From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
Former heads of State, Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as former President Shehu Shagari all turned out last night to support President Goodluck Jonathan in kick-starting the centenary celebrations, which would climax on January 1, 2014. January 1, 2014, would mark a century the British colonial administration amalgamated the Southern and Northern Protectorates, making up the Nigerian nation.
The event which started at 8.30 p.m. and ended about 11 p.m was held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Senate President, David Mark, his Deputy Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, his Deputy, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar also attended. State governors, ministers, presidential aides, captains of Industry, members of diplomatic corps were present at the occasion.
The President said the amalgamation of 2014 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 accross the world. The President said beyond the endowed natural resources, Nigeria is blessed with unique collection of people specially created by God. He noted that the one Nigeria consciousness which has kept the nation together must be safeguarded.
The President said 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 prosper, we will.” The President, Buhari, a 120 years old from Zungeru in Niger State who witnessed the 1914 Amalgamation and two children, male and female representing the younger generation lite the centenary torch. In a welcome address, the Secretary to the government of the Federation, 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 to support the celebration and 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 He disclosed 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 nation 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 symbolises a rallying point for the unity of the nation. “May it be a reminder of our entity, unity and oneness of the nation which is 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 tasked every Nigerian that after 100 years of staying together, to remain focus 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 is in the league of countries like, india, China, Egypt, Ethiopia and Amenia for surviving 100 years and more of co-existence in spite of 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 songs and dances.
One nation, indivisible Nigeria has come to stay,” he said. Abubakar thereafter presented a centenary theme song titled: “This Land, Celebrating One Hundred Years of Nigeria,” which was subsequently performed by a team of notable Nigerian musicians led by Onyeka Onwenu. Tambuwal launched the centenary web portal, www.nigeriacentenary.com.ng, while Mark launched the centenary lottery. The lottery saw a State House correspondent of Peoples Daily, Abdurahaman Abdulraheem winning an I-pad while another female guest won an I-phone.