Babatunde Ogunnaike, co-writer of the national anthem, is dead

Babatunde Ogunnaike, one of the songwriters of the Nigerian national anthem, has died.

He would have died on February 20.

He became a co-author of the national anthem after his entry into a competition held by the federal government, calling for entries for lyrics for the new national anthem, was chosen.

Ogunnaike’s entry and that of four others – PO Aderibigbe, John Ilechukwu, Sota Omoigui and Eme Etim Akpan – were combined to form the new national anthem which was adopted in 1978.

Ogunnaike, who was born on March 26, 1956, in Ogun State, attended the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for his bachelor’s degree and graduated with first class honors in Chemical Engineering in 1976.

He then earned a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981 and also earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from the same university in 1981.

He was a research engineer at the Shell Development Corporation in Houston, Texas, between 1981 and 1982, and was also a professor at UNILAG between 1982 and 1988, during which time he held positions in two departments – engineering chemistry and statistics.

Between 1989 and 2002, he held various positions at DuPont Central Research and Development.

Ogunnaike joined the University of Delaware as a full professor in 2002, and had been named as the William L. Friend Professor of Chemical Engineering in 2008.

He served as the acting dean of the college of engineering at the University of Delaware from July 2011 and was named dean of the college of engineering in July 2013. He retired as dean on 1 October 2018 but remained at the faculty.

Talk about how he contributed to the composition of the national anthem in a 2013 interview with The Nation, Ogunnaike said, “I believe most of the second verse of the national anthem (if not the whole thing itself) was the second verse of the poem My first verse had a line similar to “The Labors of Our Past Heroes” which ended up in the Anthem; I’m sure many other submissions had lines similar to this as well.

Reacting to news of his death, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement on Tuesday, offered his condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

“President Buhari notes that Ogunnaike, who contributed significantly to the lines of the national anthem, showed his patriotism and devotion to the welfare of the nation in vivid lyrics that daily boost faith and spirit Nigerians,” the statement said.

“As a scholar and administrator, the President says the long hours of research, spanning years, have enhanced knowledge and understanding, and prepared generations for greater works.”

Lola R. McClure