Author of Nigeria’s Anthem Stanza Prof Ogunnaike Dies in US
A Nigerian professor of chemical engineering who contributed to the composition of the second stanza of the Nigerian anthem, Prof Babatunde Ogunnaike has died in the United State.
Ogunnaike, who wrote some of the lines of the national anthem stanza two, was said to be national youth service corps member in 1978 when he submitted an entry for the calls for lines to compose a new stanza for the country’s national anthem.
Ogunaike, before his death, was Dean of Engineering at the University of Delaware.
Mourning him in Nigeria, a notable Nigerian publisher and educationist, Gbenro Adegbola explained that Ogunnaike left Nigeria for good in 1988 after spending many years at the University of Lagos as a lecturer.
“The death has occurred of Tunde Ogunnaike, whose words make up most (if not all of) of stanza two of our national anthem.
He died in the US where he’d been a professor for over 25 years and lately Dean of Engineering at Delaware University,” he wrote.
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 explained that Ogunnaike 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.
He wrote, “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.”
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.
He got into Unilag, and graduated in 1976, aged 20 with a first class.
He left for post graduate studies in the US in 1978 & returned in 1981 with a Master’s and PhD.
He lived & worked in Unilag from 1982 to 1988 as an assistant professor.
Ogunnaike moved to the US permanently in 1988, when he left the services of Unilag for good.
Lately, he’d been in Nigeria often, in his words, “mostly to help with a relatively new World-Bank sponsored University in Abuja (The African University of Science and Technology.
He was also inducted into the Nigerian Academy of Engineering in 2012.
Ogunnaike will be missed by friends and family, not the least the global chemical engineering world where he held forth at the crossroads of chemical engineering, medicine and biology.