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New National Anthem: Between Fatherland and Motherland

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As Nigeria adapts to its revived National Anthem, the terms ‘fatherland’ and ‘motherland’ have sparked debate. The previous anthem (“Arise, O Compatriots…”) featured ‘fatherland,’ while the reintroduced anthem returns to ‘motherland.’ This article explores the connection and implications of these two terms.

In the old anthem, the lines read:
“To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith”

The current anthem states:
“Nigerians all, are proud to serve
Our sovereign Motherland.”

### Understanding the Terms

A common mistake is interpreting ‘fatherland’ and ‘motherland’ literally, focusing on ‘father’ and ‘mother.’ In reality, both terms are gender-neutral and refer to a person’s country of origin or heritage, cherished by its nationals.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, ‘motherland’ means the country where you were born or your family originated, while ‘fatherland’ carries the same meaning. The Oxford Dictionary defines them similarly: the country of your birth to which you feel an emotional connection. Collins Dictionary echoes this, stating both terms refer to a country of ancestral origin, with strong emotional ties.

### National Preferences

The choice between ‘fatherland’ and ‘motherland’ varies by country. For instance, Germany is often called the ‘motherland,’ while Russia is referred to as the ‘fatherland.’ In Nigeria’s case, referring to the country as a ‘motherland’ does not imply a gender preference or superiority. It’s simply a matter of national choice.

### Proper Usage

Both ‘fatherland’ and ‘motherland’ are compound words, written without hyphens (e.g., ‘crossroads,’ ‘schoolchildren’). They are not possessive (e.g., ‘mother’s land’). Proper usage avoids apostrophes, as the terms represent a collective entity: the motherland or the fatherland.

### Definite Article

These terms typically use the definite article ‘the,’ emphasizing their collective importance. Examples include:
“Everyone is working towards the progress of the motherland.”
“As Nigerians, concern for the fatherland should be uppermost in our hearts.”

### Capitalization

While ‘fatherland’ and ‘motherland’ are common nouns, they are capitalized in official contexts to personify and show respect to the country. This specialized usage is deliberate in the new anthem.

### Correcting Common Mistakes

The National Orientation Agency has corrected a common mistake in the new anthem’s wording. The correct verse reads:
“Though tribes and tongues may differ
In brotherhood, we stand”

This reflects Nigeria’s diversity of ethnicities and languages, emphasizing that the country comprises many tribes and tongues, not just one.

In summary, whether referring to Nigeria as a ‘fatherland’ or ‘motherland,’ the terms are interchangeable in meaning, reflecting a deep connection to the country. The choice is more about national identity and pride than any gender implication.

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