A former president, Goodluck Jonathan, has called on Nigerians to maintain unity, faith and hope preached by Nigeria’s founding fathers as the country celebrates its 58th anniversary.
In his independence message, he noted that even though Nigeria recently became the world headquarters for extreme poverty, he hoped the people will overcome the tough times.
“But I know even much more that tough times never last but tough people do. And Nigerians are a tough people. Evidence of that abounds in our strength in adversity and most especially amongst our youth who continue to make us proud.
“So if I have to summarise my message to Nigerians on this our 58th Independence Day, I would do it in one sentence: Things will get better. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all her people,” he said.
In a similar message, the Senate President and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bukola Saraki, called for better leadership of Nigeria through the election of the best candidate next year.
Mr Saraki who was absent at the official Independence Day celebrations in Abuja also urged Nigerians to ensure more vibrant, constructive and patriotic citizen participation in the governance of their country.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Mr Saraki admonished Nigerians to re-dedicate themselves to the idea of defining their personal interests in line with how it helps the realisation of national objectives.
He explained that the national objective of every Nigerian should be to build a united, peaceful, economically strong, internationally respected country, with robust military, well motivated work-force, ambitious youth and fulfilled citizens.
“Citizens should stop abandoning politics and political choices to politicians and manipulative elements who invoke only religious, ethnic and geo-political sentiments to impose leadership who are only supported for the purpose of serving the interests of those who put them in office. Nigerians should vow that the leader who will lead the country when it is celebrating its Diamond jubilee anniversary must be one who would have set this country on the path of genuine socio-economic development and political greatness.
“These ideals are what we should rally our people around. The people should not allow government officials and politicians to continue manipulating them in pursuit of narrow interests. It is only manipulation that will allow voters to ignore the competence, experience, suitability and temperament of aspirants for public office and rather focus on where he comes from, how he worships his God and how much he is ready to dole out.
“Our people should stop being complacent. The best amongst us should be the one leading the rest. Voters should be ready at all times to intervene when government is derailing from the national objectives or placing personal or group interest above national interest. Never again, must we allow leaders who behave as emperors, maximum rulers or messiahs and cabals created by them to seize control of government and its machinery.
“At this point when democracy has come to stay in Nigeria, all Nigerians should use the occasion of the 58th Independence Anniversary to redefine what should constitute the Nigerian dream, rally round that dream, support leaders who are capable and competent to realize that dream,” he said.
He further noted that one of the key reasons for the non- realisation of the dreams of Nigeria’s founding fathers was because the citizens failed to seize control of the fortunes and future of the country while allowing sentiments to determine the choice of leaders and what national objectives should entail.
While calling for a vigilant citizenry involved in monitoring government activities, officials and programmes, the lawmaker prayed that the country will continue to exist in peace, with unity among the various groups and continuous development of the various parts.
In the same vein, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, urged Nigerians not to lose hope and faith in the progress of the country as he expressed optimism that Nigerians would soon begin to experience the true benefits of democracy.
While stating that governments have, over the years, failed to provide good governance that would translate to wealth and prosperity for the citizens, he called for the effective functioning of the three tiers of government – which would see all citizens as equal and ensure that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would emerge.
The speaker added that all these could only be achieved through monitoring of elected leaders to ensure that the true tenets of democracy would be preserved and practised.
“For some of our citizens who wonder whether they are in the position to invest their liberty in the pursuit of happiness, I want to say they shouldn’t despair, as there is hope for the living.
“That fully in the course of history, the rich and powerful have always interchanged places with the poor and vulnerable. So there is hope, and every reason for all Nigerians to celebrate this democracy.
“As a matter of fact, in order for us to secure these rights, the framers of our constitution allocated governmental powers among three equal branches of government, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
“The three greatly working together makes it extremely necessary for compromise and consensus in governance. Whenever you see a democracy that is working; check it very well, it is consensus and compromise that drives it. Of course this democracy that we all cherish is very fragile, and as such we can’t take it for granted,” he said.
Mr Dogara also called for more active participation of citizens in governance. He said any generation that relaxed on vigilance would awaken to the rude shock that the courts and other democratic institutions had become weapons against them.
He added that nothing was impossible in a united, peaceful and democratic Nigeria.
Each year, Nigeria on October 1 celebrates its independence from British colonialism.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) earlier said part of activities for the celebration of the 58th Independence Anniversary will include displays by the Nigerian Air Force jets.