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INDEPENDENCE CARNIVAL

By NBF News
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Power bike display
Nigeria's Golden Jubilee last week had the real meaning of a celebration in Lagos.

The movement of people in all directions indicated that something special was happening. Many Nigerians in Lagos dressed in green and white. Even the physically challenged citizens were not left out.

Saturday Sun spotted one of such citizens on Osolo Way Junction by 7 and 8 Bus stop, Ajao Estate, as he was busy dancing to the tunes from a music shop. Even though he is from the northern part of the country he had nice time listening to Flavour's 'Osondi Owendi' song.

Abdullahi Mohammed, 20, said there was no way he could have been left behind in such a rare celebration. After having a sumptuous meal and drinks he had to stay indoors to watch the ceremony on television before coming out to be part of it as the day unfolded.

The Katsina State indigene who wore a green cap, Chelsea football jersey with the national flag hooked to his wheel chair said it was also a day of generosity as many people offered him alms as never before even though he did not come out to beg for alms but to enjoy the golden jubilee celebration.

'I bought the cap for N500 and the flag at N100. I could not buy the shirt because it is expensive. So, there was no way I could afford N1,600 for the entire attire. But since I am a Chelsea fan and I have the jersey at home, I decided to wear it for the celebration. The green cap and the flag are signs already that I am for the ceremony,' he said.

Mohammed advised Nigerians not to see the anniversary as a success story of Nigeria but a time for reflection. He wants the leaders of the country to use the mistakes of the past to successfully address the future.

The celebrations in Lagos were not restricted to day time only. It also stretched into the night as fun seekers cuddled themselves towards various fun spots.

At Queen Set Café, popularly known as Reggae Lovers Bar, at the National Theatre, it was a world of its own and a full house. Destiny Reggae Band enlivened the spirit of the frolickers.

The Ketu axis of the city was not spared. Commuters fully exploited the opportunity of free city bus ride on BRT buses offered by Governor Babatunde Fashola that day. At bus stops around Ketu commuters were seen hurrying and rushing into the long blue and red buses. Although the boarding process caused a little stampede among commuters, they still expressed their delight and gratitude at the offer.

Later in the evening, the touts in the area brought to play the evidence of the tax they collected from motorist five days to the Independence Day. The venue was the popular Adisa Akitoye. All colourfully dressed in green and white, the youths who saw to the mounting of a stage invited local artistes who mimed popular songs by Nigeria artistes. There was plenty to eat and drink. They surprised the security, as the event was peaceful till late at night when they dispersed.

The Independence Day was celebrated in a grand style in Iju area of Agege, Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area, Lagos. Most conspicuous were members of the Christ Embassy who turned the celebration into a carnival. Members of the church were on the streets with a band singing, dancing and giving thanks to God for making Nigeria what it is today. As the church members who dressed in national colours moved in caravans they distributed leaflets and handbills in national colours.

The church members mounted horsebacks, power bikes, cars and long trucks draped in green and white and danced through many streets in Lagos from as early as 10.00am.

The Lagbus, a mass transit system of the Lagos State government otherwise known as 'Fashola bus' added colour to the celebration in its own way. The buses throughout Lagos transported commuters free. From Agege to Oshodi, commuters waited patiently for the buses to take them to their destinations. Many people took the advantage of the free bus ride to go to Tafawa Balewa Square to witness the celebration.

As at 2pm transport in Agege area became light as many went back home to watch the celebration on television. Most people simply remained at home to monitor the depressing news from Abuja.

Many were at different beer joints to enjoy the day in their own way. The following day being work-free, many lingered over beer till late hours.

From Alakija to Agboju, commuters who boarded buses to Oshodi aggressively debated the importance of the anniversary. Some argued that there was no need celebrating the independence in a grand style when people in power are busy enriching their pockets, using taxpayers' money as they please.

'They will all die after eating that cake they baked with millions. In fact make them chop die I no want chop with thieves, murderers, kidnappers,' a female commuter shouted. The argument led to a commotion when a young man expressed support for the government. His position is that Nigeria should celebrate as long as the citizens are alive. But for the intervention of some peacemakers in the bus, there would have been fisticuffs .

Businessmen who had invested money to produce anniversary souvenirs expecting to make brisk business and quick money were disappointed. Most of the hawkers of the souvenirs at the usual Lagos traffic complained of very low patronage.

The other side of the celebration was the traditional Lagos traffic chaos. On a public holiday many residents had expected a light and free traffic, but they were disappointed.

The traffic gridlock that occurred at a bad portion of the Dantata Busstop on Mile Two - Badagry Expressway caused so much anguish to motorists that no one was interested in whatever souvenirs were hawked. So motorists who spent three hours where they were supposed to drive through in five minutes were so annoyed with the day that all the entreaties by the hawkers didn't have any meaning to them. They in anger asked hawkers what there was to celebrate.

Most parts of the Ijesha area of Lagos in protest decided not to partake of the celebration as PHCN refused to supply light. Most of the residents said there was nothing to celebrate if PHCN chose that day to plunge them into darkness.

Students of public and private schools around Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area, Lagos State converged on playgrounds to celebrate.

Most of them gathered at the National Theatre to have fun with other patriotic Nigerians, after which they observed the anniversary in a special way in their school premises with merry making.

Speaking on the anniversary, the Director of Studies of the one of the schools, Mr. Charles Oyeka stressed the need for Nigerians to be happy for living in unity for the past 50 years.

'Yes, we have no option than to celebrate our country. We do not have any other country than Nigeria. Some people say that we have not achieved a lot at 50 and therefore should not celebrate. But, I believe that things will improve if we remain committed to the affairs of Nigeria', he said.

Another visible display on the independence day was the Nigerian colour T- shirt, members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) adorned at the Boundary area of Ajegunle, Suru Alaba , Amukoko, Orile, Cocoanut and Mile 2.

The unionists said NURTW members wore green and white to show their love and solidarity for the country.

Okada riders were also not left out, as they decorated their motorcycles with Nigerian flags and stickers portraying their full participation in the anniversary celebration.