Abuja, Nigeria — Nigerian President Bola Tinubu responded to criticism Thursday over a law he signed this week that changed the country’s national anthem back to the old song adopted when Nigeria achieved independence in 1960.

Critics say the president’s priorities are mixed up and he is being insensitive to the plight of people dealing with inflation and insecurity.

Human rights activist Deji Adeyanju said, “His government is not serious. They do not understand the times that we’re facing. Our greatest challenge now [is] economic issues. He has one of the worst economic teams. That should’ve been the primary responsibility and concern of the government, but instead they’re spending precious time talking about the old national anthem. How does that solve inflation problems?”

The old — and now current — national anthem, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee,” was written in 1960 by British expatriate Lillian Jean Williams and adopted as Nigeria’s anthem when the country won independence that year.

It was replaced in 1978 by “Arise O Compatriots,” which was written by a group of Nigerians in the aftermath of a brutal civil war.

The bill to restore the old anthem was introduced in parliament and passed within one week — exceptionally fast-paced for Nigeria, where most bills take several months to be considered.

Tinubu, in Abuja’s presidential village, said the old anthem represented the beauty of Nigeria’s diversity. He also teased critics who object to the old anthem being written by a British expatriate, saying it was Britain who named the country Nigeria, yet the country’s identity remains.

Nassarawa state resident Oliver Ugwu said reintroducing the old national anthem without public consultation was a questionable decision.

“A greater percentage of the masses are saying there’s no need of going back,” he said. “We have already gotten our independence, so [what] we want now is to move forward for more development.”

Another resident, Lukeman Ademola, said the national anthem law is a diversion from the country’s struggling economy.

“What do we need national anthem for; what is the national anthem doing in our lives; how does it even help the masses?” Ademola said. “Look at people suffering; the prices of commodities, the prices of goods and services are just going higher. They’re using fuel as a means of taking these things higher, and even if the fuel comes down, the prices still remain like that. How is this going to help us?”

Tinubu has faced a turbulent first year in office marked by widespread criticism and protests against his economic reforms, most prominently his scrapping of fuel subsidies that had kept prices more affordable for Nigerians.

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