By Dr Sota Omoigui MD – Coauthor, Nigerian National Anthem
On behalf of all of the co-authors of our national anthem, both the living and the departed, I offer our sincere gratitude to Dr Garba Abari, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the Citizenship and Patriots awards given to us today. I regret that I am unable to be present in person for the award because of the very short notice given.
It has been 45 yrs since we wrote the national anthem in 1978, and this is the first national recognition that we have received. In 1976, as a teenager, in secondary school, I responded to a call for entries into a competition organized by the Federal Ministry of Information to replace the Nigerian national anthem. The words and phrases of the five winning entries were combined to form the anthem. The words were put to music by Deputy Commissioner of Police Ben Odiase, the then director Nigerian Police Band. The new anthem was officially adopted in 1978. We were all supposed to receive a prize but none of us got it.
My thoughts this day are with our co-authors who have shed their mortal garbs, slipped the surly bonds of earth and transcended into immortality, including Prof Babatunde Ogunnaike and John Ilechukwu as well as the music composer and director of the Nigerian Police Band Ben Odiase. They waited long for this day but never lived to see it.
I remember on this day particularly my co-author Prof Babatunde Ogunnaike whom I got to speak with a few times in the last several years before his passing. He was a prodigy in his field of Chemical Engineering and rose to become Professor and Dean of Engineering at Delaware University. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and authored books, including the 1280-page “Process Dynamics, Modeling, and Control” globally acclaimed textbook which he co-wrote with Professor Harmon Ray. He held the William L. Friend chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His research both at DuPont and the University of Delaware in systems dynamics, mathematical modeling, and process control had profound implications in fields as diverse as biology, bioengineering, medicine, applied mathematics, statistics, and chemical engineering, solving many difficult issues in these fields as well as in industrial processes. He authored four books and over a hundred publications in major academic journals and held a patent and a vast array of awards and honors. Among these awards were the University of Delaware’s Medal of Distinction, his election to the US Academy of Engineering, the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the National Academy of Inventors. Outside the world of academia he was a talented guitarist and the drummer. In his younger days, he played field hockey and was a member of the 1977 national Nigerian hockey team. He emigrated and was lost to the diaspora by the time the anthem came out in 1978 and lost to immortality on February, 20th, 2022. In a 2012 interview, he said he feels both pride and sadness whenever he hears the anthem. “It reminds me of unfulfilled promises,” he says. “Nigeria has so much potential, and the words of the anthem were meant to reflect this.” On the anonymity given to writers of the anthem, he had this to say; “everyone knows that Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the American national anthem (even I, a recent immigrant, know this). At the very least, the people of Nigeria should be told who wrote their anthem.”
I have listed Prof. Ogunnaike’s achievements above to show just one example of the talent and skills lost to the diaspora from a Nigeria that continues to fail its citizens. The disapora community all over the world is full of hundreds of thousands of talented Nigerians who have left the country to help build other nations.
I celebrate my co-authors, Segun Aderibigbe amd Dame Eme Akpan who together with myself have lived to see this first national recognition of the writers of our national anthem.
I wish to mention and express my gratitude to all those journalists whose publications kept alive the history and story of our national anthem. These include Alex Marshall, a reporter with The Independent, newspaper in the U.K, C’tiana Bibish Elad of Afrifamu, Los Angeles, California, Lekan Otufodunrin of The Nationonline, Nigeria and Dr ‘Deyemi Akande PhD, an Art and Architectural History Lecturer at the University of Lagos, Nigeria.
Like Professor Babatunde Ogunnaike, I also feel pride and sadness when I hear the anthem.
When I wrote my words for the anthem, it was my dream for the country to move forward and take its place among the great nations of the world. But all that potential has been hijacked and degraded by a political leadership that constitutes a criminal enterprise. Many of our people now wonder if we were ready for independence.
Our leaders have failed us. They have failed to serve the fatherland with love and strength and faith. They have failed to create one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity. They have failed to be guided by God, and are unable to teach our youth in love and honesty to grow as they neither have love nor do they have honesty. They live corruptly and have failed to live just and true.
Our nation is awash with corruption, with impunity and no one accountable for their actions. Political offices are purchased by the highest bidders who pay using the spoils of their pillage and plunder. The resources of our nation have been hijacked by political elites who like vampires have sunk their fangs into the jugular of the country slowly draining the life out of it. Unchecked corruption is a corrosive destroyer of nations. The amount lost by corruption in the oil sector alone exceeds $15 billion annually. That money is enough to revamp the dilapidated infrastructure nationwide and create jobs and employment opportunities. Our people groan under the yoke of this corruption that does not allow them to breathe. They suffer in poverty with a currency that has undergone a 1000% devaluation since we wrote the national anthem. There is both food insecurity and personal insecurity with kidnappings of our school children and killings of our citizens. When food prices exceed the salary of a worker, men sell their dignity and women their honor.
The November 2022 National Bureau of Statistics Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey by the Federal Government of Nigeria revealed that almost 133 million Nigerians, or 63% of the population, are “multi-dimensionally poor,” meaning they suffer simultaneously from multiple disadvantages, including a lack of access to clean energy, housing, health care, water and sanitation, according to the survey of nearly 57,000 households. That’s up from 54% in 2018, and more than any other country, including India, which has seven times more people. Meanwhile the political elites steal and embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from the nation’s commonwealth with no consequence. In fact they are rewarded with more plum political positions and the opportunity to steal more.
