COVID-19 fear rocks 60th anniversary celebration


…as FG alters schedule; Lagos, Osun, Ogun others, cancel parade ceremony

…Atiku calls for youth-centred development plan

…PDP tasks Buhari to reposition govt.

…Our challenges are surmountable— Senate President

…Gbajabiamila congratulates Nigerians

By Moses Adeniyi

Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary Celebration is set to suffer poor commemoration across the Federation as the scheduled programmes of the Federal Government and State Governments have been subjected to a wobble fate, over the fear of possible re-escalation of COVID-19 spread.

While the Federal Government on Wednesday altered its agenda schedule for the celebration,  some State Governments totally cancelled the grandeur parade ceremony which annually used to accompany the Anniversary across the Federation.

Against the earlier agenda of the Federal Government to commemorate the 60th Independence Anniversary of the Country, the Presidency disclosed Wednesday evening that President Muhammadu Buhari will set-in for a broadcast to the nation at 7:00a.m. Today, Thursday, October 1, 2020.

The presidency had earlier in a statement issued on Wednesday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina announced that the traditional early Independence Day broadcast would not be holding.

However, in a later development contained in another statement on Wednesday evening, the Presidency altered the agenda, saying that President Buhari will broadcast to the nation on Thursday (Today) October 1, 2020, at 7:00a.m. after which he would attend the Anniversary Parade at the Eagle Square at 10 am.

The statement partly read: “The President will thereafter, proceed to the Eagle Square, Abuja to review the Anniversary Parade and participate in other activities beginning at 10am, which will be covered live by major television and radio stations. This updated statement supersedes our earlier one indicating an open-air live Presidential Address on October 1.”

The Parade to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary in Lagos, was on Wednesday afternoon suspended by the State Government.

The decision to cancel the parade ceremony followed the need to guide against mass gathering which the Lagos State Government (LASG) believes has the possibility of propelling a surge in the spread of COVID-19, as warned by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).

Nigerian NewsDirect gathered that the decision putting the Parade to a hold was reached after much expenses have been incurred and preparations have been made by the Ministry of Home Affairs under whose supervision the Independence Anniversary ceremony of the Lagos State Government lies.

A cake made in preparation towards the celebration which was sighted by our correspondent had on it an inscription: “Happy Diamond Jubilee Nigeria”, with the logos of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that of Lagos State respectively.

Confirming the development to Nigerian NewsDirect, an official of the Ministry told Nigerian NewsDirect that all the preparatory processions by the Paramilitary and Nigerian Armed Forces  for the Parade had been set in place among other arrangements, before the decision was made by the State Government.

A top government official who confided in Nigerian NewsDirect disclosed that the Armed Forces including the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian  Airforce, and the Navy as well as the Police had concluded their rehearsals for the programme earlier scheduled for 2,000 attendants strictly by invitation, before the decision to cancel the celebration was reached by the Governor, Wednesday afternoon.

He said: “As earlier planned, the Parade ceremony was slated for 2,000 people, strictly on invitation but because of the pandemic situation, you can’t stop people from coming to celebrate Nigeria, and so we need to prevent so many things from happening.

He added that should the plans go ahead, the possibilities of body contacts stand at a very high tendency, as people may make frantic efforts just to witness the celebration beyond control.

“You can never tell; it’s better to prevent certain things from happening than to begin to cure after occurrence,” he said.

In a statement by the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, a copy of which was made available to Nigerian NewsDirect, it was gathered that the decision was reached  owing to the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Statement, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu directed that the planned parade and other activities that involve the gathering of more than 50 people should be cancelled.

The statement read: “The Lagos State Government has opted for a low key celebration for the 60th Independence Anniversary due to the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still with us.

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has directed that the planned parade and other activities that involve the gathering of more than 50 people should be cancelled.

