The man who composed Nigeria’s National Anthem, Pa. Benedict Odiase is dead. He died on Tuesday night in his sleep at his Oregun, Lagos home.
As a composer per excellence, Odiase wrote and composed Nigeria’s National Anthem, Arise O Compatriots in May 1978. The Federal Government had in that year thrown open the competition to Nigerians to compose the National Anthem. Odiase, like every other Nigerian sent his entry and he was subsequently shortlisted along with two other great composers- Professors Laz Ekwueme and Akin Euba.
Eventually, the Federal Government through Mr. Christopher Oyesiku, leader of the then Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), announced Odiase as winner of the competition and his entry was formally chosen as the country’s National Anthem on October 1, 1978.
But despite his achievement as a great composer whose work was selected as Nigeria’s National Anthem, Pa Odiase (MON) remained a humble and unassuming man till death. He was said to have lived a quiet life at his Oregun home in Lagos. Last year when Nigeria turned 52, Pa Odiase disclosed in a media interview how the Musical Copyrights Society Nigeria (MCSN), has handed to him, royalties for his work that were being exploited at various locations around the world.
On whether he was adequately compensated for the composition, Pa Odiase said there was no immediate reward or commendation but that in December 2001, he received the award of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) from the Federal Government.
The late elder statesman joined the Nigeria Police Force in March 1954 and served in the force based on instructions from the Police High Command. The Federal Government of Nigeria or any of its departments or agencies specifically for the purpose of writing and composing the anthem did not commission him.
When he discovered that his works were being used without adequate remuneration or royalties, Odiase transferred his copyright interest in the work, Arise O Compatriot to the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN) from the Performing Rights Society of United Kingdom. The decision paid off as the society has protected his work since 1998 and has paid royalties to him from the usage of his composition both locally and abroad.
Having served his fatherland for many years, Pa Odiase retired in 1992 as a Deputy Commissioner of Police. He had earlier served as the Director of Music with the Nigeria Police Band.