General Yakubu Gowon (rtd)
President Goodluck Jonathan and five former Presidents and Heads of State last night in Abuja flagged off the nation's centenary anniversary celebration scheduled to climax on January 1, 2014.
January 1, 2014, would mark a century wen the British colonial administration amalgamated the Southern and Northern Protectorates to create the modern Nigerian nation.
Former military Heads of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), Maj. General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) and General Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd) as well as former Presidents Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo graced the occasion held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
The Senate President, Sen. David Mark, his Deputy Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, his Deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, also attended the event.
State governors, ministers, presidential aides, captains of Industry, members of the diplomatic corps were also present at the occasion.
Speaking at the occasion, the president said the amalgamation of 1914 was not a mistake but an act of God.
He said the amalgamation created a unique entity of the globe called Nigeria; a beautiful country richly blessed and which has turned out innovative people across the world.
The president said that beyond the endowed natural resources, Nigeria is blessed with a unique collection of people specially created by God.
He noted that the “one Nigeria consciousness” which has kept the nation together must be safeguarded, adding that it was a uniquely act of God that the country had survived a civil war and several other daunting challenges.
“The unity of Nigeria is indivisible and non-negotiable, we must remain the forward looking people that we are.
“I see a united, powerful and prosperous nation that will make the generation yet unborn very proud. Arise, we shall and prosper we will,” he said.
The president, Buhari, a 120 year-old from Zungeru in Niger State, who witnessed the 1914 amalgamation and two children, male and female representing the younger generation, lit the centenary torch.
In his welcome address, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, said in line with the directive of the president, the celebration would involve all Nigerians and its sponsorship would be wholly private sector driven.
He said he was amazed at the response of Nigerians in support of the celebration to make it strong, colourful and fascinating.
Anyim said the centenary celebration would be used to replace pessimisn with optimism to make the country rise above its challenges, disclosing that the celebration would generate over 15,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Gowon described Nigeria as “a unique nation, a nation of diverse, strong and hard working people.”
He noted that not many nations could survive 100 years of cohesiveness in-spite of the diverse nature of the nation and several challenges Nigeria has faced.
Unveiling the centenary logo, he declared: “May the emblem symbolise a rallying point for the unity of the nation.
“May it be a reminder of our, entity, unity and oneness of the nation which in not negotiable and serve as a symbol of peace, unity and prosperity.”
Obasanjo recalled his 2003 national broadcast where he asked, “If you cannot love Nigeria and be positive about it and make contributions to its progress, then I should ask you what sort of Nigerian are you?”
He advised every Nigerian that after 100 years of staying together, they should remain focused in the quest for making Nigeria a “humane, just and progressive” nation.
Obasanjo after the remarks presented the centenary theme: “one Nigeria, Great Promise”.
Speaking in same vein, Abubakar said Nigeria was in the league of countries such as India, China, Egypt, Ethiopia and Amenia having survived 100 years and more of coexistence, inspite of the daunting challenges.
He said the nation should use the opportunity of the centenary celebrations to lay the foundation of a new nation.
“There is every reason to celebrate in song and dance. One nation, indivisible Nigeria has come to stay,” he said.
Abubakar thereafter presented the centenary theme song titled: “This Land, Celebrating One Hundred Years of Nigeria” which was subsequently performed by a theme of notable Nigerian musicians led by Onyeka Onwenu.