“He congratulates Lagosians on this auspicious occasion and strongly advised that they should celebrate quietly at home and pray for the country. They should also observe the COVID-19 protocols, including wearing of face masks to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The Governor urged Lagosians not to relax their vigilance against COVID-19 so as not to reverse the gains that the state has made in fighting the disease. They are to keep embracing physical distancing and washing of hands with soap and water. Anybody who feels unwell should stay indoors and contact health authorities.

“The police and other security agencies have been directed to ensure that nobody flouts these directives in the interest of all of us, especially now that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is warning that a second wave of the deadly disease could occur.”

However, while the Lagos State Government cancelled its earlier planned celebration, the Ogun State Government  announced  two days curfew starting from Thursday night and Friday between the hours of 10pm to 6am.

The curfew according to the State Government is an additional safety measures to ensure that 60th independence is celebrated in an atmosphere of peace and security, as the state government announced low key 60th independent celebration.

The State Government also warned  motorcycle operators (popularly called Okada riders) and commercial drivers not to move during the stipulated time, adding that any gathering beyond 20 people is also not allowed.

Meanwhile,  the Osun State Government on its part  announced on  Wednesday that there will be no Independence Day parade in the State in commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th anniversary today, October 1.

According to the State Government, the decision to cancel the Independence day parade was informed as part of the precautionary measures to guide  against possible spread of COVID-19.

The State’s Commissioner for Home Affairs, Hon. Tajudeen Lawal, who announced the decision in a statement, said the position of the government was necessary to ensure that efforts towards  flattening the curve of the pandemic remains intact as there is a possibility of spreading the virus in a high-density gathering.

The statement partly read: “The Osun State Government is by this medium informing the general public that this year’s Independence Day celebration will be without the usual fanfare and parades.

“Although it is a landmark celebration of our great country, the State Government is urging citizens to take responsibility for their safety by maintaining social distancing, wearing their face masks in public places, washing their hands regularly, and generally adhering to other safety standards set by the government and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.”

Atiku calls for youth-centred development plan

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has called for a development plan that would have the Nigerian youth at the centre.

He made the call in his message issued on Wednesday in Abuja to celebrate Nigeria at 60 independence day anniversary.

He said that for the country to work for the millions of its people and to be reckoned with as a global competitive force in the nearest future, it must come up with a development plan that would have youth at the centre of the plan.

He said that times of idle, lame promises were over.

He added that the country urgently needed to build a new Nigeria where every dream would be embraced and the potential of the youth could be unleashed without the usual fears that had dragged us.

“The youths of Nigeria represent the future wealth of the fatherland and the only way we can tap into them is through quality investments in education and skills acquisition.

“Through the creativity that they inject in their passion, the excellence of the Nigerian youth is a global signature in diverse fields notably in sports, as they can be found in medicine, education, business and finance, agriculture and  our entertainment industry.

“Indeed they abound in every facet of our life from the rain forest of the south to the Sudan and Sahel Savannah of the north and the guinea Savannah of the midlands of the territories we call home.

“We may have failed to take advantage of the power of the Nigerian youth. But there is something much more significant that their triumphs teach us a people looking forward to a better future.

“When they win, they celebrate Nigeria. Our youth are ready and eager to conquer the world. What they lack is the leadership to take them through that process,” Abubakar said.

He also called on those  taking up arms against Nigeria to have a rethink, saying whatever differences they might have with the rest of Nigeria, whether religious, ethnic or political, terror, violence and separatism were not the way.

He advised Nigerians to learn from history, noting that in Ireland, Israel, and the Balkans, such groups had seen the wisdom in giving up armed struggle for participation in the political process.

“There is much wisdom in the saying that to jaw jaw is better than to war war. We must accept the reality that we are all brothers and sisters sired by our fatherland.

“We cannot defeat separatist groups by force of arms alone; we can only defeat separatism by making all Nigerians feel like they belong.

“This is only possible when we live up to the words of our national motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. As a nation, we asserted our independence in our infancy by lending to other nations.”

PDP tasks Buhari to reposition govt

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Wednesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to use the occasion of the 60th independence anniversary to reposition his government.

The party in its  60th independence anniversary message issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan,  in Abuja urged Buhari to urgently address the economic and security challenges facing the nation.

