1 October marks the anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from Britain; Nigeria attained independence in 1960. Last year was the Golden Jubilee of this anniversary and the year-long celebration was marked with fanfare both at home and abroad.
In the UK, the High Commission, in cooperation with the Nigerian communities, organised a series of events to commemorate the occasion. Held all over the UK, the celebrations were the largest outside Nigeria. In London, there was a grand reception which took place on 23 October 2010 at the historic Alexandra Palace. The event was attended by the Vice President of Nigeria, Architect Namadi Sambo.
One major highlight of the Golden Jubilee was the launch of a legacy project, which aims to build a community centre for Nigerians and friends of Nigeria in the UK. The realisation of this objective remains a major priority for the High Commission.
With a dynamic population of over 150 million people, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is blessed with abundant but untapped resources, providing the country with unparalleled potential. The major challenge has been to translate the growth potential of the Nigerian economy into greater social benefits for the people.
The year 2011 began with preparations for the general election in Nigeria. I had the distinct honour and privilege of leading the campaign teams for the election of President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, into a fresh term at the elections that took place on 16 April 2011. Local and international monitors are united in their assessment that the elections were free and fair; the outcome was a reflection of the popular will of all Nigerians across ethnic, religious and social divides. It should be noted that the post-election violence witnessed in some parts of the country has not, in any way, invalidated the outcome of the elections.
President Jonathan ran his election campaign on the basis of a refreshing commitment to change. His Transformation Agenda sets out the priorities of the administration in all spheres. He has since inaugurated a cabinet of technocrats and a strong economic management team with a clear mandate to prosecute this agenda.
It is gratifying to note that UK-Nigeria relations have continued to grow; building on the traditional ties between the two countries. Both countries also value their joint membership of various international organisations, including the Commonwealth. Prime Minister David Cameron undertook a working visit to Nigeria in July 2011, the first by a British Prime Minister for 10 years. The immediate task is to build on the outcome of this visit, so as to add greater economic and commercial value to British-Nigerian relations.
This year’s anniversary will not be as elaborate as last year’s. Nonetheless, the commemoration will feature the usual celebrations. It will also provide another opportunity for the Nigerian government and Nigerians to rededicate themselves to the task of building a strong and united country which is anchored on good governance, democracy, peace and security, as well as the promotion of human rights and social justice for all.