FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, June 10, 2024
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NATIONAL ANTHEM VERSUS NATIONAL HARDSHIP

was daydreaming while lying casually on my bed on the 30th day of May 2024. I was perusing through the market list of essential foodstuffs handed over to me by my cook. The essential items were quite enormous but there was scarcely enough money to purchase them. Even the lunch of that day was not guaranteed. In fact our kitchen was empty. I was thinking of what to do when my mobile phone rang. I thought a miracle was on the way. The phone number of my caller was not familiar. When I picked it, he called me by surname with smiles. Anxiously I asked, "Good morning Sir. Please, who are you? Is there any good news for me?" He said yes. I was full of enthusiasm. Perhaps he would aid me financially so that our empty kitchen will be replenished. But he spoilt my day when he said, "Father, I am Mr. Pleasure. When can I come to install modern air conditioner in your room so that your body will always remain cool and nourished?" I nearly cursed him. Emotionally I replied, "I am lying idle on my bed and thinking of what to eat and you are talking of air conditioner that will engulf thousands of naira. The fan in my room has not functioned for over one month due to lack of electricity. Does a hungry man talk of cooling himself when he has nothing to eat? Sir, please do not cause me hypertension this morning." Immediately I cut the phone. Then I slept off. I saw myself in a dream enjoying delicious delicacies in a restaurant. Instantly my cook knocked at my door and shouted, "Father, what shall we cook for lunch!" I came back to my senses. I looked at the heavens and exclaimed, "God will provide!"

At a time millions of Nigerian hungry masses are thinking of how to quench the hunger in the land, the National Assembly passed a Bill to go back to the 1960 to 1978 National Anthem which goes runs thus: "Nigeria we hail thee, our own dear native land. Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. Our flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reign, in peace or battle honour'd. 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 may be blessed." President Bola Tinubu signed the new old National Anthem into law on 29 May 2024 when he marked his one tortuous year in office. This one year seems like ten years of agony. It is just a beginning. Nigerians are extremely hungry.

It is really a misplacement of priority. First thing ought to be done first. What the hungry masses need now is food on their tables. A hungry man cannot sing. It is only when the people eat that they can have the energy to learn and sing the new old National Anthem. Those in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms of government at the state and federal levels should sing it for now, because they are not hungry like the rest of Nigerians. Preaching the Gospel to a hungry man is like rain falling on stones. It is when you provide the hungry man with food that he can listen to your preaching. In my parish I observe these days that many people in the church are weak due to hunger. Some rarely stand or kneel. During singing, you hear only few voices while others are yawning. How I wish manna will fall down from heaven frequently so that the helpless hungry masses can feed.

What is obtainable now by the adoption of the new old National Anthem is the theory of 'Renewed Magic.' This is how it works. When you are hungry, just say, "Nigeria we hail thee." The hunger will vanish instantly. When you have no fuel in your engine tank, shout twice, "Nigeria we hail thee!" and your tank will be filled to the brim. When there is no electricity in your house, just sing "Nigeria we hail thee!" thrice and there will be light. When terrorists and kidnappers confront you, shout at the top of your voice, "Nigeria we hail thee!!!" The terrorists or kidnappers would be blasted by thunder immediately. A trial will convince you of the efficaciousness of this renewed magic.

The cost of essential foodstuffs continues to rise daily. Inflation is very high. With huge money in your pocket you can only buy very little in the market to cook and to eat. A plate of food in restaurants or hotels in these days of extreme hardship is not less than two thousand naira and it can never satisfy you. Most people order food these days without meat. I was passing across a food stand popularly called 'Mamaput' when I saw a man eating rice and beans without stew or meat just to save cost. Even some poor people swallow pounded garri or 'akpu' dipped in coca kola. When you enquire of their reason for doing so, they will tell you that the stomach does not reveal what it eats.

The new old National Anthem is to be learnt by rote at night and during the day. Where is the light to see the script at night? In my area of apostolate we have not had electricity light for the past five weeks. We depend on petrol generator at night, which runs for one hour only due to the exorbitant cost of petrol. Could you believe that a thief invaded my generator house few days ago and made away with N20,000 worth of petrol I kept aside? As an alternative to petrol, I boiled some quantity of urine for about one hour to see if it can be converted into fuel. When I tried it in my generator, it proved abortive. I am still thinking of another alternative since necessity is the mother of invention. I wish I can event new source of power for posterity before I leave this world. So help me God!

The new old National Anthem needs to be learnt and sung in secure environment. The high rate of insecurity nationwide is alarming. Hence the Federal Government of Tibunu should secure the lives and properties of the masses so that they can learn and sing the new old National Anthem in a state of tranquility. It seems the federal government is fighting the insecurity with child's gloves. It requires more of proactive methods. I pity the security forces who constantly sacrifice their lives. Kidnapping is on the increase due to greed and man's inhumanity to man. A certain illiterate married woman from the North was asked about the profession of her husband. Without mincing words she joyfully said, "My husband's profession is kidnapping for ransom. He makes enough money from it. That is why I am no longer selling Nono." Could you see the extent the crime has reached? We are really in hot soup.

Finally, some of the expressions in the new old National Anthem contradict themselves. For instance, "Our flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reign." Where is the truth? Where is the justice? Injustice has taken over our country. The Judiciary which is the last hope of the common man has been compromised. Selections instead of elections reign supreme. Corruption has entered into the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Thus election rigging is no longer a taboo. Look at this: "To hand on to our children a banner without stain." From the unfortunate Nigeria - Biafra civil war till date, our flag has been grossly stained with the blood of millions of innocent Nigerians. The colours are now green, red and green. In fact the stained flag needs to be changed. There is also need for national reparation or appeasement. At the last stanza we read: "O God of all creation, grant this our one request, help us to build a nation where no man is oppressed…." The opposite is the case. Many people have been oppressed and are still being oppressed. Marginalization and tribalism are evident. The practice of Nepotism is on the high side. Some of the wordings in the new old National Anthem should have been modified before being passed and signed into law. Nonetheless, all hope is not lost. There is still light at the end of the tunnel. Goodbye "Arise O Compatriots." Welcome "Nigeria we hail thee." In God we trust!

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