Change Of National Anthem By Legislative Fiat Can’t Work, AGF Tells Lawmakers

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The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, has urged members of the National Assembly not pass the Bill mandating the country to revert to the old National Anthem through legislative fiat.

LEADERSHIP reports both chambers of the National Assembly had last week expeditiously pass a Bill for an Act to revert to the old Nigeria’s National Anthem – ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee..’

But, Fagbemi warned that such an important Bill on the national anthem should not be done by legislative fiat.

Speaking at the public hearing on the Bill organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters in Abuja on Monday, AGF Fagbemi warned that the issue of National Anthem should not be treated with legislative fiat without giving Nigerians a say.

He said as commendable as the move by both chambers of the National Assembly may be, on enacting law on the National Anthem or replacing the current one with the old one, Nigerians must be carried along for their required “buy-in”.

The AGF said: “In some cases, the national anthem emerges from open national competition among interested citizens. In other instances, the proposed national anthem is subjected to plebiscite or referendum, before its eventual adoption or declaration.

“The essence of the foregoing is to secure the buy-in and confidence of the people and to ensure that the anthem meets their collective aspirations and suits their contemporary socio-political conditions.

“Against the background of the foregoing, I am of the considered opinion that the revered issue of choice of a national item should not come into being only by legislative fiat, or presidential proclamation alone.

“Consequently, it is my considered view that the decision to change Nigeria’s National Anthem whether by replacing it with the old one or a new one, should be subjected to a wider process of citizen participation through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State, National and State Assemblies, etc.

“The outcome of this process is bound to be a true reflection of the wishes of the generality or majority of Nigerians.”

In his submission at the public hearing, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Mohammed Idris Malagi, recommended that the scope should be expanded to include a robust issue on national identity rather than limiting it to mere change of national anthem.

The Minister, who was represented by the Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Lanre Issa-Onilu, noted that some lines in the old national anthem being advocated by the lawmakers, do not make a complete meaning.

“The issue of the national anthem is just a sub-sect. What we should be looking at is the National Identity Act.

“The challenge we have today is that we do not value national identity, of which the national anthem is one of them. It is not about singing in schools, it is about learning it and imbibing it,” he said.

Also cautioning the National Assembly on the expeditious passage of the Bill into law, renowned lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), called for wider consultations for Nigerians to accept whatever National Anthem is proposed and buy into it.

According to him, the National Assembly should widen the scope of participation in the process of coming up with such an Act for general acceptability.

He, however, supported the move to replace the current “Arise O Compatriots” anthem with the “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” version, which the country started with at independence in October 1960.

He said such a move was long overdue since the current National Anthem adopted in 1978, does not have the required gravitas and is not inspirational to fire the passion and zeal for nationhood among Nigerians.

Nigeria, according to him, will not be the first country in the world to replace its National Anthem with the old one as over 20 countries like Russia, Austria, Chile, France, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Iran, Iraq etc, have done so at different times in the past.

Other stakeholders in their submissions spoke in preference for the old National Anthem against the current one.

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