A change of guards, cutting of cake, gun salute and release of pigeons to signify peace, were the highlights of the activity that climaxed the celebration of Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary on Tuesday.
There were no speeches. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the anniversary register in the presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Muhammad and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, to end the one hour, 45 minutes ceremony.
Since the October 1, 2010 bomb blast during the country’s 50th Independence anniversary, subsequent anniversaries were marked at the Villa’s forecourt but President Buhari’s administration broke the jinx by marking the 58th anniversary last year at the Eagles Square.
On Tuesday, there was a Presidential change of guard from 177 guard battalion to the 7 battalion of the guards brigade.
President Buhari was ushered to the venue by 9.59am. He inspected the quarter guards and then walked to the Villa forecourt to receive national salute which was followed by rendition of the National Anthem. He arrival signaled the commencement of the event which was witnessed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammed Adamu, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Muhammed Bello and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole.
Service chiefs and other top government functionaries and members of the diplomatic corps also attended the ceremony.
There was 21 gun salute, preceded by silent drills, colour party, posting of sentries and weapons and uniforms inspections to ensure conformity with military standards.
Top government officials submitted yesterday that with the unity and a secured environment, there will be prosperity for all.
They officials, including Lawan, Mustapha and Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed, urged support for the Federal Government.
According to them, the government needs the cooperation of all Nigerians, including those in opposition to lift the country to enviable height.
Speaking with State House reporters after the ceremony, the Senate President said: “Nigeria at 59 has achieved a lot but we also have some challenges. This is the way nations evolve normally. While we have achieved so much, we have some challenges which we can surmount. What is required of us is determination of the leadership and the followership in this country.
“Nigerians are very determined and loyal people. Therefore, these challenges should catapult us into our nation’s development. We should never despair. We have the wherewithal to resolve our issues.
“I also believe that the nation at 59 has come a long way in terms of the unity we have been able to achieve. Some countries have gone through more serious that disunited them but Nigeria has remained a country that sometimes people may feel bad about certain things, but everybody believes that Nigeria should remain a united and one country.
“That is what it should be, but for us to enjoy our country, we have to take our country to the Next Level.”
Asked if Nigeria’s independence is worth celebrating, Femi Gbajabiamila said: “Absolutely, every year of existence is worth celebrating. Nigeria is 59 years today; other countries, not as old as 59, they celebrate. Other countries are 200 years and they are celebrating. Every year is worth celebrating and we have come a long way.
“We will get there,” the Speaker assured.
Asked what Nigerians should be expecting next year when it turns 60, he said: Sixty years in itself is a landmark and I believe our achievements at that time will be landmark too.
“We have another year to go. Budget is being presented very soon. What happens between now and next year, and I believe a lot will happen to determine the level of celebration. But as I said, don’t forget, every year is worth celebrating in one’s life.”
Mohammed urged Nigerians to keep up hope.
He said: “Fifty years of independence in a country as diverse as Nigeria is not an easy but the good thing is that everybody is glad to be part of one united and prosperous Nigeria.
“And the administration will continue to work to ensure there is unity, security and that there is prosperity for all Nigeria and for everybody.”
The SGF said: “When we compare with countries that have sustained democracy for 200 years, ours is just 59. We have had major conflicts even within those 59 years, but to still be one solid, indivisible country today is a thing we as Nigerians rejoice over.
“So, I believe we have every course to celebrate that God has been truly be faithful to us as a nation and as a people.
“Yes, we acknowledge challenges, but going forward in our attitude. Like the President said this morning, the change must begin with each and every one of us. In our various spheres of influence and endeavours we must begin to change our attitude, our ways of doing things; become lawful citizens, not lawless citizens and we will begin to see God work in our nation to cause a change.”