United States President Barack Obama has sent his greetings and that of the American people to Nigerians on the 54th independence anniversary of the country.
In a letter addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan, Obama acknowledged Nigeria's leadership role in Africa and at the United Nations (UN) towards promoting regional peace and stability.
The letter made available by the US Embassy in Abuja read in part: “At the heart of our enduring friendship is our shared commitment to democratic values, the rule of law, and economic development.
“We look forward to strengthening our relationship and working closely in the coming year, especially in promoting good governance and combating terrorism. As Nigerians observe this special day, we wish you a more peaceful and prosperous year.” Obama added that the US was looking forward to strengthening its relationship with Nigeria in the coming year, especially on good governance.
In addition to Obama's congratulatory message, Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday urged Nigerians to sustain their faith in Nigeria and remain steadfast in the effort to promote peace and the unity of Nigeria no matter the challenges.
Mark, in a goodwill message to Nigerians to mark today's 54th independence anniversary, said the indivisibility of the nation was not negotiable as he recalled the nation's chequered political history since 1960, during which Nigeria went through a 30-month fratricidal civil war, various ethno-religious conflicts, adding that the crises were surmountable.
He dismissed as untrue the perception in some quarters that Nigeria had not made progress since independence, saying: “Let us cast our minds back a little and see the number of roads, schools, universities, health institutions, telecommunications infrastructure and a host of others.
“We may not have been where we want to be but we have made appreciable progress and we can do more. All we need to do is to strengthen our unity as one people with one mission and purpose.
“A stable democracy has offered us an opportunity to harness our abundant resources for good.
“Nigeria has passed through many challenges in the past and we came out of it. The security challenges; this Boko Haram can be defeated if we unite to fight them. I believe Boko Haram, terrorism or the insurgency is alien to us as a people. We have the capacity to defeat them and confine them to the dustbin of history.”
He added: “We cannot correct perceived imbalances by taking up arms against our brothers, sisters and the nation. We must therefore continue to shun individuals or groups that encourage, preach and practise division among our people. We must shun every harbinger of hate and bond together as a people of common interest and destiny.
“As legislators we will continue to do our part to wit; provide the needed legislative framework for the executive arm of government to continue to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people.
“Let me use this occasion to remind our fellow country men and women that as 2015 elections approach, we must not lose sight of the fact that the election should not be seen as war. We must play the game according to the rules.”
In his own message, Ekweremadu commended Nigerians on the advent of the current democratic dispensation, urging them to continue in their determination to sustain it.
He said: “At 54, Nigeria has made progress, as the people have through absolute determination and sacrifice jointly laid the foundation for speedy national transformation by achieving an unprecedented 15 years of uninterrupted democratic streak.
“However, celebrating our independence anniversary at the threshold of the 2015 general election is also a call to duty to add to the nation's democratic credentials and development by collectively working for a free, fair, and credible general election.”
He said the Senate would not leave any stone unturned in providing solid legal frameworks and will provide all the necessary legislative support to guarantee the success of both the 2015 general election and subsequent ones.
He also commended Jonathan's government for its determination to end terrorism in the country as evidenced in the recent successes recorded in the war against insurgency.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, urged Nigerians to work tirelessly to promote the tenets of democracy, good governance and responsible citizenry.
In a statement to mark Nigeria's Independence Day anniversary issued in Abuja by his Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal appealed to the political elite to moderate their utterances and be mindful of their responsibility to the country.
He said with the elections scheduled for early 2015, all leaders must avoid acts that could heat up the polity. According to him, “What is of paramount importance now is for political office holders to approach elections with the intentions to play by the rules.”
While congratulating Nigerians on the country's 54th independence anniversary, Tambuwal restated the commitment of the House of Representatives to uphold the ideals of a united Nigeria, which he said, shall take its rightful place in the comity of nations.
Similarly, Tambuwal's deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha expressed optimism that Nigeria would rise again and claim her rightful place in the international community.
