Mixed reactions Wednesday greeted the nation’s existence as an indivisible entity sixty years after independence in 1960.
While some applauded the journey of six decades as been worthwhile, others contended that the number of years was far from being commensurate with the level of progress under the period.
And to some others, it was a message of perseverance and endurance amidst the teething challenges confronting the nation.
In his own message, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan urged Nigerians to remain together as demonstrated within the last 60 years.
Lawan said, “while we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of our dear country as a sovereign nation, the occasion is also auspicious for a sober reflection on the progress that we have made, the challenges that we face and the future that we desire as a nation.
“It is in this sense that I consider the theme for the 60th Independence anniversary, “Together”, as apt.”
“Patriotic Nigerians have ample reasons to celebrate the fact that in spite of the clear challenges that the differences in our tongues, modes of worship and other elements of our diversity pose to nationhood, we have remained Together.
“Our national journey may have been tortuous, our progress slow and unsteady, and primordial fears and sentiments may occasionally cast dark clouds over our unity and threaten our resolve to stick together, but if we look at great nations throughout history, we would realise that all such experiences are common features of nation-building,” the lawmaker said.
Sounding philosophical, Lawan said: “Some of us may not see the wood for the trees due to some unmet expectations. But a broad perspective of issues will strengthen rather than weaken our aspiration of building a great Nigeria.
“Our commitment to the cause of building a nation in which none is oppressed and of which all is proud must therefore remain unshakable”
This cause he added “fired the zeal of our founding fathers and inspired them to make the great sacrifices that they made to bequeath to us our independence.”
“We value our democracy and the rights it confers on us as citizens of a democratic nation. However, the expression of these rights need not be a clog in the wheel of our national unity, peace and development.
“Our democracy is a vehicle for the pursuit of our individual and collective aspirations. We all have roles to play to keep the vehicle roadworthy and fit for purpose.
“On our part as the Legislature, we will continue to provide true representation to the Nigerian people and to strive to make their government work for them. In this regard, the ninth National Assembly is committed to having another look at our constitution, the grundnorm for our co-existence as a nation, with a view to making it a document of the Nigerian people.
“Fellow Nigerians should take advantage of this opportunity by taking active part in the constitutional review process. The overall objective of the periodic amendment of our laws is to make them keep pace with the changes that each epoch requires, strengthen the bond that keeps us together and to cement peace and progress in our beloved country,” he added.
Also sounding hopeful, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said Nigeria had come a long way and overcome many challenges in the past 60 years, noting that “things are going to get better.”
In a goodwill message to mark Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary, the Speaker eulogised and paid glowing tributes to Nigeria’s heroes, who made sacrifices for the country to become what it is today.
“We all love our country Nigeria. Yet the truth is that our country has not always lived up to our expectations, and sometimes, it is hard not to be overcome by despair about the fact of where we are and the perils on the horizon. I want you to know that things are going to get better.
“I hold in my heart the abiding truth that there is nothing wrong with our country that cannot be fixed by what is right about our country – and there is nothing more righteous about Nigeria than its people.
“We are the ones who will save ourselves to attain the lofty heights of our national anthem and make for our children a nation where peace and justice reign.
“Today, on our nation’s 60th Independence Anniversary, this is what we celebrate – our indomitable spirit, our collective determination to triumph against all the odds.
“We also celebrate our nation’s heroes; citizens of every tongue, tribe, and creed, who have stepped up to serve their communities, to help our country be better, to protect our land and keep us safe,” Gbajabiamila said.
In an interview with Minna, Niger state, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, said notwithstanding the ups and downs, the nation had recorded significant progress.
He said: “Politically, things are stabilising now. Initially during the military regime, especially the General Ibrahim Babangida’s era, two political parties were set up that gave ground for a return to democracy in the country. I could remember there were SDP and NRC. I will say so far so good, we have come a long way. Of course, we have our ups and down. The military incursion into politics is one thing that keeps vibrating in the history of Nigeria.
“But all said and done, I will say that since independence, we have come a long way politically. Of course, with the coming of independence some problems arose. For instance, before independence, we had three regions. There was a sort of keen competition in trying to see how each region can develop itself. Then, our revenue earner was agriculture. We had groundnut pyramid in the north, cocoa in the south and palm produce in the east. So, by and large, I think as we continue as a nation, everything will continue to improve.”
In his message, former Lagos state governor and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described Nigerians as a group of people fashioned with a unique history, hence the need to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country.
Tinubu said Nigerians should not only celebrate the political space call Nigeria but celebrate the decent, industrious and kind people who make Nigeria what it is and who strive with care and passion to bring Nigeria closer to what it ought to be.
In a statement he personally signed to celebrate the 60th Independence Anniversary, Tinubu said he would be selling falsehood if he were to promise that Nigerians’ daily path would be lined with rose petals and sweet fragrance.
“I would be selling you false hope if I were to say nothing but gentle days and tranquil nights await us. We are a nation and a people fashioned by a unique history. We bear no shame for our history is no better or worse than any other nation on the face of the earth. From our forbearers, we inherited a land and its ways and means.
