Nigerian leaders today hammered on the need for citizens to remember where we all began the journey as one nation and to do the things that will sustain the lofty dreams of the nation’s founding fathers.
But they took different paths on what must be done.
President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigerians are bound to make greater progress if citizens are united in purpose as individuals and as a nation.
On the other hand, his opponent in the 2019 national elections, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, asked Nigerians to move beyond calling for prayers and take their destiny in their hands by insisting that rulers follow the law and the constitution.
In Enugu, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi paid tributes to the founding fathers and, like the President, insisted that we remain steadfast in pursuit of peace, unity and brotherhood to make the country great.
Almost all messages from various leaders across geographical and political spectrum touched on the issue of security and peace as they affect the pace of development.
The President restated his commitment to protect the nation’s security and fight corruption as first steps on the journey to inclusive growth and development.
He however worried about the harm that unrestrained free speech and “hate speech” was causing the nation, especially as they affect the right of the other, and as they compromise national security.
“Whilst we uphold the constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our national security, we will take firm and decisive action,” he said.
Buhari therefore called for restraint, tolerance and mutual respect among Nigerians as they air their “grievances and frustrations,” and cautioned that all must not forget the lessons of our past so that people who talk without restraint will pull back from “this path of hatred and distrust (which) only leads to hostility and destruction.”
Vice President Atiku declared that free speech is under assault in Nigeria, especially in a situation where he said the judiciary is intimidated, the media is frightened, and youths are afraid to speak up.
“All is not well when judges are persecuted for enforcing the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.
“All is not well when Nigeria is now the world’s headquarter for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow while the needs of the governed are not being met.
“All is not well when the media cannot freely express itself without the fear that those who wield the big stick will use it on them for saying things as they are.”
President Buhari, for the umpteenth time, called for individual change of attitude among Nigerians.
“We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust” and to do this, “we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.”
Governor Ugwuanyi, who maintained a conciliatory tone throughout his message, asked Nigerians to remain steadfast in the pursuit of peace, unity and brotherhood among themselves.
He maintained his commitment to ensure security of lives and property, enhance good governance, and sustain economic growth.
He also expressed gratitude to the people of Enugu, including elders, public and civil servants, artisans, professionals, market women and men, and Ndi Enugu in the Diasporas, for their “solidarity and unflinching support to (his) government.”
Nigeria gained political independence from British rule on 1 October 1960 and Independence Day used to be a happy day.
These days, however, the mood of the nation swings in tandem with the unstable economic climate.