Four former Heads of State on Thursday boycotted the 55th Independence anniversary celebration, which was inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The four former Heads of State are Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan.
Embattled Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, who is at present standing trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, over alleged false assets declaration, was among top government officials at the event.
The independence anniversary was an opportunity for Saraki to meet Buhari for the first time since he moved into the Presidential Villa after his inauguration on May 29.
This would be the fifth time the independence anniversary would be taking place inside the Presidential Villa since 2010 when there was a twin car bomb blast near the Eagle Square during the 50th independence anniversary under the administration of Jonathan.
Since the bomb incident in which 12 people died and many others were injured, Jonathan moved the anniversary celebration to the fortified Presidential Villa. At yesterday’s celebration, Buhari and other dignitaries witnessed commemorative
Presidential Change of Guards Parade at the forecourt of the Villa. The parade, which lasted for about two hours was a military event conducted by two battalions of the Presidential Guards Brigade made up of the 177 Battalion based in Keffi and the Seventh Guards Battalion located in Abuja.
The parade commenced with the arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari at about 10.04a.m. and witnessed inspection of new guards/quarter guards, silent drill, posting of sentries/ colour patrol and echelon reporting of parade, among other military practice.
It was concluded with a 21-gun salute after which Buhari signed the anniversary register, flanked by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as well as the leadership of the National Assembly, the judiciary, Service Chiefs and other government officials.
The President later released pigeons which symbolises peace and also cut the anniversary cake to round off the event. He did not make any speech.
Speaking on the significance of the ceremony, Saraki expressed confidence that the future of the country was very bright. “I am hopeful and confident that the future is very bright. In next few years, things will be even better. “It will not be business as usual.
We will ensure that the National Assembly will be people-oriented and will make laws that will make impact on Nigerians,” he added. Speaking in the same vein, National Chairman, All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Oyegun said the country is now on the path to true greatness.
“At 55, we have finally discovered that we are on the wrong road. We have finally moved to the road that leads to progress, hope, employment, prosperity and that will lead to Nigeria, finally attaining that greatness that God destined it for. We are on the way,” he said.
Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed also said the nation was on the right path. Present at the event were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of Interim National Government, ING, Chief Ernest Shonekan and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme.
Also at the event were Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. former Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya (rtd), members of the National Assembly, members of the Diplomatic Corps and other top government officials.
Meanwhile, former President Obasanjo yesterday took a retrospective look at Nigeria’s journey since as an independent state and declared that the country is not faring badly despite her “mistakes and missteps”, when compared with countries of the world which could be described as settled societies.
The former president maintained that the country has managed to be dynamic and progressive all these while, stressing that 55 years in the life of a nation is still relatively young.
Obasanjo, who spoke with journalists at his Presidential Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital as part of his independence anniversary message, however, solicited the supports of every stakeholder in the Nigeria project towards ensuring that the country attains its full potentials.
The former president charged all citizens to be prepared and willing to learn from past mistakes, while core national values should also not be eroded to enable the real growth and progress become manifest.
He noted that Nigeria is now well positioned with the administration of President Buhari for both recognition and active participation in global politics in manner that would likely elicit positive attention from the international community.
Obasanjo emphasised that feelers from the world leaders and statesmen during the recently concluded UN Summit clearly indicated that the administration of President Buhari has succeeded in placing Nigeria on a strategic position for global politics.
He however, recommended that the country must prioritise finding solutions to youth unemployment, education, security, justice, the economy among others with particular focus at eradicating corruption. He stressed that such has the capacity to destroy every noble things which the country may have achieved in recent time.
“Fifty five years in the life of a nation is comparatively young growing and when you look at the life and history of those that you may call settled societies or reasonably matured countries, we are not doing too badly.
“They have had missteps just like we are having missteps, they have made mistakes and most of them have learnt from their mistakes, they have been dynamic in the way they have progressed and I believe that we are doing the same thing.
“What is important is that certain cardinal pinches, cardinal features of our national live, values, should not be eroded. And then we should also be willing to learn from our mistakes.
“The President in his statement said Nigeria has the marks in making the potentialities of a great nation. It is just a question of actualising our potentialities and that will require all hands on deck; men, women, Muslims, Christians, young and old, irrespective of our location, our tribe, our social standing, Nigeria needs all hands on deck.
“And we must also realise important issues that we must not play with, we must not play with the issue of education, we must not play with the issue of health for our people.
“We must not play with the issue of employment for our teeming population particularly for our youths, we must not play with the issue of economy, we must not play with the issue of security, peace and justice.
Justice and peace go hand in hand, we can’t have injustice and expect peace to reign supreme. “These are some of the things, and then of course, corruption must not have a resting place within our society, we must kick corruption out because it destroys almost everything.
“I am not talking about corruption of money alone but also corruption of attitude, nepotism, favouritism, they are corruption in different form and all aspect of corruption must be kicked out of our society,” he said.
On the recent UN summit, Obasanjo noted that feelers he got revealed that world leaders and statesmen are well disposed towards President Buhari and Nigeria.
He noted that the UN aside helping to relatively stabilise the world by preventing a major war or another world war from erupting since the end of WW2, has also become a veritable avenue for the world to come together to deliberate on issues of common or regional interest.