chapter  7
Independence for Africans and Britons, 1960s–1970s
Pages 29

On the night of September 30, 1960, some 40,000 Nigerians gathered at the racecourse in Lagos, eager to witness the passage of their country from colony to independent nation. A few minutes before midnight the British governor-general and the prime minister, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, both dressed in white, marched to a platform. As the clock approached midnight they watched in silence as the Union Jack was lowered and, at the stroke of twelve, the new green and white Nigerian flag raised in its place. Fireworks burst into the sky, filling it with bright, crackling color; bands played, spectators sang “God Save the Queen,” and then followed it up with the new Nigerian national anthem. “Nigeria we hail thee,/ Our own dear native land,/ Though tribe and tongue may differ,/ In brotherhood we stand,/ Nigerians all, and proud to serve/ Our sovereign Motherland,” roared the crowds, belting out the lyrics written for the occasion by a British woman living in Nigeria, Lilian Jean Williams. In Lagos throngs of people greeted the event with dancing and cheering in the streets as they listened to the anthem play out on radios; ships in the harbor blew their horns and set off their sirens.