By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto, Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Alex Enumah in Abuja, Vanessa Obioha, Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The need for sustainable peace and developing the potential greatness of Nigeria reverberated through statements issued by prominent Nigerians to mark the country’s 57th independence anniversary. They all expressed hope in a promising and bright future for the country.
In an Independence Day message, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, called on Nigerians to be committed to building bridges of peace and development. Wike congratulated all Nigerians on the successful celebration of the 57th independence anniversary, noting that despite the challenges of nationhood, Nigeria will continue to make progress.
He declared that the government and people of Rivers State would continue to work for a united Nigeria. He asserted that the state is not part of any agitation for secession, pointing out that Rivers people are committed to one, indivisible Nigeria.
The governor reiterated his call for dialogue as a means of resolving all developmental, economic and political challenges facing the country. He called for better security and justice for all federating units to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging and de-escalate tension across the land. The governor assured all residents of Rivers State that his administration would always protect them.
In the same vein, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, has urged Nigerians to rededicate themselves to making the nation one of the greatest on earth.
This, he said, can be achieved by making more investment in education and striving in order to secure a brighter future for Nigerian children.
Governor Tambuwal said investments in education and technology will be worthy legacy to be bequeathed to the children of Nigeria.
“They are investments that will bring the best out of the next generation of Nigerians and enable us to reach our potential as individuals, communities and a nation.
“We must continue to put the right policies in place and ensure diligent implementation of such policies. This is important because our children hold so much hope for our future and no investment can be said to be too much for them,” the statement read.
In Bayelsa State, where the country’s 57th independence anniversary coincides with the 21st anniversary of the creation of the state, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson advised the people not to despair despite the challenges of the present times. He urged all Bayelsans and the Ijaw Nation to rekindle their hope in the greatness of the state and the country, for if Bayelsa is great, Nigeria will be great again.
While paying glowing tributes to the founding fathers of Bayelsa State, Governor Dickson acknowledged their immeasurable sacrifice that resulted in Bayelsa becoming a reality.
The governor therefore called on Bayelsans and all Nigerians to “take advantage of the double celebrations to reflect on where we were, where we are now and where we ought to be as a nation.
“I therefore urge all Bayelsans and indeed Nigerians to rekindle hope in the state and in our country. We might not have attained the height we expect but it is also true that we are not where we were. Progress and development is block upon block. Gradually but steadily, we are making good progress,” he said.
Also, former Governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has declared that the widespread ethnic agitations in the country are fuelled by lack of opportunities for dialogue and consultations.
The former Governor, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja, said stakeholders in the polity must encourage dialogue.
According to the Governor, stakeholders in the polity must contribute to nation building by putting in place mechanism for dispute resolutions, through dialogue and consultations.
He said: “Recent events in the country have called for concern to all well-meaning Nigerians, especially the agitations from different sections of the country. And this is happening against the back drop of various threats, counter threats and demand from different parts of our dear nation.
“Collectively, all these issues constitute the prevalence of insecurity in the country and bringing forth the questions of peace and mutual coexistence of our diverse people.”
The former Governor stated that in a democratic setting, “the political parties have the responsibilities to mobilize elected and all other members for nation building while putting in place mechanism for dispute resolutions, through dialogue and consultations.”
He declared that it is the absence of platforms for dialogue and consultations that is being exploited by ethnic and tribal champions to push through the unconstitutional ways of agitations.
“Therefore, I urge all statesmen, traditional and religious leaders, and political parties to stand up and speak in the face of these challenges facing our country today.
”I want also want to commend the security agencies and the military for standing up to the challenges of the moment. However, they should be guided by their rules of engagement and work within the rule of law by exercising greater restraint under all circumstances and whatever level of provocation,” he said.
On the rising agitation for Biafra from the South East, Kwakwanso appealed to all leaders across the country to rise to the occasion to stem the wave of agitations. He said the military must respect the rights of Nigerians during all operations while keeping to the rules of engagement.
He said : “There is nothing wrong with agitations, that agitations is normal in as much as its done within the ambits of the law, in constitutional ways and not in a way that will deprive other citizens their fundamental human rights.”
He commended the Federal Government for recently exiting recession, adding that there should be deliberate effort to diversify the economy, create jobs, and mobilize all citizens to participate fully in nation building if the country is to sustain economic growth.
