Thousands of Nigerians in the United States turned out in a Street Parade in New York Saturday to mark Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary amidst dances and music, waving flags in appreciation of Africa’s most populous nation.
This year’s celebration was witnessed by Nigeria’s Information Minister, Labaran Maku; and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ade Adefuye; as well as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, UN, Joy Ugwu. Also in attendance was Amina Az -Zubair, former Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, now an Assistant Under Secretary in the office of UN Secretary General coordinating the post 2015 phase of MDGs.
The presence of Mr. Maku drew a lot of cheers from the crowd as Nigeria never sent a direct representative in previous celebrations which hold every year in October to commemorate Nigeria’s independence.
While some cheered Mr. Maku’s presence, others outside the venue protested the minister’s presence, shouting “Maku go home”.
The street parade marched through 2nd Avenue in Manhattan and terminated at the Nigeria House at East 44th Street by 2nd Avenue, where the Minister reviewed the parade as the Special Guest of Honour, accompanied by Mr. Adefuye, Ms. Ugwu, and Nigeria’s Consul-General in New York City, Habib Habu.
The parade ended at 47th Street beside the Trump Tower in an impressive ceremony marked by dances, musical shows and goodwill messages by Mr. Adefoye and Ms. Ugwu.
The keynote address was delivered by the Information Minister who conveyed President Goodluck Jonathan’s appreciation to the Nigerian community in the United States for their continued support and faith in their country.
The Minister assured the Nigerian community of the commitment of President Jonathan’s administration to transform the nation’s economy through sustained reforms, which have made Nigeria the leading destination for foreign direct investments in Africa. He also restated President Jonathan’s commitment to stabilize power supply through the ongoing reforms in the sector as well as the construction of 10 new power plants nearing completion in the country.
Mr. Maku, also reported recent progress in the rehabilitation of the railways, which completely collapsed for over two decades before Mr. Jonathan assumed office. He said in the coming months, Nigerians will once again be able to travel by rail from Lagos to Kano, while work is on-going on the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line.
The Minister said Mr. Jonathan was committed to deepen electoral reforms. He also assured that government was focused on security measures to defeat violence in some states in the northern part of the country and called on Nigerians to unite across ethnic, religious and cultural differences; as diversity was a source of strength for the greatness of the nation.
The organizers expressed appreciation at the presence of the minister and assured of their commitment to the development of Nigeria. They called for government support in the organization of the annual celebration, which is the largest African gathering in the US.
The event had been preceded by a night of prayers for the progress of Nigeria and a cultural show, which featured performances and a beauty pageant where a beauty queen was chosen as Miss Independence Anniversary celebration for 2012.