Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has said that Nigeria holds strong promise as a great nation we will all be proud of and appealed to Nigerians not to despair in their faith in the country.
The Governor who spoke at the Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu Stadium Owerri on Saturday while delivering his 62nd Independence anniversary broadcast noted that despite the obvious challenges in nation-building, Nigeria has also made some progress 62 years down the road.
He advised Nigerians not to dwell on the country’s failures to assess the country but rather, make conscious efforts to rededicate themselves to promoting matters of common interest.
Governor Uzodimma said the forbears of Nigeria who laboured to get Independence for the country took the issue of the unity, love, peaceful coexistence, fairness and equity for all Nigerians seriously and will be happy to see the generation of Nigerians they left behind as leaders and followers live up to their dream.
Governor Uzodimma’s address read in full:
“Today marks yet another milestone in the history of our great country, Nigeria. Exactly 62 years ago – on 1st October 1960 – our dear country was admitted into the membership of the United Nations General Assembly. This made her the 99th member of this comity of independent nations. From that day our march into nationhood commenced.
“Three years later – in 1963 – Nigeria became a full-fledged independent Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Breaking completely from the yoke of colonial rule, Nigerians looked forward to real freedom, both of association and speech, and the right to govern themselves.
“There is no doubt that much was expected by Nigerians at independence. Our people were optimistic that independence would come with equal rights and justice for all. They eagerly looked forward to a nation that will offer equal opportunities to all, irrespective of creed or clan. Indeed they looked forward to all these and were determined to overcome whatever obstacles stood in their way.
“However, the greatest of the post-independence challenges must have been how to turn the different ethnic nationalities that made up the new nation into one, big united country.
“Without doubt, sixty-two years down the line, we have made some progress in the task of building a nation, but we have recorded some failures too. The truth is that it is not yet Uhuru for Nigeria.
“Therefore, this occasion of celebrating the 62nd anniversary of our independence is one we should use for sober reflection on the journey so far. First, we should remember our forbears who struggled to secure our independence from colonial rule.
” It is also an opportunity for all of us – both the leaders and the followers – to do a soul search on the roles we have played individually and collectively to bring Nigeria to where she stands today. We should all ask ourselves this pertinent question: Are we doing our bit to ensure that we fulfil the dreams of our forbears and meet our expectations as a nation?
“At this juncture, let me pause to salute our heroes past whose blood and sweat brought us to this day. I remember their heroic exploits and sacrifices which brought us independence. I also remember our compatriots who died in the civil war in our bid to sustain the peace. Just as our national anthem enjoins us, may their blood and labour not be in vain.
“Let me also use the auspicious occasion of this independence celebration to sincerely congratulate ordinary Nigerians for their resilience these past 62 years. By living in different parts of the country to earn your livelihoods, even in the face of security threats and daunting economic challenges, you have continued to demonstrate your commitment to a united Nigeria. I declare you the real heroes of this independence celebration. You have shown incredible faith in the country. Please, do not despair.
“Yes, some of our expectations have not been met, and as a result, Nigeria may not have become the nation we dreamed about at independence. But we must also acknowledge the fact, as Julius Caesar will say,” The fault is not in our stars but ourselves ”
“There is no doubt that we may have squandered many opportunities to make Nigeria great. One of these is the opportunity to make all Nigerians see themselves as true citizens in a country where equity and justice prevail.
“We have also missed the opportunity to build a resilient economy that guarantees good quality of life for everyone. It is a fact that we still struggle to guarantee the safety and security of all citizens in different parts of the country.
“Yet, despite all these shortcomings, the way forward is not to dwell on our failures. Instead, we should make a conscious effort to celebrate and be proud of our successes. And they are by no means few. Thereafter, we should use them as a foothold to march on with greater confidence into the future.
“It is important that as a nation, we should not allow our past mistakes or failed dreams to hold us hostage. Rather, we should learn from our mistakes and turn the lessons into veritable tools that can help us navigate the future better. I believe that the greatest success story of our great country is that it has remained together as one indivisible nation, despite the many challenges that have assailed us.
“The memorable words of Oliver Goldsmith, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall “, should constantly inspire us to trudge on irrespective of the setbacks we may have faced or are facing at the moment.
“Therefore, we must resolve to forge ahead, more united and less distracted by the things that divide us. Every successful nation had its fair share of turbulent and uncertain moments. But they were able to overcome because their faith in themselves and their country remained unshaken.