He declared that history will not be kind to political leaders who fail in their responsibilities to keep Nigerian united and prosperous under God, in peace and with justice, equity and fairness.
In a goodwill message to Nigerians on the occasion of the Independence Day celebration, one of the registered political parties, the Democratic Peoples’ Congress (DPC), has called for devolution powers to states and local governments across the country. The party also sued for a radical approach to governance that will uplift the living standards of the people so pauperized by poor leadership.
The National Chairman of DPC, Rev. Olusegun Peters described the current situation in the country as deplorable. He said, “It is unfortunate that Nigeria is still groping in the dark despite abundant human and natural resources. The nation has been underdeveloped by successive governments at all levels who have looted the public treasury and impoverished the citizenry.”
Peters also said that the current agitation and clamour for restructuring rather than of accelerated development of the nation connotes failure of leadership.
In Lagos, a coalition of women group under the aegis of the Nigerian Women for Peaceful Coexistence and Unity issued a passionate call for cessation of hostilities and violence in all parts of the country, while calling for continued dialogue between different sections of the country that may feel aggrieved. The Convener of the group and former presidential liaison to the National Assembly, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa appealed for unity in Nigeria in the midst of the prevailing disruption to public peace and order in some parts of the country.
Supported by a host of women including the former Deputy of Lagos state, Alhaja Sinatu Ojukutu and Mrs. Kafilat Ogbara, the senator appealed to Nigerians to shun the seed of discord being sown by some individuals.
“It is important that we as women, mothers and patriots lend our voices to the many passionate voices advocating unity, peace and progress for our beloved country.”
“The founding members of Nigeria bequeathed a united and virile country to us,” she continued. “It is our most cherished desire and in fact our sacred duty to do same for the generation that is coming after us. We want our children and grandchildren to also have the benefit or inheriting a united and virile Nigeria.
‘Many of us seated here were living witnesses to the horrors of the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970. Two million innocent souls were lost in that war, that also saw millions of others losing practically everything. We lost spouses, fathers, brothers and loved ones who were conscripted to fight in a war that might have been avoided if we had let good sense prevail at that time.”
Having been a refugee during the Nigerian civil war, she said that war is not something anyone should encourage.
Her advocacy is coming at a time where the unity of the country is on the tenterhooks. The rising call for Biafra in the south-east and the yet-to-be-defeated insurgency of Boko-Haram in the north-east has been a daily threat to the lives of many Nigerians.
Thousands of Nigerians are displaced in the north-east with little or no means of survival. The senator said the people of Bakassi have been suffering similar fate in the past five years. She handled the affairs of the Nigeria-Cameroon border dispute and was the chairman of The Bakassi Resettlement Committee.
The Senator also appealed to youths to refrain from violent protests. Her view was supported by the former Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Alhaja Sinatu Aderoju Ojikutu. She pleaded with mothers to caution their wards against being tools of violence. She understood that the youths of today are easily swayed due to the high rate of unemployment but these agitation she pleaded should be done peacefully. Ojikutu also appealed to international communities not to see Nigeria as its dumping ground for war wares.
“They should not bring their war wares here. Nigeria is not a destination for their war weaponry. They should empower our youths positively.”
The group also called for the devolution of power and restructuring of the country. According to them, every government has carried out some form of restructuring and the present administration is not an exception.
Meanwhile, the people of Imo State and the entire Igbo people have been enjoined to renew their commitment to a united Nigeria. They were equally assured that their desire for a peaceful nation where all ethnic nationalities are assured of their safety in all parts of the country is on cause.
In an independence anniversary message to Imo people in general and Imo west in particular, the Senator representing Imo West, Senator Hope Uzodinma said he was confident that the Federal Government was equal to the task of guaranteeing the safety and security of Igbos all over Nigeria.
He called on the people to jettison rumours about their insecurity in the Northern parts of the country but to be confident that the government is equal to the task of ensuring their safety anywhere in the land.
Joining the call for a united Nigeria, Senator Oluremi Tinubu has asked Nigerians to continue on the path of unity and eschew all tendencies to break up the country, saying the country has set its hands on the plough and cannot give up now.
In a statement to commemorate Nigeria’s 57th independence, the Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District said in spite of the conflicts and rifts including a 30-month civil war that have plagued Nigeria, the country elected to remain as one.
“We must continue on the path of oneness, putting national interests above ethnicity and self. We have set our hands on the plough; we cannot at this moment, give up. Thus, we must shun all attempts to cause disunity amongst us,” she said.
