Notable leaders of thought, saturday, joined millions other Nigerians across the world to celebrate the nation’s 57th independence anniversary, as they unanimously in their respective messages sought a better country in unity and peaceful co-existence.
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, in his message, asked Nigerians to always embrace peace and dialogue, because “they are the antidotes for conflict resolution”, adding that, “though the nation is bedeviled with senseless agitations and conflicts, there is the need for careful appraisal of our journey to nationhood”.
He, however, declared that, “The resilience of the armed forces of Nigeria to curtail secessionists’ agitation throughout our nation’s post-independence era has reduced tensions and unnecessary destruction of lives and property.”
“As an active participant in the Civil War and as a retired military officer, with the hard lesson learnt, I will never be tired of calling for the oneness and unity of our great nation. We will forever be ready to sacrifice for a united and prosperous Nigeria when called again.”
Former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said, “We should of course celebrate our 57 years of existence as a sovereign country, but at the same time, must resolve to deal effectively with the challenges, some of which are existential, facing the country. The undeniable reality of the current state of affairs in Nigeria is that the country, since the civil war, has never been as divided as it is now in the face of armed insurgency in the North-east, a threat of secession by some elements in the South-east, rampaging Fulani herdsmen wreaking havoc in parts of the country, militancy in the Niger Delta, an economy just recovering from recession and incalculable damage being done to the country’s development by massive corruption.”
To effectively tackle these challenges and put an already divisive country on the road to political stability and its deserved development, he said, “We must move from our present nominal to a true federalism. In other words, we must restructure the country’s present governance architecture.”
President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has called on Nigerians, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliations, to work for peace, unity and stability of the country, even as he congratulated Nigeria for sustaining its status as a united and progressive country.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President said it was necessary for all leaders: political, traditional, religious and business, to close ranks in order to initiate and implement ideas and strategies that would further develop the country and increase the standard of living of the citizenry.
“It is apparent that the need for peace, unity and stability in our nation cannot be compromised. Our togetherness, abundant resources and diversity are our greatest asset. Therefore, let us refrain from tendencies that tend to pull us apart”, Saraki said.
On his party, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, also called on Nigerians to be optimistic that the country would overcome her challenges.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu said although Nigeria was bedeviled by myriad of challenges, it would bounce back to reckoning, with a positive mindset and leadership.
“I am an optimist. As a matter of principle, I prefer to see the positive sides of life without also overlooking the problems. At 57, we have no doubt we have our challenges as a nation. But we have also made progress. We survived a civil war to remain one country,” he said.
Former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark however called for a renaissance spirit among Nigerians as a panacea to the current socio-economic and political challenges.
Mark, in a statement, called on Nigerians not to despair despite the difficulties, but to re-enact the indomitable spirit, that has seen the nation through tough times in the past.
“We can surmount our challenges if we collaborate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara urged Nigerians to strengthen the bond of unity and cohesion as a people of common interest and destiny in the process of nation-building.
Dogara, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, said Nigeria would only attain greatness in an atmosphere of peace, unity and stability and therefore enjoined the citizens to shun every harbinger of hate, division and violence.
Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon Sulaimon Lasun Yussuff, on his part, appealed to Nigerians to continue to live together in harmony, love and peace.
Lasun, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Wole Oladimeji, reiterated his call for unity and peaceful co-existence, which according to him are the major cores of prosperity.
A former Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie, in a telephone interview with THISDAY, decried the level of division among Nigerians, which he noted had led to skirmishes and agitations around the country. He urged Nigerians to do away with the divisive tendencies that have continued to threaten the corporate existence of the country.
Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, harped on the need for restructuring and urged President Buhari to restructure the country to save it from crisis.
“If he is sincere about keeping this country together in peace, this is the major problem. Don’t deceive yourself. If there is no political stability, there cannot be peace; if there is no peace, there won’t be progress…
“Right now, we are being forced live together under a constitution that was enforced on us by the military containing things that were not in the agreement before independence. They should go back to the constitution that was formed by our founding fathers. I am old too enough for someone to be telling me unity first. Some of those people shouting unity were not born when we fought for independence. Why should they be afraid to go back to that constitution? Are they wiser than the founding fathers?”
A former governor of Ogun State and prominent leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Olusegun Osoba, said “We have suffered too much setback which has affected all aspects of our lives – economy, security, education, politics, infrastructure and even justice system. Virtually all aspects of growth have been affected in the last 57 years.
“However, hope is not lost at all for Nigeria in spite of what we are passing through as a people and a nation. A lot must be done about Boko Haram in the North-east; IPOB in the South-east, insurgencies in the South-south and inadequate governance in the South-west. Indeed, all these have really affected the economy of South-west.”
