Is Reciting The National Anthem By Force?

By Prince Charles Dickson, PhD
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Prince Charles Dickson, PhD

Beware the fury of a patient man. ~ John Dryden

The Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity) Chief Ajuri Ngelale sent out a state house press release, the summary being that the President was directing the MANDATORY RECITATION OF THE NATIONAL PLEDGE AFTER THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT OFFICIAL ENGAGEMENTS.

I wrote this piece in its original form in 2006…but I am rehearsing it again because (1) we don’t listen, (2) it is important that we listen, and (3) Cassandra in Greek legend, I recall, was condemned to know the future but to be disbelieved when she foretold it. Hence the agony of foreknowledge combined with the impotence to do anything about it. So, the pain that we know our problems but seem condemned to an existence of being incapable of solving them seems our curse as well.

Some people have criticized me for repeating the same story over again, that may be true but certainly I have no apologies because the truth is that if we were what we ought to be then I probably would have resorted to doing something else. We refuse to listen, so I repeat the message. I change the tempo. I changed direction. I vary the stand but the message remains largely the same, that we have a problem that needs to be solved but we seem impotent at solving it.

So, again I am writing about the national anthem; In our case that National Anthem contains the National Pledge.I shall be as civil as possible and shall convey my thoughts in a sober mood so that we will at the end ask ourselves soul searching questions. This take is directed to leadership and the led, it is a one size fits all call.

A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people.

Many years ago, the now late Professor Grace Alele-Williams, wrote telling Obasanjo not to worry about his successor, she said "Nigerians should vote for a person whose activities are transparent and dedicated towards policies and practices that will promote unity and improve their standard of life. The person must truly believe in God, be self-disciplined and humble, the person must be intelligent enough to have people around him who are experienced, and also intelligent, motivated by love for the country".

My only addition then was that these recommendations be also applied to citizenry not just those seeking elective positions and to the crux of my message, then the person should know what the National Pledge says and what it takes, the requirements of the words as simple as they may look.

Taking us down memory lane, I recall those days that the National Pledge was the first song one learnt in school and how we were trained to standstill even if the earth was collapsing, I recall going on an errand for my mother and had to stand for minutes to observe the National Anthem in its entirety, even when it was barely audible to me from the distance it was being played.

Today things have taken a terrible offence meant kids are taught poems and rhymes that have no bearing on nationhood in schools...and as we say in local parlance "who Nigeria epp?"

They get an education without patriotism, and do we blame them, an education that is nearly unaffordable for many. They have seen Ambassadors-select that could not recite the National Anthem and to imagine they were going to represent the nation outside her shores is simply the naked dance of masquerades in the village square.

These days there are very few things that give us a sense of patriotism, baring the nation's soccer team. We are engaged in the struggle for power and the largesse that comes with it. The principle driving force behind the 'it is our turn' policy is not equality, equity, fairness and justice but a rotational chopping of the National cake that has refused to finish, one which we care less about how it is baked and who bakes it.

If as a nation we had a pittance of respect for the National pledge we would not be the way we are, our leaders will not take us for the present circus ride they are doing right now...the first line of the Pledge states "I pledge to Nigeria, my country"...Have we as a people accepted Nigeria as a country beyond the gallery display, is there a sense of commitment to the Nigerian project both by leaders and the led beyond what we will chop? Even if we have Biafra, Odua, Arewa, Niger Delta, Middle, Lower and Upper Belts, the mentality largely will remain the same.

To you reading me, take a pause at this point, recite the National Anthem at one call, did you make mistakes with the lines, did you believe those words or you just recited them like the Old Roger that is dead and gone to his grave poem..., does the words sound to us like Edris Abdulkarim's Nigeria jaga jaga, do we really have a pledge to this nation?

Our leaders have not pledged to the nation, they only owe their pockets, enriching their immediate families, even for some of us critics, is it not because we were denied part of the bounty that we cry foul, is it because we really have pledged to Nigeria...

The pledge demands faithfulness, not hope, it involves loyalty not betrayal, honesty not palliatives. It asked very little, that a man, a woman that has the Nigerian blood flowing in his/her veins should be faithful to his job as a civil servant, as a contractor, it asked for loyalty to the office one occupies, as a private citizen, loyalty to the people that you are serving and the institutions.

In schools are we teachers honest in our dealings with female students, are we not unfaithful by plagiarizing those textbooks as handouts when all we need to do to uphold the pledge was to write our own well researched books. If I insist on harping on honesty we will have a compendium of thousands of pages, so I rest that virtue

The National Pledge requires service with all our strength, instead from Councilors to the President, we tear the nation apart with strength and vigor in terms of corrupt practices, with everyone eager to break the record of his predecessor. As it stands now Buhari is beginning to look like the saint he is and was not. Someone recently talked about heroes, heroes go the extra mile, heroes are models, they make sacrifices. Are we not tired of Zik, Tafawa, Awo and their generation that gave service the best way they could?

We as a people steal with strength; we serve with hypocrisy, moving anywhere belly (stomach) face.

Look at the march past we had in those days when we would mourn for days if we are not selected by our schools to march to the anthem, but these days you see schools in drab uniforms, dull and unattractive. Public schools without honour, without glory any more.

It is sad that every Wednesday, the Federal Executive Council members stand to the National Anthem yet they disrespect the words through their actions. It takes beyond understanding the National Anthem, the point is that can it be defended, are we preserving it by deeds. The words of the National Pledge are not just ordinary, they convey the essence of nationhood, we need to know that our lives as a people start to end when we become silent about things that matter.

I end by saying that we need to go back to where we lost it, the only hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of a corrupt leadership and a non challant populace and one without the will power is to organize a spirited people that are ready to fight for freedom again is to instill the pride of the words of the National Pledge—May Nigeria Win

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