The private sector as ‘the driver’ of the Centenary celebrations

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*Glo sponsors television commercial

BY KAYODE SOMORIN

Nigerians may not wear it like a badge of honour on a daily basis or shout at the rooftop about it, but if you want to know how united the people of the country are as an indivisible entity, then wait till the nation is doing well in sports, politics, literature and in any other field of human endeavour. A case in point for Nigerians to demonstrate their unity and patriotic zeal is when the Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations competition in South Africa.

Similarly, Nigerians  rallied  round the flag when Professor Wole Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986; when Chioma Ajunwa leapt to the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, USA in 1996 and when Agbani Darego became the first Nigerian to be crowned Miss World in 2001.

Such moments of pride provide a national platform for re-union  as political, ethnic and social differences are completely relegated for the nation to discuss and celebrate our victory as brothers.   For Nigerians, celebrating our union dates as far back as 1914 when the country was amalgamated.  In spite of their initial reservations, our forefathers and the subsequent generations have lived together as one indivisible nation, living and sharing together the challenges, the good times, the bad times and the resources, ever since.

By January 2014, Nigeria would have existed for one hundred years.  On January 1, 1914, the then Governor-General, Lord Fredrick Lugard, brought the British dream for  a corporate entity called Nigeria to fruition by formally amalgamating the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria into one country. Prior to 2014, Nigeria, as a nation, has clearly drummed it to the whole world that we can live as one in spite of our  challenges.

While a school of thought may posit that Nigeria has nothing to celebrate in the last one hundred years, citing missed opportunities, political/economic challenges, endemic corruption and myriads of dark spots to buttress their point, another school is  quick to submit that such proponents widely miss  the essence of the centenary celebrations, saying  that living together as a people for 100 years, irrespective of our ethnic, religious and language diversities, is enough reason to celebrate.

This possibly is why a large segment of the society from the organised private sector, the political class and the massively expanding entertainment industry has endorsed the decision by the Federal Government to celebrate Nigeria’s centenary.
One of the key reasons the project quickly gained currency is the decision of the government to make the project private-sector driven.

Indeed, the Federal Government’s position to celebrate the centenary with funds from the private sector is a national call to the array of conglomerates in Nigeria. Expectedly, companies that share this nationalistic vision have showed interest.  Leading the pack  is Globacom Limited, regarded as Nigeria’s biggest corporate export.

Among other initiatives, the leading, wholly indigenous telecoms company in Nigeria has produced and sponsored a television commercial entitled, “The Future”, which featured President Goodluck Jonathan interacting with  children from different ethnic nationalities in the country.  The commercial was presented  at the flag-off dinner held at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja, and watched by  a congregation of top government officials, former Heads of State, industry chieftains and politicians.

In the television commercial, the children articulated the hopes and aspirations for a greater Nigeria in the next 100 years and premised the achievement of this laudable goal on unity, which they graphically illustrated by joining their hands together. The children whose ages range from eight to nine years itemised the major achievements of Nigeria in the last 100  years and mouthed the country’s strong points like:

‘We are the fifth biggest oil producer in the world’
‘We are soon going to be the third largest telecoms market in the world’
‘our strength as a nation is when we all work together’
‘we hope to become one of the truly great nations on earth!’

Jonathan said he would consolidate on the unity of the country as demanded by the future leaders.
The president’s light hearted comments on the television commercial is instructive as he said amongst others,“…In the documentary in which I appeared with the children, you will see that the children performed better than me. That means that our future is brighter..”

The programme of the centenary celebrations has the imprimatur of the private sector in conception and execution. The event is multifaceted and multi-location and provides wonderful opportunities for corporate organisations to express faith in the unity of Nigeria and love for the wonderful people. It is projected that about 15,000 direct jobs would be provided by the event while thousands of other jobs would be created indirectly.

The decision to infuse the centenary spirit into national and international day celebrations like the World Press Freedom and World Food Day is highly commendable as it will  imbue Nigerians with requisite patriotism. The theme song, symposium, essay competition, fashion show, musical show, beauty pageants, arts and craft exhibition and awards, among other events,  would also resonate with Nigerians who are expected to chart a path for the country’s greatness. The construction of a Centenary City in Abuja would be one of the enduring legacies of the centenary celebrations  as the city will demonstrate the harmony between nature and the work of man to create an example for the future of urban development in the country.

As we count our blessings in the last 100 years as a nation and celebrate our resilience as a people, a quality which had seen us surviving a civil war, nothing will be more gratifying than for all Nigerians to resolve to contribute  to the efforts to launch the country into the next 100 years with renewed hope and expectations. This surely will reposition Nigeria as a united, progressive, productive and respected nation eager to harness its God-given potentials to offer leadership in global affairs. If we all buy into the efforts to re-inspire unity in the country, the aims would be achieved sooner or later. Then, we can collectively and joyfully chorus: One Nigeria, Great Promise!

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