Abuja — President Muhmmadu Buhari declared yesterday that Nigeria was the most prosperous black nation in the world, saying but for the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrating 60 years of the country's independence really called for pomp and pageantry.
The president who stated this while unveiling the logo and theme for the country's 60th Independence Anniversary celebration noted that in all places in the world Nigerians are dazzling like diamonds in the pack, including academia, business, innovation, music, movie, entertainment, fashion and culture.
This is just as the federal government hinted that the 60th Independence Anniversary celebration will be observed for a whole year, ending September 30th, 2021, the federal government has declared.
The brief unveiling ceremony was conducted before the commencement of the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa.
Citing the coronavirus pandemic as a reason, President Buhari said the anniversary celebration would be held low-key this year.
The president, who spoke after the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, had given a background to how the logo was adopted and the modalities guiding the anniversary celebration, said his administration would henceforth ensure more inclusiveness.
According to the president, the theme of this year's anniversary celebration, "Together Shall We Be", had been chosen to forge a more united and cohesive Nigeria.
He said, "Today we stand on the threshold of history as we formally begin a series of activities commemorating Nigeria's Diamond Anniversary. The task history has saddled me with today is to proclaim a theme that will keep us united, help us forge ahead and unveil a logo that will form the critical pillars, which are eleven months modest commemoration activities will rest on.
"Celebrating 60 years of independence really calls for pomp and pageantry, but the global COVID-19 Pandemic, which has forced all nations in the world to think and act differently, has also forced on us the imperative of a low-keyed celebration. Operating within the limitations placed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we created an internet challenge for Nigerians to make a choice from a set of four pre-selected logos that will appropriately define the theme.
"Of these four options, Nigerians from all walks of life participated in making a choice and I'm happy to let you know that the logo I will be unveiling is a product of choice from the Nigerian people.
"I'm informed that the selected option depicts our togetherness; a country of over 200 million people, whose natural talents, grits and passion glitter like the precious diamond we are. This to me is a sufficient appreciation to our most precious assets; our people. Everywhere you go, Nigerians are sparkling like diamonds in the pack, whether in academia, business, Innovation, music, movie, entertainment and culture.
"Furthermore, I'm also made aware that the neatly encrusted diamond on the Nigerian map symbolises our age of treasure, the worth of the Nigerian people, who are sparkled to the admiration of the world.
Noting that Nigeria was currently the most prosperous black nation in the world, Buhari said, "In the same vein, the fair green and the dark green colours should respectively remind us of our warmth, welcoming spirit and love, as well as abundant wealth inherent in our human capital and the richness of our land.
"All these properties made us, unarguably, the most prosperous black nation in the world and Africa's largest economy. It is therefore with a deep feeling of national pride and I hereby announce to you that "Together shall we be" shall be the theme of our nation's 60th anniversary celebration.
"Our founding fathers, in spite of differences in faith, tribe and tongue, came together to fight for Nigeria's independence. This shall be a befitting tribute to the struggle of our heroes past.
"It is to the glory of God and in celebration of the attainment of the diamond age of 60 by our great nation that I hereby unveil the preferred anniversary logo for this momentous occasion in our national history.
"At this juncture, let me thank members of the inter-ministerial committee on Nigeria's 60th anniversary celebration for the work they have done so far and remind them that this is just the beginning. As we celebrate this anniversary, this government will work towards greater inclusiveness and look forward to the participation of all Nigerians", the President said.
Explaining the process that led to the choice of logo and the reason for a year-long celebration, the SGF who is also the chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Nigeria's 60th Anniversary celebration said the aim is to make the country heal.
He stated: "Your Excellency, Mr President, upon your approval of the inter-ministerial committee on Nigeria's 60th anniversary and directive for a low-key celebration that will be highly inclusive, the inter-ministerial committee went to work and agreed on the theme to drive the celebrations.
"One major agreement also was the need to deviate from the norm of celebrating our landmark events with a conclusion of the day of such an event. Thus it was agreed that to make the diamond anniversary very inclusive and create opportunities for internalisation and buying by all sectors of Nigerian people, a year-long celebration will be pursued, starting from the date of launching a web portal, to September 30th, 2021.
"Mr President, members of Council, I am happy to inform you today that the unveiling of the logo is the second milestone of the celebration, but it actually marks the official takeoff of Nigeria's 60th anniversary celebration. Kindly permit me to provide a little background as to the theme, processes for selection of logo, eventual outcome and outstanding elements, as well as rationale for a year-long celebration.
"The inter-ministerial committee had a robust discussion and argument on the theme and finally settled on the one that recognises our sojourn in nationhood, identified challenges faced all through and what is required to move Nigeria to its enviable stage among the comity of nations".
Presidency Fires Back At Soyinka, Says PMB Inherited A Terribly Divided Nation
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday countered verbal attacks on President Muhammadu Buhari by Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, saying Nigeria inherited a "terribly" divided country from his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015.
The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, said there was nothing special about what the Nobel Laureate and former President Olusegun Obasanjo said because Nigeria had always been divided.
Speaking when he featured as a guest on 'Politics Today', a Channels Television programme, Adesina noted that there is no way everyone would agree and perceive things the same way in a country of 200million people, noting that every criticism should give cause for concern.
The presidential spokesman stated: "Nigeria had always been divided. Right from amalgamation in 1914, Nigeria has always been divided. Nigeria is an inconvenient amalgamation but we have worked at it and I tell you that there is no time in the history of this country that the country was not divided but then we had kept at it and we were trying to make it work.
"As of 2015, when President Buhari came, Nigeria was terribly, terribly divided; divided along religious lines, divided along ethnic lines; divided along language, divided hopelessly, terribly and that is the division that the President had been working at. But you see that a lot of people, instead of letting harmony return to this country, thrive and luxuriate in widening the gulf. They play politics with everything."
Adesina pointed out that in as much as the Buhari administration continues to respect Soyinka as a Nobel Laureate, it would not accept everything he says, recalling that Soyinka who has been a government critic for decades had even criticised Prsident Buhari when he was a military head of state in the 80s.
He also recalled that in 2015, Soyinka did not support Buhari but only tagged him as slightly better than Jonathan.
For Obasanjo, the presidential spokesman said it appeared the former Nigerian leader was still not happy that Buhari won the election regardless of his opposition to his second term bid.
Adesina noted that the presidency was not bothered by Obasanjo's recent outburst because he had been critical of every past.
"There is no government he has not criticised. The only government he has not criticised is the Olusegun Obasanjo government. So, that kind of person has a right to air his opinion and you also have a right to take it or not to take it," he stated.