Tinubu said: “I the years since then, we have dabbled in military rule, unitary system and now, democratic governance. We have had seasons of plenty as marked by the oil boom, and we have experienced lean years. We have also been besieged with a civil war, ethnic conflicts, and rifts; and we have enjoyed relative peace as a nation.
“Through it all and in spite of these, we have remained united and indivisible, pressing on to the Nigeria of our dreams. And for this, I must commend every Nigerian.”
The Wife of Kogi State Governor, Hajia Rashida Bello has called on Nigerians to embrace the spirit of togetherness irrespective of their tribal, political and religious differences as this will strengthen peaceful coexistence among Nigerians.
She made call in her goodwill message to mark the Independence Day celebration.
According to her, for Nigeria to have remained one indivisible nation for 57 years in spite of all the challenges that has been confronting the country as a multi-ethnic nation. “We must celebrate and give thanks to God Almighty.”
Bello stated that Nigeria as people should begin to see the unity of the country as pertinent which should also encourage the citizenry to think less about tribal and religious differences, and think more about the harmony and progress of the nation.
‘’Nigeria has come to stay as a nation and all hands should be on deck to build a Nigeria of our collective dream where freedom, peace and unity abound, and where the labour of our Heroes past, shall never be in vain. The National Anthem and the National Pledge should stand as the creed for all Nigerians’’ she said.
Expressing hope in the country’s unity, the Assistant Pastor of Revival House of Glory International Church, Pastor (Mrs) Anne Ekwueme, has assured that Nigeria will remain a one united strong nation that cannot be divided or crumble under the numerous challenges confronting her as a nation.
The cleric who gave the assurance following prayers of intercession she said the church made for the nation throughout the month of September, added that the age 57 is significant as it combines two characters of God, which she identified as grace and perfection.
Ekwueme also urged Nigerians to disregard the quit notice issued to some persons in the northern part of the country.
She said there was no need for people to be worried by the quit notice as God has already taken control of the situation and has given peace and prosperity as a result of the 30 days/24hrs prayer chain embarked upon by the church.
“There is no such thing. We have prayed and God has taken over. We are a unified nation, United we stand, so, there is no such thing. Those were just threat and things we react to but, we have prayed and we believe Nigeria is a unified nation.
“Nigeria is not breaking, it’s not crumbling, and from today, Nigeria would begin it’s prophetic and apostolic destiny to Africa and the rest of the world.
“So we are not concerned about the threat, we are only concerned about what God has said about Nigeria”.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bamidele Faparusi and former Nigerian envoy to Canada, Amb Dare Bejide , have called on Nigerians to put on the toga of patriotism to enable country overcome her challenges and get to the promised land.
He said, though the country has not achieved the dreams of her founding fathers in the last 57 years, he expressed confidence that Nigerians can now decide to toe the path of rebranding by emulating those virtues that can make the country great for the good of the nation.
Faparusi, an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in Ekiti State, also saluted the courage of the founding fathers of Ekiti State, which clocks 21 on the same day, saying their efforts are beginning to yield results with the developmental strides the state have attained so far.
Also, a former Nigeria Ambassador to Canada and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant, Chief Dare Bejide, has congratulated the people of Ekiti State on the 21st anniversary of the creation of the state.
Bejide saluted the traditional rulers, politicians, leaders of thought, religious leaders and other patriots who advocated and fought for the creation of Ekiti State which came to reality on October 1, 1996.
Preaching the sermon of peaceful coexistence, one of the nation’s foremost indigenous oil marketing companies, Conoil has enjoined Nigerians to focus more on those great qualities that bind us together as the world’s most populous black nation, and ignore the intangible things that tend to divide us.
In a goodwill message on the occasion of the country’s 57th independence anniversary, the total energy company advised Nigerians to deepen their sense of patriotism in order to rekindle the nation’s flame of oneness and fortify its enviable position in the comity of nations.
While urging Nigerians to work assiduously to ensure togetherness with a view to guaranteeing a brighter future for the country, it implored them to maximize their common ideals to foster the nation’s unity.
Noting that Nigeria’s journey to nationhood has been characterized by milestones that demonstrate its strengths, Conoil urged Nigerians to recommit themselves to own and live the country’s national anthem with the resolve “to serve their fatherland with all their strength as one nation, bound in freedom, peace and unity”.