Our youth have become hopeless and helpless, and are dying in the sea and the desert trying to escape the country for a better life elsewhere. Those left behind see the greed, looting and pillaging by their leaders, have no opportunities for economic empowerment and resort in internet scams, and fraud, prostitution, banditry and kidnapping to make ends meet. Thus innocent people both inside the country and globally are made to pay the price for the corruption of our leaders.
The Nigeria of our youth that we knew of in 1978 sadly no longer exists. It has been replaced by a rapacious system of governance that is unsustainable and if unchecked, spells doom for the country.
We must turn this country away from the precipice of disaster. And we need to do it now. Our population increases by 7.2 million a year and we are projected by the United Nations Population Division to be the third most populous country on earth, with a population of 730 million, – right behind China – by the year 2100.
The Way Forward
Corruption occurs at the intersection of temptation and opportunity. You must separate the man /woman from the money. We must empower our civil service, provide them a living wage and hold them accountable for any collusion in the diversion of funds by political leaders. Those who commit such crimes must be prosecuted and jailed. Transparency and Accountability must be the order of the day. The era of running government and public institutions like a secret society must be over. The budget as well as all allocations and disbursement of funds must be published on the Internet in real time. All monies received must be accounted for.
There is a need for a civilian Office of the Inspector General (OIG) manned by honest men and women, to have an oversight function and root out waste and fraud at all federal, state and local government institutions, departments and agencies. Officials of the OIG will have the powers of the police to arrest and prosecute all those persons found to be aiding and abetting fraud and waste.
There should be an immediate audit of all assets of all public, judicial and institutional office holders in the last 30 years. Assets that cannot be accounted for by their salaries will be seized and they should be prosecuted and sent to jail. All corruption that rises to the level of economic sabotage should be punished by the death penalty. Those who steal from the people’s commonwealth with such rapacious impunity destroy lives far more than the murderers and armed robbers like the notorious Ishola Oyenusi that we executed in Bar Beach on September 8th, 1971, in the Nigeria of my youth.
We must declare a national emergency for power generation to provide electricity to all citizens within the next six months. Reputable international contractors should be brought in to implement new power generators including, coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, solar, geothermal and wind, within six months. The unemployment rate in the country in 2022, was a record high at 33.3 %. That means one third of our working age citizens are unemployed. The unemployment rate of our youths is 53%. This should be addressed as a national emergency. It is an absolute requirement that we provide power generation for economic empowerment. Small businesses cannot be viable if they have to provide and pay for generators and diesel to conduct their business. Our youths and our people are hard working creative and full of entrepreneurial spirit. We must provide an enabling environment for all Nigerians to succeed. We must prioritize and decentralize provision of electricity, roads, pipe borne water, and social amenities. A government that has failed to provide a viable economy for its citizens should immediately cease to be an obstacle to the economic empowerment of those same citizens. Again when the poor cannot eat, the rich will not sleep.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, you are at a fork in the road. You can choose the wrong side and continue the corrupt and decadent practices of your predecessor President Muhammadu Buhari, and ensconce yourself with the crooked and the indicted. I take the indulgence to remind you that there is no plan that you can have, no minimum wage, no palliative, no refinery project, no road construction, no electrical power plant, no schools or hospital projects, no white paper or yellow paper that can succeed in the corrosive environment of corruption and lack of accountability. As they say, insanity is when you repeat the same thing over and over again and expect different results.
Your wrong decision would make you go down in history as one of our worst presidents, leading Nigeria on a one way down hill trip to perdition, and presiding over the dismemberment of a country that used to be called Nigeria.
Or you can choose the right side and be the greatest president of all, by making a u-turn, getting rid of the corrupt and indicted men in your administration, implementing the road map to good governance described here and confounding your critics.
History will thus be kind to you and remember you as the savior of the nation. The choice is yours to make.
To save Nigeria now, is a task that must be done. We have no other country. To my fellow country men and women, you are never too small or too big, too young or too old, to stand up for a Nigeria, where there is opportunity for all . For a Nigeria where your grades in school are based upon honest work and not on favors done for lecturers or teachers. For a Nigeria, where you can get a job on the strength of your achievements and not based upon who you know or where you are from. For a Nigeria where there is 24 hour electricity, pipe borne water, good roads and good schools, great hospitals and high speed internet. For a Nigeria where quality education and medical care are available to all irrespective of ability to pay. For a Nigeria, that has one factory in every town and not one church or mosque on every street. For a Nigeria where your achievements are limited only by your dreams and your hard work. For a Nigeria where life and limb are secure, wherever you go. For a Nigeria where you get justice based upon the merit of your case and not based on the bribe you give. For a Nigeria where you can trust the police to do their job without fear or favour. For a Nigeria where resources are for all and not for a chosen few with their families. And for a Nigeria that can take its rightful place amongst the great nations of the world. So my fellow countrymen and women, do not lose hope, we had a Nigeria like that once and we must and will bring that Nigeria back. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
God bless Nigeria
Arise O Compatriots!!! Nigeria’s call obey!!!
● Omoigui, a recipient of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Citizenship and Patriot Award, co-authored Nigeria’s national anthem.