you still be willing to participate in a get- together of the composers?
Yes I will.
Do you think Nigerians have imbibed the message of the anthem?
If not, what should be done to ensure that it is not just a song, but acall to action?
The message of the anthem can only resonate when we have moral leadership, starting from President Goodluck Jonathan and permeating all branches of the government from top to bottom. Corruption is not a problem in Nigeria. It
is an institution and a way of life. We are too greedy and selfish to realize the old saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. 300 years ago, our ancestors sold their brothers and sisters into physical slavery. Today the majority of Nigerians are in economic servitude. More than 100 million Nigerians, about 61 per cent of the population, were living on less than $1 a day at the end of 2010. That’s up from 51 per cent in 2004, as reported by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year, as reported by the statistician general. We cannot solve the problems of Boko Haram with an iron fist. Neither can we solve the environmental and economic devastation in the Niger Delta by paying off the militants.
Our people need a coherent economic plan and a leadership that work for them. Our constitution with its party system that prevents honest men and women from rising to leadership positions, its failure to provide for independent candidates, lack of checks and balances of an all powerful executive branch and numerous other failings has set us up for failure.
We need an independent Office of the Inspector General at all levels of Federal, State and Local Government to audit and prevent crime and an independent transparent EFCC to prosecute the crime. All past and present office holders must match their assets with their income. But alas, until we adhere to the words of our anthem, Nigeria can never take its place of leadership in the community of nations.
Tell me more about your background, relocation abroad and your present work?
I left Nigeria to the United States in 1986, after finishing medical school at the University of Ibadan, College of Medicine and serving my internship and national youth corps service.
This is my bio below : Sota Omoigui M.D. is a consultant anesthesiologist and pain specialist. He is an expert in all types of acute and chronic pain syndromes and treats patients in the USA, Nigeria as well as around the world. He is Medical Director of the L.A. Pain Clinic in Hawthorne, California and former member of the FDA Advisory Committee on Anesthetics and Life Support Devices (2008 – 2011).
Dr. Sota Omoigui is author of The Biochemical Origin of Pain (State-of-the-Art Technologies, 2002), Sota Omoigui’s Pain Drugs Handbook (Blackwell Scientific Publishers, 1999), The Anesthesia Drugs Handbook (Mosby Yearbook Publishers, 1995), The Pain Drugs Handbook (Mosby Yearbook Publishers, 1996), Pain Relief—The L.A. Pain Clinic Guide (State-of-the-Art Technologies, 1998), The Universal Drug Infusion Ruler (State-of-the-Art Technologies, 1995) and co-author of The Nigerian National Anthem (198). Dr. Sota Omoigui’s drug handbooks are used worldwide and have been published in five other languages (Italian, Japanese, Malaysian, Polish and Portuguese).
Dr. Sota Omoigui’s research focus is on inflammation and pain, anesthetic and pain pharmacology. Dr. Sota Omoigui pioneered the technique of audio-capnometry and holds a United States patent for the audio-capnometer monitor and a patent for the process of continuous non-invasive hemometry (measurement of hemoglobin).
THE NATION, SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2013
•Omoigui ‘The true history of the national anthem’
The Old National Anthem
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
And this we count as gain
To pass unto 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 National Anthem
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labor of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace, and unity.
Oh God of creation, direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders right
Help our youth and truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
Oh God of creation
Direct our noble cause
Guide our leaders right
Help our youth the truth to know
In love and honesty to grow
And living just and true
Great lofty heights attain
To build a nation where peace
And justice shall reign.
The National Pledge
I pledge to Nigeria, my country
To be faithful, loyal, and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honor and glory
So help me God.
Analysis of the second stanza
It is believed that whenever a country gains its freedom or independence, one of the first things established is a national anthem.
And this is because a ‘National Anthem‘ signifies the nation’s status on which people pride themselves.
Thus, countries like France that prides itself on freedom glorifies the spirit of rebelliousness in their anthem. While the likes of Germany, who at a time stood supreme, exalts itself above all.
But there are other countries like Ghana who, instead of pride, prays to God for guidance in their anthem…and her sister, Senegal, renders praise to mother Africa.
Be that as it may, our concern here is to explain the meaning of Nigeria’sNational Anthem; not the first stanza, but the second.
The first line of the second stanza is a plea to the Father of creation; begging Him to take control of the principles that govern our activities, which include our constitution, value system, and way of life.
And as observed in the second line, the plea continues with specifications: Guide our leaders right; urge them to walk through the pastures of integrity and dignity. May their mind be far from wrongfulness whenever it comes to decision making.
Because only then can they grow in love and honesty, as well as living a just and truthful life.
However, the fourth line can be argued to be the result of the third line because it is impossible to live a life of love and honesty without attaining a lofty state.
In conclusion, the second stanza of the National Anthem ends with placing responsibility on the youths to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
However, it is important to note that this nation of peace and justice can only be built by youths who have succeeded in attaining that lofty height, by living a life of love and honesty.
But how possible is it to live such life when the truth is not known?
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