Spokesman for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, while expressing disappointments on the state of the nation, said the elite were responsible for the problems bedeviling the country and that Nigeria would not have been where it is today if the elite had played their role well.
First Republic Minister and leader of the Ijaw Nation, Chief Edwin Clark, opined that a majority of Nigerians want the country to continue as one strong and united nation, but argued that since restructuring has remained a recurring decimal, government must have to provide the template for reconstructing the country and advocated that Nigerians must join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari to stop corruption.
“My message for Nigeria is that we are all one. We all belong to one united country called Nigeria and we should not allow religion, ethnicity and politics to override the interest of Nigeria. We should all regard Nigeria as a first before any other thing.”
Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, in his message, urged the political and religious leadership to strive more in uniting the country even as he backed the various calls for restructuring of the nation.
Citing developed nations like Britain, Germany, USA and France, he said “They took advantage of their diversity to build a strong nation. We have both the human and natural resources to make a strong nation, and we must harness them.”
Police Beef Up Security in North, Niger Delta
The Nigeria Police yesterday said it had beefed up security measures across the country ahead of today’s independence celebrations following recent hate speeches and ultimatums targeting the national day. Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Jimoh Moshood, announced this in a statement released in Abuja. Moshood said as part of the measures to forestall any breach of the peace, especially in areas where groups had made demands accompanied by threats of violence, the police had deployed Assistant Inspectors General and Commissioners of Police to different parts of the country.
In a related development, the military said the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin, would be visiting troops fighting the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east during the 57th independence festivities.
Deputy Director of Public Relations, Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, stated that the CDS would be accompanied by the service chiefs on the visit meant to boost the morale of the soldiers. Nwachukwu said, “During the visit the CDS will address troops of Lafiya Dole.”
Some youth groups in northern Nigeria, under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups, had on June 6 in Kaduna ordered all Igbos residing in the North to leave the region before October 1. They also advised northerners in the Igbo South-east to leave the zone, threatening that from October 1 they would commence “visible actions” against Igbos remaining in the North. The group claimed that its action was a reaction to the activities of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, who had been demanding the autonomy of the Igbo territory. Following the ultimatum by the northern youths, a South-south group, Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, had on August 10 given northerners and Yorubas notice to quit the area before October 1 or face hostile actions. They also threatened to resume attacks on oil installations in the zone.
Though, the northern and Niger Delta groups announced the withdrawal of their ultimatums on August 24 and September 7, respectively, Moshood said men and officers of the Nigeria Police were being deployed to prevent crisis in any part of the country.
He stated, “The 2017 Nigeria Independence celebration is scheduled to take place across the country on 1st October 2017. To this end, The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim K. Idris has directed that a robust and elaborate security arrangement be implemented to ensure a hitch free and peaceful celebration nationwide.
“The Police Commanding Officers are to deploy all intelligence and personnel to make sure that the purported quit notice given to the Igbos in the North as well as the Hausa/Fulanis and Yoruba in the Niger Delta region are not actualised.
“They are also to enforce the law as required to prevent the utterance of hate speech and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”
The police urged parents and community leaders to advise the children and followers to desist from acts that could cause tension.
The PPRO stated, “To ensure adequate security and guarantee utmost protection of life and property of all Nigerians during the period of the celebration and beyond, the Inspector General of Police has directed the Commissioners of Police in all states of the federation and their Supervising Assistant Inspectors General of Police in charge of Zonal Commands to carryout massive deployment of officers and men of the Force, comprising Conventional Police Personnel, Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorism Unit, Special Police Forces, Force Intelligence and Investigation Department, for covert and overt operations, the police helicopters and police marine gunboats to patrol difficult terrains and riverine areas throughout the country, and the Police Mounted Troops and dogs section for crowd control and crime prevention at venues of celebration and recreation during the period and beyond.
“The personnel deployed are under strict instructions to be civil, polite but firm in the discharge of their responsibilities. They are to pay special attention to places of celebrations, public places and other locations where people will gather to celebrate the independence anniversary.”
Moshood said, “The Commissioners of Police in charge of the State Commands are directed by the Inspector General of Police to collaborate with other security and safety agencies and also interface with the community leaders to ensure a successful implementation of security operations for the celebration…
“Consequently, Assistant Inspectors General of Police and Commissioners of Police in charge of Zonal and State Commands have been directed by the Inspector General of Police to be personally on ground to deploy and supervise police personnel on visible police patrols and police presence at strategic locations and other identified flashpoints within the cities, and along the highways and major roads in all states of the country and FCT to build confidence of safety in the people residing everywhere in the country.”
Meanwhile, the governments of Kaduna, Kwara, and Adamawa states said they were taking steps to ensure security during the independence celebrations.