As Nigeria marks its 59th independence anniversary on Tuesday, political leaders on Monday expressed differing views on the shape and future of Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.
Political leaders and groups who issued messages to mark the occasion include the presidential candidate of the People Democratic Party’s (PDP) in the last elections, Atiku Abubakar; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila: Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP).
Mr Abubakar, in his message shared through his Twitter handle, @Atiku, on Monday, urged the citizens to put Nigeria first, adding that transforming the country and upholding the integrity of its Constitution is the responsibility of all.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us and we all have a role to play in making our nation great. Nigeria should be the beacon of hope, democracy and freedom, to not only the African continent but to the black diaspora the world over.
“You see, when we put Nigeria first, we not only revive the Nigerian Dream, we also revive Unity & Faith, Peace & Progress, which were the ideals our founding fathers had in mind when they came together to put forward this new & independent nation 59 years ago on October 1, 1960,” he said.
While celebrating the country’s heroes of democracy, he expressed his disappointments at the level of poverty, unemployment, among other social vices ravaging the country.
“On October 1, 1960, our nation’s founding fathers could never have fathomed that 59 years after birthing the largest black nation on earth, we would be facing a situation where we do not have a free press.
“All is not well when Nigeria is now officially the world headquarters for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow, while the needs of the governed are not being met.
“It is an age-long truism that women are the teachers of a nation. I make bold to say that the greatness of our country, Nigeria has much to do with how well we educate how children, especially the girl-child, ” Mr Abubakar said.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Lanre Lasisi, urged Nigerians to pray for the country and its leaders for visible dividends of good governance.
“As we mark our country’s 59th Independence Anniversary, we must remain steadfast, united and prayerful for our country to remain one and overcome her challenges.
“It is also incumbent on us all as citizens to pray for our leaders so that God Almighty will continue to guide them aright. Let’s all work together as one people.
“In the face of some of the challenges confronting us as a country, we have no choice but to work hard to overcome them. As leaders, we are already doing that. But we need the support of the citizens to achieve that,” the Speaker said.
In his message, the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, implored the citizens to remain steadfast in pursuance of peace, unity and brotherhood.
Mr Ugwuanyi promised to “ensure the security of lives and property, enhancement of good governance and sustenance of economic growth in Enugu State.”
He congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on the occasion and commended the founding fathers, fallen heroes and heroines, Armed Forces and other security and paramilitary agencies “whose sacrifices and contributions paved way for the country’s attainment of independence which we celebrate today.
“My special respects and gratitude also go to the good people of Enugu State – our distinguished elders and leaders, public and civil servants, the artisans, members of the various professional bodies, market men and women and Ndi Enugu at home and in the Diaspora for your solidarity and unflinching support to our Government”, the Governor added.
CUPP, in its message, said the country has nothing to celebrate. It said the APC and the Buhari-led administration have brought Nigeria nothing but stagnation.
Ikenga Ugochinyere, CUPP Spokesperson, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, said the reality of things in the country sharply contradicts the efforts and hope of the nation’s founding fathers.
He condemned President Buhari’s leadership style as he described the country’s situation as been laced with “pains, division, incompetence, banditry, tribalism and hopelessness.”
The APC in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, acknowledged challenges facing the nation but said President Buhari has recorded successes in some areas since he came into power.
The party warned “those who hide under religion, politics, tribe and sundry groupings to turn us against one another.
“Despite our perceived differences, our strength and progress depend on our ability to harness our rich diversity.
“In spite of the inherited and our current challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari administration has made commendable strides on so many fronts, most significantly the fight against graft, diversifying and revamping the economy, curbing insurgency and emerging crimes, promoting positive values in our national life, strengthening our democratic institutions and processes and achieving a respectable international standing, ” he added.
The party urged “well-meaning Nigerians to engage only in acts that would heal our fault lines by promoting ethnic and religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence, which would engender Nigeria’s growth and development” as President Buhari administration is “committed to building on and affirming.”
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