.As Nigerians celebrate the 61st anniversary of its independence, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta has urged them not to lose hope in the ability of the nation to come out of its present travails.
Okowa made the call in his Independence Anniversary speech in Asaba on Friday.
The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, said that many may not see reasons to celebrate because of the myriad of challenges facing the nation, but called on them to give thanks to God because “we are not where we used to be.”
He recalled that “on this day in 1960, Nigeria gained independence from British colonial rule and we must thank God because He reigns supreme in our country.
“Though many of us may not see the need to celebrate, especially in the light of the myriad of security and other challenges bedeviling the nation, but because we have a country that we can proudly call our own it is enough reason to give thanks to God Almighty.
“On a personal level, it is normal for us to give thanks to God for his blessings, notwithstanding our present challenges because refusing to give thanks to God would be considered as ingratitude.”
He said that those who lived in the colonial era and suffered a lot to personal freedom could attest to the fact that freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement and freedom to pursue our dreams in a free society were blessings to which we should ever be grateful.
Okowa paid glowing tribute to the founding fathers of the nation who worked tirelessly for the freedom being celebrated.
“As we celebrate 61 years as an independent country, I join the President, Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly, Governors, Judiciary and the state legislators to congratulate Nigerians on this anniversary.
“Today we celebrate the heroics of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Peter Enahoro, Michael Okpara, Tafawa Balewa and many others who suffered indignation, harassment in the struggle for independence.
“This anniversary offers us the opportunity to reflect on the journey so far and reaffirm our commitment to sustaining the legacy of our heroes past.
“This, we shall accomplish through sacrifice, innovation, dedication and tenacity.
“I dare say that we can be proud of the progress we have made so far even though there are very many areas of our national life that need critical improvements.
“If you look carefully around you, you will definitely notice some positive changes in the building of new roads, new schools, housing projects and improved living environment and there is still room for improvement.
“We may not be where we ought to be, but we are certainly not where we used to be and for that we should give thanks to God almighty.
“In spite of the travails of the moment, we must not despair as we believe that Nigeria will come out of its present challenges stronger and better to lead us to its promise as the giant of Africa,” Okowa said.
He called for prayers for leaders while also holding them accountable to the principles of good governance predicated on fairness, equity and justice.
The governor said that Delta had continued to develop critical educational infrastructure to ensure conducive learning environment for school pupils.
He charged all Deltans to be their brother’s keeper, stressing that no meaningful development could take place without peace.
“As a state, we pledge to continue to invest in policies and programmes that will create opportunities for job and wealth creation for our young people in addition to accelerating infrastructure development in our state.
“It is therefore our earnest hope and expectation that we use this anniversary to think of what we can do to strengthen peaceful coexistence among the various ethnic groups in our state.
“As we try to understand one another better, we learn to shun prejudices, trust more and be forgiving of one another, it is my vision and conviction that we can build a stronger Delta for the greater good of all,” he stated.
The ceremony which was attended by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Theresa Diai, President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Patience Elumeze, Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Chief Christopher Ochor, featured march-past by officers of the Nigerian Police, Nigeria Immigrations Service, Nigeria Correctional Service, Civil Defence, Federal Road Safety Corps and DESTMA.
High point of the ceremony was the cutting of the anniversary cake.