The National Anthem, Et Cetera – By David Da-Costa Shodeinde

THE many, heavy, and grave afflictions which denude the nation will not be off-staged by a goodwill reversal of the national anthem; great symbolism but no substance. An anthem does not fill up the empty stew pot, gleaming, bright, and bare. An anthem does not fill an empty belly. An anthem is not physical and material. What is not material is patently immaterial; that is what the people are saying.

The ponderous and oppressive national anthem imposed on the nation, an ulcerous cacophonous dump has been revoked and retired. I was one of the few who campaigned restlessly for the revocation of that anthem from its earliest inception and adoption, until yesterday. In the prevailing orthodoxy, it is an unpopular opinion, extremely injurious to the health of many, and a few.

My contention: The lyric is infantile, ridiculous, and profane. The music and the melody are atrocious. The tag of ‘peace and unity’ in the composition bleats like an afterthought. The musical genre is not Nigerian, African, American, Asian, nor European. The musical score is a frenzied, sickening mishmash.

The anthem sounds distinctively, like a peculiar hybrid of infernal dissonance.

The adoption of a new or old anthem does not matter to most of the people right now. In fact, it infuriates the populace considering the enormity of the time, and what the commons believe to be the pressing and immediate priorities of their existence. A new national anthem does not alleviate the material existence of anyone. The nation was hungry but now the country is starving. The national anthem is very relevant; the timing is indecorous and seemingly, horrendously perverse.

The anthem begins with a throbbing drum solo and crashing cymbals. A musical score that is universally acknowledged as “the prelude to the apocalypse.” Foreboding. Rumbling drum solo and crashing cymbals explode like crumbling, murmuring, tired, ragged thunders.

A drum roll, more like a series of hard, harsh bangs upon a steel bass drum. A primitive music cliché. A patented musical rendition of affliction, wrath, judgement and tribulation. Then, the lyrics jump in with a hard, loud blare, like a rude awakening at noon. The musical composition is atrocious, frightfully atrocious.

“Arise O compatriots;” fabulous choice of words. Arise: emerge, upsurge, ignite, explode, attack, take over, etc. Compatriots; throughout human history, all over the world in all cultures, people often brand themselves as ‘patriots’ when they are ready to unleash the greatest havoc on the nations. What else does the word ‘compatriot’ connote?

Words and imagery. Words derive their meanings in context, and by connotations. “Arise O compatriots,” is the veritable staple of martial jingoism all over the world. The very first line of the anthem firmly establishes a schism, a division and an offense, in the national creed. Compatriots and non-compatriots. Patriots and non-patriots, or the unpatriotic. Are some Nigerians compatriots, and others non-compatriots?

Are some Nigerians patriots and others unpatriotic? If all Nigerians are compatriots, then, who or what are the alien and foreign adversaries of patriotism that the ‘arising compatriots’ should rise upon? “Arise O compatriots,” originality; zero. The whole line is an appropriation of a universal folks’ cliché. How did this get into a national anthem?

“Nigeria’s call obey.” This is a marching order and we are not all soldiers. What is ‘Nigeria’s call’? Where is it laid out line by line, precept upon precept, so that the lay man on the street, the people in their prideful ignorance may know, understand, and appreciate it? “Nigeria’s call obey,” sounds like a choice between extreme opacity, or coerced conscription with no appeal. How do you obey what you do not comprehend?

A rendition conjured from the pits of hell. It mobilizes the consciousness of the people to passionate absurdities, fierce fervour, aggression, violence, dissolution, despoliation, and civil mayhem. The perfect anthem for a nation aroused to war, or other terrorist brigades. A bestial national song and a call to arms and offense, a mobilisation of insurgency and a glorification of obscenity and depravity.

With the sole exception of the enlightened tenure of General Yakubu Gowon, tribal rapacity was engendered and sustained by all the succeeding military regimes; men and soldiers who all graduated with distinction from the academy of the civil war, infamy, barbarity, and pillage. No surprise then, when they dumped a mad song upon the nation, a true reflection of their own image; brazen rapacity, legendary ineptitude, apathy, the feverish and colossal dissolution of all things noble and upright.

They called it a national anthem and taught the children to sing, to gladly make a loud noise unto chaos and latent infamy. They corralled the nation to march and dance lockstep, hard, sharp, to the throbbing strains of futility. They ravaged the nation to doom. Goodluck Jonathan rose to the rescue, we threw him out in a trice. The psyche of the people was brutalised and it has not recovered yet.

The rest of the song warbles down in the format of a standard but generic prayer. A formulaic exhibition of gross mediocrity devoid of originality or profundity. If you knew nothing about the character of the country at the beginning of the anthem, at the end you knew nothing more. A redolent effulgence without substance, an infantile parody. You are left with sore strains on your aural receptors.

You are either benignly bemused by the strident affectations, or thoroughly perplexed, left in doubts and confused about the essential concept and meaning of a nation. Lyrics and music, this aberration dubbed a national anthem does not exhibit the minimum requirement of a simple song; we called it a national creed. It does not qualify to be listed as an entry in any contest anywhere.

A significant number of patriotic citizens have voiced an objection to the reinstatement of the old national anthem on the simple fact that it was not written and composed by a Nigerian. I sympathise with their sentiments. I also wish it was written and composed by a Nigerian. That is not the way poetry, music, literature, and other forms of the creative arts are assessed. Supreme meritocracy. Ultimate excellence. Creative renditions are judged solely on merit, not by the whims and prompts of primitive clannish sentimentality.

The adoption of a national anthem is not a proprietary or an exclusionary commission. It is an open competition, open to all, and everyone is encouraged to submit an entry to a committee of judges. This was the fair and rigorous process which produced the reinstated national anthem. The judges who chose this anthem as the winning entry were all eminently qualified Nigerians. The anthem is as Nigerian as it gets. Let’s move on to higher grounds.

The poesy of the lyrics is sublime and profound. “Though tongue and tribe may differ, in brotherhood we stand.” It exalts our strength and excellence in diversity, and celebrates our unity as a wholesome sovereign nation. “To hand on to our children a banner without stain;” what can be more exquisite and what can be more sublime in a culture where people mostly hand over to their children proceeds from theft, mayhem, and graft? The line reiterates our dedication, pure and absolute commitment to the present, while sanctifying our posterity, and the prosperity of our children and unborn generations.

“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.”

A national anthem is a national plea to heaven. No one stands before God with malice in their heart, spite on their tongue, and blood in their hands expecting a favourable answer from God. Every line of the anthem pulsates with the surging strains of inspired righteousness, faith and hope in a just and kind providence.

The music and the melody of the composition is glorious, upbeat, uplifting, and positively inspiring. It is an anthem that challenges us to be the very best that we can be. Can we live up the mandate? Can we objectify the covenant and the promise?

You do not have to understand the German language to appreciate the splendour of their national anthem and the radiant elegance of its beauty; the music lifts you higher, elevates your spirit to finer realms. You are transported, you are flying high and soaring over mountains and clouds without wings. You feel immersed in absolute radiance, marvelous humility, wholesome pride, abundant grace and awe. Great emotions and passions course through your veins like pleasant thrills. A touch of glory. Whatever you choose to call it, that is what a national anthem should evoke.

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