For the first time in its years of nationhood, Nigeria celebrated her independence anniversary in a manner that was devoid of the usual glamour and glitz associated with such celebrations in time past. The ceremony had always taken place at the Eagle Square since the Federal capital moved to Abuja. It was however different this year as the independence anniversary was marked with a military parade within the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
The ceremony was held on the grounds in front of the President’s office. Two battalions of the Nigerian Army, namely the 177 Battalion, Keffi and the 7th Guards Battalion, Abuja were involved.
After the arrival of the President, who was the Guest of Honour at the Presidential Guards Parade, prayers were offered for the country by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oristejafor and the Chief Imam of Abuja National Mosque, Sheikh Usman Muhammad.
The change of guards involved military foot drill, checking of weapons to ensure that no bullets were lodged in the chambers for the safety of the President while uniforms and the overall appearances of the soldiers were also checked.
After the commanders of the old and new guards had successfully handed over and taken over, they reported to the Commander of the Brigade of Guards who instructed them to sign off.
The President thereafter came to give his impression and sign the register. The ceremony was rounded off by the cutting of the cake which was followed by the release of pigeons as symbols of peace.
Though Labaran Maku, the Minister of Information had disclosed that this year’s celebration would be without the usual pomp and pageantry, not many Nigerians were convinced by the reasons he gave. The Minister said “the fact that this independence is low keyed has nothing to do with fear of Boko Haram or any insecurity. This year, the Federal Government decided there will be no ceremonies. Nigeria was fifty years last year and there was a huge celebration as we never did before after 1960. This country particularly at the federal level we celebrated massively with full military parade we never saw since our childhood days because last year was a special one for us.
Immediately after, we also had a huge inauguration celebration we had the same in virtually all the 36 states on May 29th, several world leaders were here to witness the event. These were huge celebrations that cost huge resources to organize. And so it was in the wisdom of the federal government that this year’s celebration will be low keyed.”
Findings have however shown that the decision to hold the ceremony within the confines of the Presidential Villa cannot be divorced from the security situation in the country. While the Boko Haram sect has constituted itself into a source of national embarrassment for the people and government of Nigeria, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) too issued a warning that they would bomb the Eagle Square on October 1. The group had issued similar warnings hours before bombs went off during last year’s celebrations.
Street Journal also gathered that apart from the Boko Haram issue, the government also has the influx of returnee mercenaries from Libya to worry about.
Security chiefs are also afraid that the ranks of their men might have been infiltrated by members of the deadly sect, hence the inability to apprehend suspects before acts of terror are unleashed on the people.
Street Journal also scooped that before now, a number of foreign diplomats in Nigeria had notified the government of their intentions not to attend the October 1 ceremony due to security concerns. The diplomats’ main fear is that Nigeria’s security agencies don’t seem to be on top of the security situation in the country.