Friday, 7 October 2011

No fanfare for independent Nigeria's 51st birthday

Nigeria's 51 st Independence Day was celebrated on 1 st October, but in a marked departure from the extravagant and elaborate celebrations of last year's 50 th Independence celebrations, the festivities this year were low-key, with little or no fanfare. The usual Independence Day parade at Abuja's Eagle Square did not take place. Instead, President Goodluck Jonathan chose to have a quiet celebration at the State House, Aso Rock villa.

It is widely believed that the reason for this year's quiet celebrations were the security risks posed by threats from both the Boko Haram militant Islamist sect and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) military group, as well, of course, the legacy of last year's tragic bombing on Independence Day, which occurred close to Eagle Square, killing and injuring several people.

Responsibility for last year's bombing was claimed by MEND and this resulted in the arrest of Henry Okah – MEND's alleged leader – his brother Charles Okah and several others who are still undergoing trial. Some critics of the government, in particular the leading opposition party – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) – have accused the government of cowardice for allowing terrorist organisations to scare it away from the usual Eagle Square venue of Independence Day celebrations.

The presidency insists that its decision not to have the Independence Day celebrations at the usual venue was not informed by security issues but by its desire to have a low-key and less extravagant celebration, following the previous year's extravagant festivities.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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