“Mr. President should immediately rejig our security apparatchik as well as his cabinet to inject new blood to effectively manage the affairs of our nation.

“Despite the challenges, our party intensely believes in an indivisible, virile, cohesive and prosperous Nigeria, governed by the rule of law and fear of God.”

Ologbondiyan urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the nation, but to remain patriotic and resilient in their various fields of endeavours in serving  national interest in spite the odds.

He, however, expressed sadness that Nigerians were celebrating on a despairing mood due to the social, economic and security challenges that have confronted the nation in the last few years.

Ologbondiyan urged the citizens to keep hope alive and continue to work for unity, stability and progress of our nation.

“The PDP salutes all compatriots and wishes Nigerians a happy independence anniversary.”

He said that  Oct. 1 signpost the sacrifices of the nation’s heroes past in the quest for national freedom as well as the collective determination to live harmoniously, engender good governance and succeed as one people under a democratic rule.

Ologbndiyan said that unfortunately such pursuits had been undermined by  corruption and impunity in high places, promotion of mediocrity, nepotism, executive high-handedness, abuse of human rights, and electoral manipulations.

Others challenges according to him include disobedience to court orders, security compromises, constitutional violations, disregard for federal character principle, and suppression of free speech.

He added the challenge of insecurity, insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping and banditry making citizens to resort to regional and states security arrangements.

Our challenges are surmountable — Senate President

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the challenges faced by Nigerians are surmountable.

He made the remark during Wednesday’s plenary session on the backdrop of Nigeria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration on Oct. 1, saying that the theme of the 60th independence anniversary — “Together,” was apt.

According to him, the country’s challenges are not insurmountable.

He added that “all that is required is for leaders to be determined, sincere and honest in dealing and tackling the problems.

“On behalf of all of us in the Senate and indeed the National Assembly, I want to congratulate Mr President and the good people of this country for witnessing another independence day.

“We should never despair; many countries, if not all, had to go through challenges at one time or the other in their lives and this is our time, so we should continue to remain committed, focused and determined to ensure that we address the issues that we face today.

“And the issues are very clear, especially the security situation. The economic situation is something that affects the entire world but we can still come out stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of our country as a sovereign nation, the occasion is also auspicious for sober reflection on the progress that we have made, the challenges that we face and the future that we desire as a nation.”

He explained that “in spite of challenges such as the differences in tongue, modes of worship and other elements of diversity posed to nationhood, we have remained together.

“Our national journey may have been tortuous, our progress slow and unsteady, and primordial fears and sentiments may occasionally cast dark clouds over our unity and threaten our resolve to stick together.

“But if we look at great nations throughout history, we would realise that such experiences are common features of nation-building.”

He, however, said that as legislators, the National Assembly would continue to provide true representation to the Nigerian people and strive to make government work.

Lawan said that in this regard, the ninth National Assembly was committed to having another look at the country’s Constitution with a view to making it a document of the Nigerian people.

Gbajabiamila congratulates Nigerians

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has congratulated Nigerians for witnessing the country’s 60th Independence Anniversary.

In a statement on Wednesday, Gbajabiamila said Nigeria has come a long way and has overcome many challenges in the past 60 years, noting that “things are going to get better.”

The speaker paid glowing tributes to Nigeria’s heroes, who made sacrifices for the country to become what it is today.

Amidst myriad of challenges, Gbajabiamila said Nigerians are the ones that will save the country and help it to attain lofty heights.

“We all love our country Nigeria. Yet the truth is that our country has not always lived up to our expectations, and sometimes, it is hard not to be overcome by despair about the fact of where we are and the perils on the horizon.

“I want you to know that things are going to get better.

“I hold in my heart the abiding truth that there is nothing wrong with our country that cannot be fixed by what is right about our country, and there is nothing more righteous about Nigeria than its people.

“We are the ones who will save ourselves to attain the lofty heights of our national anthem and make for our children a nation where peace and justice reign,” he said.