The deputy speaker, in a message by his media aide, Oke Epia, said in spite of the current challenges relating to security and development, the country would be propelled to the top, given the human and material resources abundant in the land and efforts being made by government to put things right.
He called on Nigerians to remain steadfast and resilient in the pursuit of national unity and glory, while calling on leaders at different levels to be patriotic and put the nation first in the discharge of their duties.
Ihedioha congratulated Nigerians on the occasion of the independence anniversary, saying: “Though there is much that is desired to bring our country to its place of pride, there is also much that is being done to move the country forward.”
However, a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, in his message to mark Nigeria's 54th independence celebrations, said there was nothing to “celebrate because the nation has not flourished as it should”.
In a statement from his media office, Tinubu said: “Today, the nation staggers beneath the weight of trouble stacked upon problem multiplied by hardship. Peace and unity seem to have yielded the moment to violence and discord.
“We exist as a political unit on a map but we do not prosper as brothers and sisters in one nation, under one flag and pursuant to one accord. We have lost our road and now seem to be on the road of the lost.”
The former governor said he was proud to be a Nigerian and would not attach his life to any other nation “but genuine patriotism should not induce blindness”.
He said Nigeria is burdened by too many resolvable challenges that remain unresolved, adding: “This is not a time for fake cheers and elation at the present state of things just because the calendar has touched this day.
“We need to use this hour soberly by taking stock of the obstacles mounting before us and of the hard direction in which we seem to be heading. I fear this direction, if further taken, will lead us not home but to an appointment with failure and national destitution.”
Tinubu also lamented the current state of the nation, saying: “Under the Jonathan government, the vaunted Transformation Agenda is but an elaborate name for old-fashion pocket stuffing. They do not have a national blueprint or vision. But they do have a blueprint and vision for excessive self-enrichment.
“Their equation is simple. You work, they feast. You toil, they grow fat. You seek a decent wage; they pilfer the collective treasury to enjoy a king's ransom.”
He was of the view that national planning had been haphazard and people-unfriendly. “For most of our 54 years and for all of the past fifteen, honest men have been given scant opportunity to lead Nigeria. We have wandered from the path of economic empowerment for our youths and the mass of our people.
“Nigeria has become adept at creating economic refugees, brain-drain migrants, decimated institutions and the building of a venal ‘Wallet Economy' benefiting only a handful.
“As if this cynically induced poverty is not sufficient hardship, this government compounds the public burden by sowing discord with the alacrity that a wise government would plant charity and accord.
“Rather than promote religious tolerance and harmonious living, this government believes its electoral chances are enhanced by promoting ethnicism, internal divisions, religious suspicion and scapegoating,” he stated. He described 16 years of PDP rule as a period of diminishing returns, observing that the longer the party rules, the less benefit the people derive.
“Nigeria now needs a ‘common sense revolution', a revolution that calls forth a return to decency, probity, transparency of process and fairness in outcome. This is done not by subterfuge, divide and rule and turning Nigeria in a field of discord or a street of broken institutions.
“It is accomplished by honouring the principles of democratic good governance and economic justice. It is done by persuading the people they are better off as one instead of better off tearing at each other's throats,” he stated.
The APC chieftain said governance is about trust, “and this government is not even trusted by itself. That is why it does nothing except feed itself. This is not the road for a better Nigeria”.
He called on Nigerians to proceed from this 54th anniversary and embark on a common sense revolution that brings about progressive change for the benefit of most country men and women, the youths and the vulnerable.
“I speak here of a Common Sense revolution that promotes the well being and improve the lot of the average person, regardless of his or her ethnic, religious or regional affiliation.
“This way, Nigeria will not only be unified in national purpose it will have recovered its better path. That will be an Independence Day we can and should celebrate. Until then, we strive to keep from falling further,” he said.
Despite the despondency expressed by Tinubu, he assured Nigerians that help is on the way, charging them to be prepared for change.
“We must rescue Nigeria from those set to cause its irreparable harm. The change I talk about is the only route to our deliverance from 16 years of the PDP locusts. Nigeria is ours to keep and its democracy is ours to save,” he said.