Meet Lillian Jean Williams, British woman who wrote ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ (Full lyrics)

Nigeria, We Hail Thee' was first adopted from independence in 1960 until 1978, when it was dropped in 1978 by the then-military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo

Meet Lillian Jean Williams, British woman who wrote ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ (Full lyrics)

Meet Lillian Jean Williams, British woman who wrote ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ (Full lyrics)

President Bola Tinubu signed the bill to revert to the old national anthem, ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’, as part of the constitutional provisions to make it a law on Wednesday.

The Senate and the House of Representatives previously passed the legislation to swap the national anthem from “Arise, O Compatriots” to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” at separate sittings.

‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ was adopted on Independence Day, 1 October 1960, but it was dropped in 1978 by the then-military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” adopted as the country’s first national anthem upon gaining independence from Britain in 1960, has been readopted.

The younger generation may need to become more familiar with the story behind the newly readopted anthem and the women behind the lyrics and composition.

Lillian Jean Williams

Lillian Jean Williams, a British expatriate who lived in Nigeria when it achieved independence, wrote the anthem’s lyrics in 1959, while Frances Berda composed the music around the same period.

The federal government launched a contest to compose an anthem, offering a prize of £1,000, which Ms Berda, a ballet musician, won.

Earlier, Ms Willians had won a separate prize for writing the anthem lyrics.

The late famous South African literary icon Ezekiel Mphahlele detailed the intrigues behind the adoption of ‘Nigeria We Hail Thee’ as an anthem in an article titled ‘Nigeria on the Eve of Independence in Africa Today’ published in September 1960.

Among other details, he revealed that Nigerians criticised the choice of both women as the authors and composers of the anthems.

“In the name of independence, the winning entries should have been chosen from the 500 entries that came from Nigerians themselves. Others again argued that the music should have been composed first and then the lyrics fitted to it instead of the other way round,” Mr Mphahlele’s article partly read.

The famed author, a former Drum Magazine reporter, lectured at the University College (now University of Ibadan).

The anthem was eventually adopted and used on 1 October 1960 to celebrate Nigeria’s independence.

Criticisms

Nigeria We Hail Thee (lyrics)

Nigeria, we hail thee.

Our own dear native lands

Though tribes and tonguesmay differ

In brotherhood, we stand

Nigerians all are proud to serve

Our sovereign Motherland.

Our flag shall be a symbol

That truth and justice reign

In peace or battle honoured,

And this we count as gain,

To hand on to 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 shall be blessed.

Arise O Compatriots

‘Nigeria we hail thee’ was later dropped because it was British-brewed and did not include any Nigerian input.

In 1978, John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, Babatunde A. Ogunnaike, O Sota Omoigui and P. O. Aderibigbe wrote the lyrics of the second anthem ‘Arise O Compatriots’.

In 1990, the Nigerian police band, under the directorship of B. E. Odiasse, composed the music for the second National anthem.

The second anthem has been in use since 1978, or 48 years, making it Nigeria’s longest-serving anthem.

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