61st Independence: Visioning greater Nigeria, By Chijioke Okoronkwo

Politics, policies and governance in Nigeria, By Abiodun Komolafe

Nigeria that gained independence on Oct.1, 1960 has survived all forms of adversities and savoured glorious times.

In recent years, banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, religious chauvinism, secessionist agitations among others have reached a crescendo.

These centrifugal forces, alongside economic challenges have weighed down menacingly on Nigeria and seem to have eroded the vision of its founding fathers.

Nonetheless, stakeholders in the Nigerian project are upbeat that the vision of the founding fathers remains unbowed as brighter years lie ahead.

Delivering a message entitled, `The Vision Undefeated,’ at the 61st independence anniversary inter-denominational church service at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo spoke glowingly of the Nigerian vision.

“Sixty-one years ago, our founding fathers laid out a vision, that the many nations and ethnicities, North and South of the Niger, 300 languages or more, differing tribes, and religions, would by the grace of God become one nation.

“That their diverse strengths and gifts would coalesce into a formidable economic and regional force.

“And that these united nations may become the largest aggregation of black people on earth; a beacon of hope to all peoples of African descent, long bruised by the afflictions of slavery and colonial exploitation; Nigeria will be the reaffirmation of their dignity and a tonic to their spirits.

“The Lord blessed the vision and prospered the land with richness in oil, in gas, in minerals of every hue.

“In fruit trees, in palm trees, in crops of every kind, in savannahs and forests, arable land, seas, rivers, and the riches embedded in them.’’

As Nigeria clocks 61 on Oct. 1, Nigerians are optimistic that the nation is bound for greater heights, if nepotism and ethnicity were eschewed, while patriotism is forthrightly upheld.

He said that the vision of Nigeria’s forebears inhered in the words of the national motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.

The vice president said that through the years, Nigerians had worked that vision, through thick and thin–from subjection to colonial monarchy, to a sovereign republic, to civil rule to military rule.

“We fought a bitter war amongst brothers that cost millions of lives, and though we still wear the deep scars of those wounds, the Lord preserved the republic.

“We have since become the most educated and most entrepreneurial nation in Africa.

“Ten of our 36 states have larger economies than at least 15 African countries; from our ranks, we have the most accomplished men and women, in the arts, the sciences, sports, technology, and commerce.

“But today, yet again, our path has been dogged by conflict; religious and ethnic, economic challenges, insurgencies and banditry, much darkness, many valleys, and many thorns.

“And so many ask, can the vision of the nation united, the nation peaceful, the nation righteous and the nation prosperous yet abide?”

He said the vision was not destroyed because of the many trials and tribulations, neither was the vision denied by the days when the fig tree did not blossom, or when there was no fruit on the vines.

Osinbajo said that Nigeria’s current trials could not draw the curtains on its story, because the vision was for an appointed time.

“Our today is not our tomorrow because the vision is for an appointed time.

“This country is greater than the sum of its parts and the sum of its mistakes, and because the God we serve is greater than the sum of our collective hopes and imagination, our nation will surmount our current travails and emerge in victory,’’ he said.

Sharing similar sentiments, Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said he was excited because he had lived 61 years out of his 65 years in an independent Nigeria.

He recalled with nostalgia, the frenzy he witnessed as a four year old boy when Nigeria attained independence.

Mustapha said that in spite of setback and challenges, Nigeria was destined to be a great nation.

He said that looking at what Nigeria had gone through, there was every reason to give gratitude to God.

Mustapha thanked God for preserving Nigeria’s unity, despite its numerous challenges.

Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, also spoke radiantly about the Nigerian vision.

Akpabio said that the messages were very clear on the need for Nigerians to turn to God as all things are possible with Him.

“We thank our president and our leaders across board; our military for efforts to curb insurgency, banditry and insecurity in general.

“On this 61st anniversary, the message is for us to unite and offer prayers to God; because we believe that God is capable of doing everything that human beings cannot do.

“I believe God has heard our collective prayers—that our children who are in captivity will be returned; that safety will return to Nigeria; prosperity will return to Nigeria if only we are united.

“I believe strongly that the unity of the nation is the most important thing; every other thing will fall in place; we thank God for taking us through this 61st anniversary and I want us to see the 70th anniversary of Nigeria as one indivisible country,’’ he said.

Still on the vision, Programme Director, HIYA Nigeria, Oluwadamilola Oni, said that the organisation was working to salvage the extinction of nationalism, patriotic rebirth and reawaken the minds of all Nigerians to reflect the great excitement of Sept. 30, 1960 into Oct. 1, 1960.

HIYA Nigeria is a Nationwide Citizens’ Enterprise Development programme, an initiative for grassroots empowerment, using Nigerian indigenous languages.

She spoke at the inauguration of Citizens and Patriots Day organised by HIYA Nigeria in Abuja.

“This programme tries to translate your indigenous language because the concept of this national anthem, when you hear it in your mother tongue, it makes more sense and more meaning to you.

“So, in a nutshell, let’s bring back that unity; that light, that candle, that excitement; that joy that came up on Sept. 30, 1960 as one country, one nation.

“Where is today? Let’s locate it using this programme,’’ she said.

More so, former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, in his independence message, called on Nigerians to embrace peace, inclusion, and unity as the nation celebrates its 61st independence anniversary.

Turaki said that given the nation’s diversity, Nigeria was stronger when all the ethnic groups worked hand-in-hand to foster its development.

He urged Nigerians to embrace peace and togetherness as the nation turns 61.

“We are stronger together; we have always been; when we look at the strength and potential of all our parts, we see that we can surmount all challenges.

“However, as we celebrate our 61st anniversary, we must look beyond our own ethnic, religious, and socio-economic lenses to understand that every individual, every community, and every state has a crucial role to play in developing the Nigeria of our dreams.

“We must all rise as compatriots and serve our motherland with all sincerity.

“We cannot continue to look at each other with distrust because we come from different places or because we worship God differently,’’ he said.

Lending his voice to the Nigerian vision, Prof. Maduike Ezeibe, Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michael Okpara University Umudike, Umuahia, said the nation had something good to celebrate, especially for being able to resist forces of disintegration.

“At 61, we have not done too badly because we are still one, even when some other countries have disintegrated.

“However, our dependence on crude oil as a major source of income is not healthy; we should be talking about research rather than resource control.”

On her part, Rev. Blessed Amalambu, the Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Abia chapter, blamed the nation’s problem on bad leadership.

Amalambu said that a man born 61 years ago had come of age, but Nigeria’s basic problem was maladministration, coupled with corruption and nepotism.

“Another problem is insecurity; we have never had it so tough in this country.

“Nigeria can be great because we have all that it takes, but we really need to go to the drawing board and do the nitty gritty,” she said.

As Nigeria clocks 61 on Oct. 1, Nigerians are optimistic that the nation is bound for greater heights, if nepotism and ethnicity were eschewed, while patriotism is forthrightly upheld.

Source: NAN