“No nation can survive without trust amongst its people. To succeed, a nation needs trust, love and the fervent patriotic commitment of her citizens. I, therefore, see the occasion of this 62nd Independence Day celebration as an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to promoting and defending our common interests over and above self-interests.
“We should also resolve to accommodate one another, irrespective of our differences, believing that the God that made it possible for us to find ourselves in one entity called Nigeria, did not make a mistake.
“If we can shun avarice, greed and ethnic irredentism, we will be helping in no small measure in building that nation that guarantees equal opportunities for all. This is the Nigeria which our founding fathers dreamt of and fought gallantly for. Let us first shower our country with the love she needs, and she will in return surely avail us of the opportunities we desire.
“I firmly believe that Nigeria still holds a strong promise and can still become that great nation that we shall all be proud of. Let us not give up, for the future is still very bright. If we all resolve today to be patriotic, to love one another, to love our country and to do only those things that promote the unity and development of Nigeria, even the sky will not be able to limit how high we will soar. Yes, our destiny is in our hands, that is, the hands of both the leaders and the followers.
“It is not by accident that Nigeria has survived many seemingly intractable challenges, including a civil war, and is still waxing stronger. Surely, there is God’s hand in it. A nation that has passed through these adversities and still stands, cannot afford to make a second mistake. History will not forgive us if we do.
“In the last week, in churches and mosques across the country, we prayed for peace and unity and beseeched God to continue to bless and protect Nigeria and Nigerians.
But we also have to put our hands on the plough to ensure that we make Nigeria work for all of us. After all, faith without work amounts to nothing. When we recall the sterling qualities that defined our founding fathers as outstanding statesmen, the need for our present leaders to demonstrate an unflinching sense of patriotism and nationalism, will not be compromised.
“That is the least expected of us as leaders. Our forbears sacrificed a lot for this country and some even paid the ultimate price in the course of building a strong and united nation which they bequeathed to us. Sadly, not many of our present-day leaders are willing to emulate them. Sadly, some of us have become glorified ethnic and religious champions.
“Rather than strive to do those things that unite us, some leaders now prefer to widen our fault lines and have ended up dividing the country even further. Such leaders must rethink their mission in politics and decide whether they want to serve our nation, their tribe or their religion. But in doing so, they must remember that both tribe and religion can only exist when there is a nation that guarantees their safety, and not the other way round.
“More importantly, they should remember the moving words of a teenage girl, Malala Yousafzai in her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace prize in 2014. She said and I quote ” It does not matter what’s the colour of your skin, what language speak, what religion you believe in. It is that we should all consider each other as human beings.”
“It appears that in the quest for power and influence, some of our leaders have forgotten or jettisoned those values that drove the passion of our forebears. Instead of embracing the ideals that brought us together, we have increasingly become more individualistic, and are now guilty of fanning the embers of divisiveness, ethnic irredentism and religious sentiments.
“Today’s leaders should be reminded of this popular line in our first national anthem which was first sung at our independence: “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand..”
It is unfortunate that through wild propaganda, some of our leaders now tend to emphasize more what divides us than what unites us. They have failed to promote the comparative advantages we have as a united country.
“Those who preach separatism often do not open the eyes of their followers to the dangers inherent in a fragmented country. While I concede that our system has not been perfect, and there have been pockets of injustice here and there, I insist that all of us are better off in a united Nigeria. All we have to do is to work collaboratively to ensure that the country serves all of us well.
“As we mark this 62nd Independence Anniversary, may it serve as a wake-up call to all political and religious leaders to fashion out ways of promoting our unity.
“We should eschew politics of hatred and divisiveness. We should stop engaging in such acts that question our loyalty to this great nation. Such activities include sponsoring insecurity and promoting separatism.
“For us in Imo state, let us use the opportunity of this anniversary to rededicate ourselves to the service of this state. We should support our government to serve us better. The state of our dream can only be built through our collective efforts.
“As the governor, I remain committed to the task of restoring your trust and faith in government. I shall remain sensitive and responsive to the needs of all well-meaning and law-abiding citizens of the state. Under my watch, our state would be renowned for peace and progress.
“I wish all Nigerians, especially Ndi Imo, a happy 62nd Independence Day Celebration.”