ENUGU, Enugu State, Nigeria – Tens of thousands of students from primary and secondary schools within the Enugu metropolis crowded into Okpara Square to celebrate the 54th anniversary of Nigeria independence.
With optimistic smiles and excited faces, they all watched a parade and also marched themselves as part of the events marking the day’s celebration.
“I’m really excited about this occasion of the 54th anniversary celebration,” said a happy Louis Ume, 18, the head boy of OSISATECH Boys’ Secondary School. “It’s a thing of joy knowing that we have all the freedom to make our own policies.”
Another student at the event, 14-year-old Chidera Ngwunwa of Union Secondary School in Awkunanaw, said his happiness was simply indescribable.
“I feel very great about today because we are 54,” Ngwunwa said, adding that Nigeria’s independence will help the country to stir the course of its progress.
The first of October is usually a public holiday in Nigeria. It is a day that reminds the people of the hard-earned struggle of Nigerian nationalists that led to independence from Great Britain on Oct. 1, 1960.
“I feel very happy because today reminds me of when Nigeria became independent,” said Wisdom Ladapo, 8, a pupil of Wilsophia Child-friendly School in Enugu. “Today is special. We feel very happy about our freedom.”
Asked if there’s any hope for the country amid the growing spate of terrorism, endemic corruption, poor leadership and failed governments, Ladapo is optimistic about the future.
“I still believe that Nigeria will become a great country,” the girl said. “Even if everything has failed, when we grow we’ll work hard to make Nigeria better than it is now.”
Ume has a positive outlook, touched with some realism. “We are improving, though much still needs to be done,” Ume said. “I know many rural dwellings need motorable roads, water and other things, but I still believe we have what it takes to be like many advanced countries of the world.”
Ngwunwa, too, shared in the optimism. “Our future is bright; things will get to change. The labor of our past heroes will never be in vain.”
As part of the annual observance, millions of Nigerians remained glued to their televisions and radios Wednesday to listen to the speech by President Goodluck Jonathan.
In his address, the president assured Nigerians of his commitment to fighting terrorism in the country, while enjoining everybody to support the government’s concerted effort to curb the menace.
Celebrations in all states followed the president’s speech. School children converged for march-past – awards were given to the schools that outdid others in the parade.
Linus Okechukwu is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.