Oct 2nd, 2011 – Nigeria Holds Low-Key 51st Independence Day Celebration
In the first of its kind today at the Presidential villa, the nation celebrated what can be termed as a low key, in-house independence celebration with a special presidential change of guard and signpost.
The short ceremony which held at the forecourt of the President’s office, was conducted by two battalions of the presidential guards brigade; the 177 battalion based in Keffi and the Seventh Guards Battalion, Abuja.
The ceremony which lasted for about an hour, commenced with the arrival of President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife by 10:05am. After inspecting the quarter guard at the forecourt gate, Jonathan went to the podium where he received the General salute and the National Anthem was played.
Prayers were then offered by Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Chief Imam of the Abuja National Mosque, Shiek Usman Muhammad.
The presidential change of guards was performed by 61 soldiers and involved foot and arms drill with rhythmic and calculated steps. The weapons were also checked to ensure that there were cleaned and no rounds of arms were left in them and their uniforms were checked to ensure there was no shoddy turn out.
The presidential change of guards is usually performed every Monday morning and is aimed at ensuring regimentation and that instructions given to the guards are carried out properly.
After the ceremony, the President signed the anniversary register and proceeded, accompanied by his wife; Vice President Namadi Sambo and his wife; Senate President David Mark; Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, who represented the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal; Chief Justice of the Federation, Dahiru Musdafar; former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and former President Shehu Shagari, to cut the anniversary cake.
Jonathan released 51pigeons as a symbol of peace.
Others who witnessed the ceremony were ministers; Ambassadors; High Commissioners and members of the diplomatic corps; high profile politicians, and members of the organised private sector, among others.
The federal government had decided to hold a low-key independence celebration this year because, according to it, there had been two major celebrations in the past year.
The minister of information, Mr Labaran Maku had earlier told journalists at the state house in Abuja that the decision to have a low-key celebration was not borne out of fear but out of the will to save cost.
“I want to make it very clear here that the fact that this independence is low-keyed has nothing to do with fear of Boko Haram or any insecurity” Maku said (Daily Times).