Catholic Archbishop in Nigeria Criticizes Switch to Old National Anthem

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria's Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja during the maiden Rosary procession. Credit: Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has criticized the speedy enforcement of a bill changing the national anthem of the West African country from the current one to the old one used during the country’s independence.

On May 29, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu reportedly signed a bill switching back to the national anthem composed by a British expatriate and adopted at independence. “We Hail Thee” will now be used instead of “Arise O' Compatriots”.

In a June 2 interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Kaigama said there are more priorities to attend to such as the high level of poverty, hunger, and insecurity than spending energy and resources on changing the nation’s anthem.

“I admire the desire to change, and the wording of the old national anthem is very good. There is no doubt about it. But that is not a priority that they have to hastily pass it through the national assembly, and then the President has to ascend to it,” the Nigerian Catholic Archbishop said.

Archbishop Kaigama said the switch to the old national anthem was “not a matter of importance or top importance,” adding, “There are other issues that the people would have been happier to see the president or the national assembly address.”


“To bring the issue of the national anthem and believe that people will be clapping… I'm sure people are not clapping because they are hungry. They cannot clap because they are so feeble,” the Local Ordinary of Abuja Archdiocese said.

He continued, “Things are just not okay and we should look for creative ways of ensuring people's satisfaction is met.”

The Nigerian Catholic Archbishop advised lawmakers in Africa’s most populous nation to focus on issues that alleviate poverty. 

“Let the lawmakers face very crucial issues and deal with these issues decisively. People are suffering, and I know this because they come to us,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

“When I take my phone, the messages in the morning I get are all messages of desperation. The people say they are dying. That they have no place to stay. They have no food,” he said, and posed, “Why should I carry the burden that the government, that people have elected, should carry?”

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The 65-year-old Catholic Church leader, who started his Episcopal Ministry in April 1995 as Bishop of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese lamented that he has now been made to carry the burden of the government, saying, “The people who come here have access to me. They have no access to the government. When they go to the government house, they find the entrances blocked. The police dogs are there, the police security agents are all over the place, and they cannot enter.”

Abah Anthony John is a Nigerian Journalist with great enthusiasm and interest for Catholic Church Communication and Media Apostolate. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from Benue State University, Makurdi, Benue State Nigeria. He has vast experience in Print,  Electronic and Multi-Media Production.