Three score years ago, our people determined to amend their political relationship with the world as well as the relationship among themselves. From the unfairness and limitations inherent in the colonial situation we claimed our independence to establish our own way that we might be servile to none. We asserted our independence that we may be the most populous, most powerful and most prosperous nation in Africa and in the process lead our continent and our race into a more just and equable condition.
Thus we do not commemorate Independence Day as some empty ritual. It is not some excuse to begin the 10th month of the year with a holiday. Instead, it is an annual reminder and affirmation of the noble and excellent trek upon which we have embarked as a people. During these 60 years we have passed important milestones and progressed in many ways. We have endured long nights that skeptics said would end us. In my own state of Lagos we have transformed what many had written off as a dying city into a dynamic hub of commerce, openness and infrastructural development.
Under the current APC administration, the nation is now building the institutional framework and infrastructural networks that will bring forth an era of beneficial growth and development for all Nigeria and all Nigerians no matter your current station in life and without regard to your incidence or place of birth. We press onward despite the unique difficulties and challenges posed this year by the global pandemic and its attendant economic difficulties. In fact, Nigeria should be proud of how it decisively managed this challenge. For among the worlds most populous nations, we rank among the least affected by the scourge. This we owe primarily to the merciful hand of God but also to the sage actions of government and the civic responsibility of the people.
Yet I would be less than honest if I did not state we have often stumbled and lost our way at times since we gained independence. Brother has fought against brother. We spilled blood that ought not have been spilled. We have squandered opportunity. We have let our immense potentials lay idle and stagnant. But not any more. Those things are remnants of the past for which we now draw important lessons to guide us to a more optimistic and fecund tomorrow.
The sixty years Nigeria has stood as an independent land may seem long in the life of a man, but in the life of a nation it has been but a single breath. Wisdom instructs us to love our nation for it is truly an unfortunate son who hates his own home and family. However, wise and enlightened it may be to love Nigeria as a nation that is still insufficient. It only gets us halfway to where we need to go. It does little good if we love the geopolitical construct named Nigeria but fail to love and have utmost compassion for the very people who comprise this land and who make it a living daily reality by calling themselves Nigerians.
Today, let us not just celebrate the political space we call Nigeria. Let us celebrate the decent, industrious and kind people who make Nigeria what it is and who strive with care and passion to bring Nigeria closer to what it ought to be.
We are a nation and a people fashioned by a unique history. We bear no shame for our history is no better or worse than any other nation on the face of the earth. From our forbearers, we inherited a land and its ways and means. We have been entrusted by generations yet to come to improve upon those ways and means in order to establish a Nigerian way of life in which all children of this land may flourish in new ways and one in which the social ills of the past no longer seek to haunt the broad avenues of our future.
I would be selling you falsehood if I were to promise that our daily path would be lined with rose petals and sweet fragrance. I would be selling you false hope if I were to say nothing but gentle days and tranquil nights await us.
However. I tender this sound and fundamental truth. This beloved nation now faces in the right direction. We move closer to the reality of a greater nation based on a more just and compassionate society. Because of you, the fine and patriotic people who are this nation, we are better than we were yesterday but not quite as good as we shall be tomorrow.
Thus, we honor our independence not because it is a day on the calendar. We value this independence because it allows – in fact demand of us – that we assess and define ourselves and our nation as we deem fit. That we define our society, its economy and political institutions in a manner that answers the questions we pose to them instead of responding to the demands of outside forces.
We cherish our independence so that we may build a society according to the humane and progressive values that animate us, and that we not lie supine and beholden to interests that care nothing for us, save that we serve them.
We cherish our independence because we are Nigeria and Nigeria is us. As one, we are greater and more capable than the sum of our individual parts. During these trying times we face, many will ask why should I love this nation? What has it given me? It has given us a large potentially bountiful home. No power on earth can divest your rights to and in this home. Yet, with ownership comes responsibility. You have the inalienable right, no duty, to build and improve this home as you see fit.
This is the true meaning of independence and we should observe this how we treat and relate to one another. Let us forever join in common purpose and strong bond to build Nigeria as a citadel of peace, a catalyst of prosperity and a tower of justice that wherever they may go in the world Nigerians can hold themselves proud. And wherever they may be in the world, there one thought is of returning to this fine and outstanding home we now build for ourselves of our own ingenuity, ideas and of our very independence. As long as this earth stands, may Nigeria too stand as among its leading nations.