Okwe Obi and Charity Nwakaudu
The recent celebration of the country’s 59th independence was a combination of high and low moments, especially for residents of the Federal Capital Territory. The major streets were painted green and white, including Nigerians, who clad in same colours, symbolising patriotism.
Businesses boomed as traders took advantage of the day to hawk the country’s national flags, caps, key holders, designer T-shirts and other items coloured green and white. Most private and commercial vehicles hung those items in and outside their vehicles.
Even radio and television stations serenaded listeners and viewers with scintillating songs, saluting and hailing the country’s founding fathers, who fought gallantly to keep the nation one.
When Daily Sun visited most recreational parks and gardens the atmosphere was electrifying, and fun seekers drank to stupor and smoked away their lungs. At the Millennium Park the security was porous. Police officers and personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), were minding the business as they did not bother to search those sauntering in.
Prices of snacks, alcoholic drinks, and foods skyrocketed astronomically. Roasted meat popularly known as Suya was almost beyond the affordability of most people as it sold for N500 and above, unapologetically. Most people grudgingly coughed out money to buy desired items while those with deep pockets bought beyond the normal price.
Umbrella sellers had hoped to make so much money thinking it was going to rain but were disappointed when the sun shone brightly. Those who rented sleeping mats had a filled day as they hired one for N200 with no time limit. Most families brought big coolers and flacks of different assorted meals, including sleeping mats.
A banker, Idowu Femi, who came with his family, said the day was worth celebrating given the different challenges; insecurity, hardship, inter-ethnic rivalries and bad governance the country had been plagued with yet no separation:
“I am here to celebrate with my family because it’s been long we enjoy as a family. I am also here to celebrate and pray for a better country. Don’t forget that the problems are not peculiar to Nigeria. We must keep hope alive.”
A furniture sales representative, Peter Samson, 26, had a different plan: “Bros, I won’t lie, I am here to look for a babe. I need someone to celebrate with me.”
For Gwax Godfrey Kotur: “It’s a special day for me. My birthday was on September 30, my girlfriend’s own is today, October 1. So, it is a special day for us. And this is the birthday we are celebrating together.”
While wishing his girlfriend long life and prosperity: “May she be more successful than a 59-year-old country that has refused to develop. No evil politician shall deceive you when you clock 59.”
The Eagle Square, which is the centre for every national event, was as quite as a graveyard because the celebration took place at the Presidential Villa. A groundnut seller who is also a student of Government Secondary Zone 3, Susan Edeh, lamented: “I thought it was business as usual. I boiled my bag of groundnut and set out for the square as early as 6 a.m. but met a very empty square.
“I patiently waited not until a security person told me that it will be done in the Villa not here. I am totally disappointed because this is one of the means through which I get money to get myself going during the term.
“Instead of making interest now I have lost most of what I have saved because I had to sell them cheaper than what I had planned. We sell a cup of groundnut N50 or three cups for N100 instead of the normal two cups for N50. Now I am forced to sell cheaper than estimated.”
Another food vendor behind the square, Felicia Adamu, said the change of venue made her to be at lost: “I have lost my money, I never knew the celebration will not be here so I went and cooked more than I used to. The food that I cooked is plenty with the intention that those that will come for the celebration will buy but where am I going to sell this food now and today is public holiday, everywhere is empty.”
Helen Attah flayed government for not informing the public about the venue: “This year’s independence celebration is a scam. So we are no longer qualified to know what is happening in our nation. Since they knew it would not be in Eagle Square, why didn’t they inform the masses? The full bag of maize I brought is going to spoil.
“Aside that, I missed the entrainment; all the cultural displays and the Moscow’s on green white are nowhere to be found.”