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Much ado about low-key independence
THE 51st Independence Anniversary of the country has come and gone, but the ripples over the celebration, or lack of it, will remain with us for some time. The government said there would be no pomp and pageantry to mark the occasion and the day passed on quietly, but for the military Change of Guard ceremony that took place in the Presidential Villa. Critics are now saying that government gave in to the threats of both the Boko Haram sect and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to set off bombs on the day. But Labaran Maku, the Minister of Information, rejected this assertion, though his explanation has apparently failed to satisfy the critics.
He told State House correspondents, days before the Independence Day, that the government opted for a low-key celebration because of its recent involvement in two big celebrations, in-cluding Nigeria@50 and the presidential inauguration, which ostensibly gulped huge sums of money. And it, therefore, thought it wise to suspend such activities until Nigeria attains its centenary year in 2014. That means that there will be a massive celebration in 2014 to mark the 100 years of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria.
Maku thought it was irresponsible on the part of the media in particular to suggest that the government was scared of terrorists and had to cancel the usual military parade at the Eagles Square. His concern was that such unfounded reports were capable of scaring away potential foreign investors at a time the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration was striving to attract them. Maku argued that there was nothing like cancelling celebratory activities on account of threats and that, in any case; it was not the first time the Independence Day would go unheralded in the history of the country, particularly at the federal level.
Apparently, government bashers, led by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), are unimpressed by this argument, as they maintain that nothing ought to have stood in the way of the celebration of the nation’s hard-earned freedom from the colonial masters. As far as the ACN is concerned, the Federal Government took the celebration away from the Eagle Square to the “relatively-secure” Presidential Villa, apparently because of the fear of Boko Haram and MEND, an action that is indicative of its lack of capacity to tackle the security challenges facing the nation.
The ACN also posited that by doing that, government ceded moral victory to the terrorists, lost a veritable opportunity to show Nigerians that it could not be intimidated by such groups and that it was capable of dealing with the security threats to the country and people.
“If the Federal Government, which controls all the instruments of state force, can allow itself to be so openly intimidated, then what happens to ordinary Nigerians who depend on the same government to protect them from these rampaging groups?” ACN queried, not forgetting to point out that “in other climes, the government would have seized such a rare chance to convince the people that it is not only capable of protecting them, but that it would not give in to terror groups.”
As good as the ACN argument may sound, it is easy to detect politics from it. The opposition may not be expected to laud the government in any circumstance, otherwise there will be a thin line between the two. Let us even say that the government was not prompted by the need to cut cost but by the fear of terrorist attacks, perhaps the argument would have been the reverse by now if the government, in spite of obvious security threats, decided to put up a show just to celebrate the anniversary. It would have been worse still, if anything had gone wrong in the course of the celebration. Certainly, ACN would have ripped Jonathan apart for recklessly exposing the citizens to grave danger.
Either way, the fuss is to be expected. But the point is that not celebrating the 51st Independence Anniversary in grand style has neither hurt us economically, nor detracted from our prestige as an independent nation. Apart from saving money, it might have saved us the embarrassment that could be engendered, if a gathering in the Eagles Square had provided an opportunity for terrorists to strike again.Share