Independence: Jonathan leads former Heads of States in celebration

Goodluck Johnathan.President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday led former Heads of State, the leadership of the National Assembly, the judiciary and other top government officials to celebrate the country’s 54th independence anniversary.

The event, which was held at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, featured the Presidential Change of Guards Parade, a military affair.

The parade was performed by men of the 177 Battalion, Presidential Guards Brigade, Keffi, Nasarawa State.

Other features of the colourful event included inspection of new guard/quarter guard, silent drill, posting of sentries/colour patrol and echelon reporting of parade, among others.

Others were foot and arms drill, rhythmic and calculated steps, and checking of weapons to ensure they were clean and that rounds of arms were not left in them.

At the end of the parade, Jonathan signed the independence anniversary register and released pigeons to signify peace.

He was accompanied by the President of the Senate, Sen. David Mark; Service Chiefs; Acting Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba and other dignitaries.

Among other dignitaries at the event were former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), and former Head of the defunct Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.

Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, and former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd).

Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the ceremony, Gowon said that the country would overcome its challenges and remain indivisible beyond 2015.

He said: “I believe in Nigeria. I love Nigeria. And we all must work for Nigeria; that is everybody, including the government and the opposition, in order to make Nigeria great. That is my wish.”

Mark also said that the future was bright for the country, adding that Nigeria would come out of its current challenges stronger and more united.

On his part, Ihedioha enjoined Nigerians to resolve to work together to build the country and confront its common enemies.

“Division is not an option for us. We must resolve to commonly address our common enemies and collectively decide that we should make Nigeria a great country,” he said.

Also speaking, the Chairperson of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, Mrs Ngozi Olejeme, urged Nigerians to rally round the president in his efforts at transforming the country.