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Sunday, June 23, 2024

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

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

The Senate and House of Representatives previously approved legislation to change the national anthem from “Rise, O Countrymen” to “Nigeria, We Hail Thee” in separate sessions.


‘Nigeria we salute you’ was adopted on Independence Day, October 1, 1960, but was abandoned in 1978 by the then military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo.

“Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” adopted as the country’s first national anthem after its independence from Britain in 1960, has been re-adopted.

The younger generation may need to become more familiar with the history behind the newly adopted 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 lyrics to the anthem in 1959, while Frances Berda composed the music in the same period.

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


Previously, Williams had won a separate award for writing the lyrics to the anthem.

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 criticized the choice of both women as authors and composers of the anthems.

“In the name of independence, the winning entries should have been chosen from 500 entries from Nigerians themselves. Others argued again that the music should have been composed first and then the lyrics adapted to it, and not the other way around,” Mr Mphahlele’s article reads in part.

The famous author, a former Drum magazine reporter, gave a lecture at the University College (now University of Ibadan).

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


Nigeria we salute you (lyrics)

Nigeria, we salute you.

Our beloved homeland

Although tribes and languages ​​may differ

In brotherhood, we are

All Nigerians are proud to serve

Our sovereign homeland.

Our flag will be a symbol

Let truth and justice reign

In peace or honest battle,

And we count this as profit,

To pass on to our children

A spotless banner.

Oh God of all creation

Grant us this our only request.

Help us build a nation

Where no man is oppressed

And so, with peace and abundance.

Nigeria will be blessed.

Rise up, compatriots

“Nigeria We Salute You” was later removed because it was British-made and did not include any Nigerian input.

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

In 1990, the Nigerian Police Band, under the direction of BE Odiasse, composed the music for the second national anthem.

The second anthem has been used since 1978, or 48 years, making it the oldest anthem in Nigeria.


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