PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan will on Monday (today) mark the country’s 52nd independence anniversary within the confines of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, contrary to the previous practice of holding such events at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
The indoor independence celebration started last year when Jonathan opted for a brief ceremony within his official residence in the face of the prevalent insecurity in the country.
Like last year’s celebration, only a few accredited personalities will be allowed into the indoor venue. But the event will be transmitted live by both the Nigerian Television Authority and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria from 10am.
A terse statement by Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, on Sunday gives the outlines of the anniversary which will commence at 7am with a presidential broadcast.
Abati’s statement reads, “As part of the activities marking Nigeria’s 52nd Independence Anniversary, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will address the nation on Monday, October 1, 2012.
“The broadcast will be aired at 7 am. All television stations are advised to hook up to the Nigerian Television Authority for clean feed, while radio stations should hook up to the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.
“The President will also watch a ceremonial Change of Guards by the Nigerian Army Brigade of Guards, at the State House, Abuja. This ceremony will be witnessed by Vice- President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Chief Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, and former heads of state, members of the diplomatic corps, political leaders, other government officials and dignitaries.
“The event will be transmitted live, from 10am on the NTA and FRCN networks and other broadcast stations across the country.”
The Presidential aide did not give reason for the low-key celebration this year but watchers say that the decision may have been informed by the high profile terror attacks that the capital city has experienced in the last two years.
Two bombs exploded near the Eagle Square venue of the 50th anniversary in 2010. A militant group, the Movemenet for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, later claimed responsibility for the bombings.
The insecurity in the nation has gone worse since then with an Islamic sect, Boko Haram, prosecuting a campaign of violence against the government. The sect has killed about 450 persons this year alone with attacks on military and police facilities, worship houses and drinking joints.
Last year’s low celebration attracted criticisms from opposition and other stakeholders who condemned the government for allegedly surrendering to the Islamic sect.
The criticisms forced Jonathan during a state visit to Rwanda to deny celebrating the independence inside the Presidential Villa, saying the event was a mere ceremonial change of guard.
He said the anniversary would remain a low-key event until 2014 when the nation would celebrate its centenary in an elaborate manner.
Eagle Square, the usual venue of the nation’s independence celebrations, remained empty on Sunday with no sign of activity.
In previous Independence Day eves, it was a beehive of activities as elaborate reparations were made for the next day’s celebrations.
The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, had on September 3, announced that 2012’s celebration would be a low-key affair.
He said the decision was in line with the transformation agenda of the current administration which frowned at flamboyant and unnecessary spending.
However, some Abuja residents, who spoke to NAN, said the planned low-key celebration was not unconnected with the security situation in the country.
A resident, Mr. Wale Olaye, said it was better not to celebrate than to celebrate and have casualties.
He said, “You never can tell what will happen; you don’t know who is planning what, so, the best thing is to cancel march past and other activities associated with the day.
“We don’t want to lose more lives to dastardly attacks; we will all pray for Nigeria that day in our respective homes.’’
Another respondent, Oliver Amah, said there was no need for such celebrations where security personnel would outnumber people who would want to be out to have fun.
According to Amah, many Nigerians are still living with “bomb phobia” due to the October 1, 2010 blasts.
But there was a security beef-up in the Federal Capital Territory on Sunday.
Heavily armed policemen and soldiers were deployed in the most strategic parts of the FCT, including the Central Business District.
Security was also beefed up along roads leading to the central part of the city, including the Airport Road.
Our correspondents observed that soldiers were stationed at the overhead bridge at Kubwa. The soldiers, numbered 20 and were in a truck.
A military source told one of our correspondents on Sunday that the soldiers were out in the streets of Abuja as a “normal precautionary” measure preceding the 52nd anniversary of the nation’s independence.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, had in Ilorin on Saturday assured that the police would ensure a hitch-free celebration of the 52nd anniversary.