Nigerian National Anthem icon, Babatunde Ogunnaike is dead
By Glenro Adegbola
The death has occurred of Tunde Ogunnaike, whose words make up most (if not all of) of stanza two of our Nigerian national anthem.
He died in the US 2 nights ago where he’d been a professor for over 25 years and lately Dean of Engineering at Delaware University.
In 1977 as a 21 year old NYSC member serving in Port Harcourt, he responded to a call for entries into a competition organised by the Federal Ministry of Information to replace the Nigerian national anthem.
The rest as they say, is history.
He emerged as one of five, who’s words and phrases were combined to form the anthem.
The others are; John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, Sota Omoigui, and P.O. Aderibigbe.
The words were put to music by DCP Ben Odiase, the then director Nigerian Police Band.
Ben Odiase was said to have entered the competition as a private citizen & not as a policeman. Other contenders in the music category were Akin Euba & Laz Ekwueme.
The new anthem was officially adopted in 1978. By this time Tunde Ogunnaike was already in PG school in the US.
He was supposed to get a N50 prize, according to the telegram announcing the choice of his lyrics.
“That was a reasonable amount of money at the time, but I don’t think I ever got it.”
He was never paid the N50.
In a 2012 interview, he said he feels both pride and sadness whenever he hears the anthem.
“It reminds me of unfulfilled promises,” he says.
“Nigeria has so much potential, and the words of the anthem were meant to reflect this.”
On the anonymity given to writers of the anthem, he had this to say; “everyone knows that Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the American national anthem (even I, a recent immigrant, know this). At the very least, the people of Nigeria should be told who wrote their anthem.”
It is interesting that the two youngest of the five writers of our anthem, he and Omoigui, eventually emigrated and became Americans.
Academically, Tunde Ogunnaike was a prodigy in his field of Chemical Engineering.
He grew up in Ibadan, and attended Government College Ibadan.
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