By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent, Efa Sunday, Deborah Obot, Patricia Illam and Lucky Edet
Cross Riverians on Monday joined millions of Nigeria to celebrate the 58th independence anniversary of the country with mixed feelings greeting the celebration.
As expected, the state government organised a parade at the U.J Esuene stadium with the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu representing Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari while the commissioner for information, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong represented the governor, Senator Ben Ayade.
And, in his address, Mr. Ayade said the journey so far has been a mixed bag.
“The journey so far has been a mixed bag, at times disappointing, tough and fraught with challenges that so often dampened our spirits. However, there have also been glittering times that we have beamed with national pride as a people following our successes as a nation. For in spite of our many failings and missteps, we have remained focused, unwavering and optimistic.
“In our optimism, and our can-do-it spirit, we have surmounted many challenges and made giant strides towards greatness. One of such greatness is our unflinching resolve to bond together as a people.
“So while our today may not have found perfect synchronism with our great expectations as a people, there is no doubt that surely, we do have the energy, potentials to flourish and weave our determination to precision and berth a better tomorrow.
“Beloved Cross Riverians, as we strive to attain that tomorrow of our dreams, we need not only stick as one, but must pull together, work together and shrug off tendencies and avoid strictures that highlight our fault lines,” Ayade said and stressed that hope is not lost and called for all to unite and forge ahead.
“My beloved Cross Riverians, all hope is not lost. As a state and a nation, there is no way we can exist without challenges. But one is certain and that is that we have a great future ahead of us and all that is required is to reach out and touch it. But we can only do that by staying united and working as a unit,” he added.
One of his predecessor and Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, Mr. Donald Duke in a tweet, said that it was not yet uhuru.
“Happy Independence Day Nigeria! Our best is yet to come,” Duke tweeted.
Happy Independence Day Nigeria! Our best is yet to come.
— Donald Duke (@Donald_Duke) October 1, 2018
Unlike previous years, most politicians did not send out congratulatory messages due to the primary elections of political parties.
But, the chairman, governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba in a statement signed by his special assistant on communications, Clara Braide reflected on the journey so far and maintained that the country remains an indivisible entity on the part to greatness.
“I heartily salute all the people of our great country, Nigeria, as we celebrate the 58th independence of the nation,” the statement quoted Ndoma-Egba as saying.
It further read: “As we mark this historic event, let us passionately reflect on our visionary founding fathers, who labored day and night to secure our freedom on October 1, 1960, thus creating for us a sovereign nation under God.”
The leader of the seventh senate said the country has survived many travails and expressed optimism that it shall overcome current challenges as well as remain united, resolute and strong.
“The hiccups in recent times are normal occurrences in a democratic, developing nation and would naturally be overcome because democracy has self-correcting mechanisms.
“Like millions of Nigerians, I believe that Nigeria will continue to witness transformation in every sector, remain politically and economically strong and indivisible in line with the principles of our founding fathers,” He said and sued for continuous support of President Buhari in his effort to lift the country to greater heights.
Also, several respondents who spoke to CrossRiverWatch had mixed feelings about the nation and the state’s journey so far.
“To me I don’t know exactly what Nigerians are celebrating. We say we are 58years old yet a country like Ghana that is not even up to the population of Lagos has left us behind, in terms of infrastructural development,” said Mr. Anderson Effiwatt.
He added that: “Our leaders are not helping us at all. They are all power- driven rather than being true leaders. What they want is how to enrich our pockets. For me Nigeria is still backwards. We need to sit down as a people and think about what exactly the problem is. There is something we are not getting right and that is bad leadership.”
For Mr. Ikara Sylvester, “There has being no impact because Nigeria still remains the way it was, where our colonial masters left Nigeria. This country is supposed to have grown above the state we are today, if we have good leadership.
“Till today, it does not augur well with Nigeria. That is the problem we are facing. For instance, look at the economy of Nigeria today, look at what civil servants are earning (NGN18,000), the price of fuel has inflated, transportation the same. We cannot pay school fees for our children with NGN18,000. Though globally we are the giant of Africa as they say, we may have achieved (that) in population and size but for the economic wellbeing of the citizenry, no impact. Nigeria seems to be one of the poorest country in Africa.”
Mrs. Ekpoanwan Archibong, a trader used an adage to describe the situation of the country.
“There is this popular saying that a fool at 40 is a fool forever. In the case of Nigeria, a fool at 58 is what? I think you and I know what we as citizens are facing in this country. Everything is not working. Look at common basic amenities, the government can’t provide. All they know and want is how to get power by however means possible. Our hospitals are not working. Our schools are nothing to write home about. Education that is the bedrock or pillar of every other development of a country, in the budget of Nigeria, it has less than seven percent,” Mrs. Archibong said.
She continued: “I am a trader and a civil servant, imagine the price of things in the market. Things are very expensive and yet in some states, some governors are still struggling to pay NGN18,000 minimum wage. Although I am a Christian and I have learnt to trust in God for my supplies, and God has been faithful.
“But however, the reality starring us in the face is threatening our democracy. But we thank God that we are 58 years today. I hope that before the next 58 years of our life as a nation, we would have right our wrongs.”
And, Mrs. Archibong in her remarks at the democracy day celebration had called on Cross Riverians to embrace the responsibility that comes with freedom and “ensure that this freedom does not die in our hands.”
Archibong who stressed that, “independence was gotten by negotiation and we do not need to be involved in bloodshed,” also averred that: “In Cross River State, we do not dread the responsibility that liberty has given to us because we have a man who looks eye ball to eye ball into the challenges of freedom and addresses these challenges we have a man who is deeply visionary.”
She admonished Cross Riverians to desist from all form of violence and protect the freedom democracy has given the nation.
Similarly, Charlie-Brown Ukpong said the hardship was telling on the size of his shirt and used it to illustrate that the country was no longer moving forward.
“We should have a positive change by the grace of God next year,” Ukpong said and illustrating with his shirt, added that: “The shirt is now bigger than me because of the structural adjustment program in this present administration.”
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