“We have been entrusted by generations yet to come to improve upon those ways and means in order to establish a Nigerian way of life in which all children of this land may flourish in new ways and one in which the social ills of the past no longer seek to haunt the broad avenues of our future.
“However, I tender this sound and fundamental truth. This beloved nation now faces in the right direction. We move closer to the reality of a greater nation based on a more just and compassionate society. Because of you, the fine and patriotic people who are this nation, we are better than we were yesterday but not quite as good as we shall be tomorrow,” Tinubu said.
APC urges togetherness
Congratulating Nigerians on the occasion, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) said the country is better together than being divided.
In a statement issued Tuesday in Abuja by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, the ruling party expressed confidence that the golden years of Nigeria would return under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“As Nigerians and friends of Nigeria all over the world celebrate the 6th decade of her independence from the British colony, our party, the governing APC assures that the golden years of this great Nation will return under the current administration of President Buhari.
“There is no doubt that Nigeria has made great national history and nationalistic history makers from her economic and political evolution in the last 60 years.
As a nation, we are better than where we were and with determination, faith and commitment to our fatherland close to where we should be.
“Today, we remember and salute our founding fathers who fought for the independence of our great country and also members of our Armed Forces, many of whom have paid the supreme price to defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity and keep our country united.
“As a nation, we are better together than we are apart. Despite our perceived differences, our strength and progress depend on our ability to harness our rich diversity,” the statement said.
PDP urges hope
In a similar message, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) salutes Nigerians on the occasion of our nation’s 60th independence anniversary.
In a statement Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said: “Nigerians are celebrating on a despairing mood due to the social, economic and security challenges that have confronted our nation in the last five years but urged the citizens to keep hope alive and continue to work for unity, stability and progress of our nation.”
The party described as “depressing that while our nation had attained lofty heights in all spheres of life since independence; such national attainments in economy, commerce, industry, education, healthcare, human capital and infrastructural developments, living standards, democratic reforms and national cohesion have been eroded by the misrule of the last five years.
“It is indeed disheartening that whereas October 1 date signposts the sacrifices of our heroes past in the quest for national freedom as well as our collective determination to live harmoniously, engender good governance and succeed as one people under a democratic rule, such pursuits have been undermined by five years of a divisive, repressive, retrogressive, corrupt and incompetent administration.
“It is equally lamentable that under five years, the gains achieved as well as our pride as an independent nation, have all been reversed by thoughtless policies including the mortgaging of our nation’s sovereignty to foreign interests through loans and utter neglect of our productive sector, leading to the wrecking of our once robust economy and turning of our nation into the poverty capital of the world; a situation that has reduced our once happy citizenry to a life of despondency and misery.”
Speaking to Blueprint in an interview in Kano, elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, blamed the nation’s leadership rot on successive military interventions.
Yakasai said defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria as a sovereign country against external onslaught should be the main preoccupation of the military, not intervening to seize power and remain in the saddle of leadership.
He said: “Since the beginning of the 1966 military coup, the issue of leadership has taken a dismal turn, with more States and Local Governments created which served a conduit to siphon the public till. Looting has become legalized by those who viewed it as a simple way of becoming rich. This is done at the expense of the nation. Those who have looted the treasury were seen as heroes and much revered in public places”.
“There is no patriotism and absolute love for the country, when a person derives solace in committing act of brigandage. People see him as a hero of some sort wothy of being worshipped for carving such a bad image. It is such an attitude that plunged this country into a serious economic mess and gruelling poverty. There is the need for a paradigm shift from such an attitude towards the path of salvation and greatness” he affirmed.
Also, a First Republic politician and chieftain of the APC in Kano, Alhaji Musa Danbirni has described as worrisome, the flair of elites in the corridors of power to sit-tight, desperately attempting to block others from participating in the business of governance and leadership.
Danbirni told Blueprint that the essence of democracy was to provide a level playing field for every eligible and interested Nigerian to prove his worth in the parlance of partisan politics.
He said the craze for creating political dynasty by some self-centred elites was eroding the confidence of those who want to participate in the political game.
“I can’t imagine the way and manner those in the position of authority or saddle of leadership want to remain perpetually calling the shots. Such a flair to me is a bad omen for democracy. Chances should be given to those who want to prove their worth. We should begin to think out of the box for the business of governance and leadership to flourish.
“It is foolhardy for one to believe that he or she is destined to rule for eternity. Those who want sit-tight only have the penchant to loot the public till. Nigeria as I see it, is a great country endowed with the much needed potentials to forge ahead. What is needed most, are credible leaders to steer the ship of the State. We also need the political will to improve on what we have claimed to have achieved,” he stressed.
Nation not progressing well –Agoro
Also speaking to Blueprint in Ibadan, former presidential candidate of the National Action Council (NAC), Dr Olapade Agoro, believed the nation was not progressing rightly.
He said: “Only a day dreamer would jump to the conclusion that Nigeria is progressing well and as expected under the impediments the British people designed for her. Nigeria was packaged to be under British tutelage for many political and economic reasons like they have for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia and Canada.”