Vanguard (Lagos)

1 February 2013

Nigeria: A Centenary Celebration of Sorts

Most marriages pass through the storms of life and many end in divorce. It is in that light that the Nigerian establishment is rolling out the drums to celebrate 100 years of marriage between the North and Southern protectorates of the former British colonies that metamorphosed into Nigeria.

"I think the duty is for us to elevate the corporate wellbeing of Nigeria because it is all our collective well being over and above every narrow and parochial feeling," the secretary to the government of the federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim told a gathering of newsmen last week in Lagos.

The continued survival of Nigeria as a corporate entity despite a brutal civil war and several other political fissures is in the opinion of some a miracle. Many other countries it is claimed, have not survived the low points that have characterised Nigeria 's progress since the marriage of 1914.

The Northern Nigeria protectorate and the Southern Nigeria Protectorate were fused into a single entity on January 1, 1914 with Miss Flora Shaw, the fiancée of the then British governor-general, Richard Lugard naming the amalgamated entity as Nigeria .

Since the amalgamation it had indeed been a thorny history.

Irrespective of the thorns and the bitterness that has clouded the past 100 years, the Nigerian government is forging ahead with plans to commemorate the 100 years of the country's birth with a 20 month long series of events.

The events are beginning this month and are to end in December 2014 with the highpoint of the celebrations being held on January 1, 2014.

Map of Nigeria

Not unexpectedly, the plans for the celebrations are now enmeshed in controversy.

On one side are some who believe that there is nothing worthy of celebration and on the other are those who are irked that they are not sufficiently being carried along.

Among the later are legislators who when they were first briefed by Senator Anyim and his team pooh-poohed the plans.

Some of the legislators were also peeved by the lack of financial disclosure despite the pointed fact made by the SGF that the administration would not be spending a kobo from the public treasury for the celebrations.

Anyim has repeatedly pointed out that the whole project is private sector driven. That claim is, however, countered by some who claim that the administration would expend public funds for logistics and the movement of government officials and visitors during the celebrations.

Senator Smart Adeyemi, while raising observations during Anyim's visit to the National Assembly wondered why the focus of the celebrations was centered on Abuja , and not Lokoja, the first capital of the country.

Funding the centenary celebration

Senator Anyim has in response disclosed that the celebration would be spread out to all the states in the country inclined towards staging any of the celebrations, but at the expense of any state so inclined.

The Senate President, Senator David Mark, on his part expressed worries that such a national event would be solely driven by the private sector even as he expressed fears that the federal government's claims of a wholly private sector sponsored event, might turn out to be untrue at the end of the day.

"Am just worried that if truly it is going to be private sector driven, then we can ask a committee to take a look at it and make suggestions and give to the businessmen if they are interested," he said.

In another meeting with the House of Representatives presided over by the Deputy Speaker Chief Emeka Ihedioha, Anyim claimed that the country had remained united in spite of the challenges it had faced in the last 100 years.

The SGF said this belief informed the choice of the theme of the celebrations, 'One Nigeria, Great Promise,' and that funding will come from "commercial marketers", who will use the event to market their services. "In this way, funding will come for the event. We are also looking at the option of centenary lottery. So, funding will not be by public funds," he stated.

"The centenary celebration will be multifaceted and multi - location event. It holds much promise for corporate - product commercials, more so provide unique opportunity for corporate organisations to properly present themselves as part of Nigeria 's success story.

"With support and active participation of the private sector, the centenary celebration will provide, potentially 5,000 jobs directly and over 10,000 jobs indirectly. It will provide an economic boost especially to the informal sector, the pretty traders and the hospitality sector providers."

Anyim's perspectives nonetheless, many who rue the joining of the north and south would rather mourn than celebrate.

One of such is Niger Delta activist, Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs.

Speaking at the 10th Daily Trust Dialogue, Briggs said it will amount to wasting the nation's resources by celebrating 100 years of the country's existence as there is nothing to celebrate about.

Briggs who was one of the speakers at the Dialogue said that the only thing the country could boast of after 100 years of the amalgamation between the South and Northern Protectorates in 1914 were corruption and failure of governance.

She said that the amalgamation just like the 1999 Constitution, was forced on people who never sat down to either agree on the marriage or produce the document called the constitution and that from the period the forced union was done till date many parts of the country remained undeveloped without infrastructure.

She said that the British government packaged in 1914 and put together one giant nation called Nigeria with over 250 ethnic groups ignoring the obvious fact that as a nation comprised of different people, culture and religion did not share a common history except being colonized by Britain.

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