NIGERIAN community leaders in the UK marked the country’s 60th independence day anniversary yesterday with a muted celebration at the Yanga TV studios that involved a three-hour seminar to debate the country’s past and suggest solutions going forward.
Organised by Yanga TV in conjunction with Nigeria Independence Day Annual Lecture (Nidal) UK, the event was low-key in light of the coronavirus health restrictions. Guest speakers from Nigeria included trade and industry minister Niyi Adebayo, who represented vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo and Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chair of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission.
Highly engaging, the three hour event, was kicked off by prayers from Venerable Tunde Roberts of St Olaves Church, London and Sheikh Abdulwahab Kasim of the Al Mumineen Islamic Organisation. Then, Afrobeat sensation May7ven sang a rendition of the Nigerian national anthem before discussions began on the three main topics of the Nigerian economy, the role of the diaspora and engaging the youth.
Among the Nigerian community leaders who attended the event were Chief Bimbo Afolayan, Alistair Soyode, Councillor Susan Fajana-Thomas, Councillor Victoria Obaze, Bimbo Babarinde, Rotimi Pedro, Sam Awaziem, Dapo Araromi, Yemi Soile, Dapo Taiwo, Ugochukwu Morah and Kelechi Anyikude. Presenters for the sessions included Rose Graham, Ayo Akinfe, Charles Emeka, Doyin Ola, Chuchu Nwagwu and Ceewhy Ochoga.
Goodwill messages were sent in from prominent Nigerians in the UK including Councillor Kate Anolue, former Super Eagles Wole Odegbami, the mayor of Brent Councillor Ernest Ezeajughi and Councillor Kam Adams, the mayor of Hackney. Topics discussed include Investment in Nigeria Since 1960 and Moving Forward, Young Nigerians and Their Role in the Future and The Role of the Diaspora in Developing Nigeria.
Lindsey Oliver said: “We had originally intended to hold this event at Chatham House and the House of Commons but due to the coronavirus pandemic that could not happen. Due to the restrictions, we opted to hold it in our studios, with those who could not attend sending us messages electronically.
“Given that it will now be an annual event, next year, Nidal will be held at Chatham House and hopefully, we will be able to get several high profile speakers from Nigeria. This was our inaugural event and the feedback we got was brilliant, so we are energised to step up o9ur game in 2021.”
Ayo Akinfe, the Nidal UK coordinator, added: “When a person hits 60, they are considered a fully grown mature person, so with Nigeria reaching that landmark this year, we felt our diamond jubilee celebrations should reflect that. It would have been politically immature of us to just gather physically or electronically to dance, wine and dine, so we took the view that marking the view needed to involve an intellectual discussion about where we are as a nation.
“Our seminar reviewed the last 60 years and looked at what we will be doing over the next six decades, which is why we included a youth session. We intend to now make this an annual event and have an independence day lecture on October 1 every year.”
In his speech, Professor Osinbajo spoke about the challenges Nigeria has faced over the last 60 years, the new dynamics of the global economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and proffered solutions about the way forward. He pointed out that Nigeria needs to diversify her economy to provide other revenue sources, introduce a public works programme to develop infrastructure and expand farming acreage to boost agricultural output.
Hon Dabari-Erewa for her part called on diasporans to invest in the local economy, taking advantage of the new mechanisms the federal government was putting in place. She also praised diasporans for the fact that they send home $25bn in remittances every year.
Among the musical interludes that were played included a rendition of the track Igwe by the Methodist Girls High School UK Alumni choir. Also, played was a rendition of the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past by seven Christian leaders including Professor Osinbajo, Dr Yakubu Gowon, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Late Dr Alex Ekwueme, Late Chief Ernest Shonekan, Commodore Ebite Ukiwe and Lt General Oladipo Diya.
Precisely 60 years ago on October 1 1960, Nigeria became independent from Britain with the occasion marked with an elaborate ceremony in Lagos. This year, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has set aside a budget to mark the event with an elaborate celebration but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to these plans.