After about ten years of attending Nigeria’s National Independence Day Parade in New York City, this year’s October 1st 2005 festivities were outstandingly the best yet!
This year’s edition also turned out to be the most well attended, since the inception of our national day parade here in America. This year’s version of events were wonderfully full and replete with enthusiasm by Nigerians of all walks of life, there was joy all around, there was unrestrained exuberance in the air, it was surely the most colorful assemblage of our national flag!
In attendance were individuals Nigerians and various groups. Among these groups were, cultural troupes in resplendent costumes. Also in notable attendance were Nigerian Associations of varied professional bodies, such as the Nigerian Nurses Association; etc. And there were social cultural associations such as the Zumunta USA, Esan Cultural Association USA, then, there were Nigerian religious groups such as the Nigerian Muslim Association USA, there churches and mosques represented as well.
In particular, there was the Esan Cultural Association drummer in all red costume, and the Esan dance Masquerade Igbabonenlinmin or Egbabonenlinmin(?) in red and black multicolored costume, prominently drumming and displaying on the parade route too.
There are very many Nigerian lawyers in New York, perhaps, all of America, but the Nigerian Lawyers Association of New York organization, NLA, were conspicuously absent from the parade! NLA was absent, despite an e-mail sent out by the NLA president Tinuade Awe Esquire urging attendance of the Nigeria Independence Day Parade festivities. Apathy or total disconnect got in the way of NLA, I suppose.
On the whole, the National Day Celebrations in New York has surely and positively come of age. It has come a long way in size and the number of activities featured. This year had for instance, rows of Nigerian restaurants set in outdoor dinning modes near the magnificent Nigeria House edifice on Second Avenue between East 44th and 45th streets.
Nigeria House is a major monument and landmark skyscraper, and neighboring streets were closed off for our national day celebrations.
The Nigerian restaurants, operating in outdoor modes, outside of their usual indoor elements, served hot foods ranging from pounded yam, rice in different rendition, Suya, other cooked foods plentiful. I personally purchased fried snails, two pints of Isi-Ewu, Stock Fish in stew, there were cooked Nigerian foods in assortments, and expectedly, foods from the different regions of a wondrously diverse nation! The only difficulty that I encountered was the discipline and self-restraint efforts and so, waiting to get home to eat the Nigerian foods that I had purchased; big exercise in self-restraint which required strong willed efforts on my part, as I salivated during my trip home, inhaling the aromas of the Isi-Ewu, the Oporoko etc, whoa!
Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration this year, as in previous years, was organized by the Organization for the Advancement of Nigeria, OAN. This organization with such equally befitting name, has been doing it utmost best, even with the barest minimum of resources at their disposal, to truly celebrate Nigeria every year since, and this October 1st like several before it were outing on behalf of Nigeria, OAN’s best outing so far, and we must remember that it is all about Nigeria and nothing else really matters! Nigerians ought to thank OAN for keeping the flag of Nigeria flying high in New York!
Of course, I will mention that every new undertaking present teething problems, with planning and executions snafus, here and there in the past, but the national day festivities this year 2005 was pure joy and went smoothly. There were no tardiness on the part of the organizers, nor the sponsors, planners and implementers, and even participating attendees were all united in their punctuality, their camaraderie, Nigerians were glowing in celebration and unity! It was in every sense, a beautiful sight to behold!
And as the saying goes, from little acorn, a mighty oak tree grows? And so it goes, that Nigeria’s National Day festivities in New York this year have progressively moved from five persons about ten years ago, when October 1st was first celebrated by Nigerians in America, to the several thousands that trooped and besieged Second Avenue in Manhattan in New York City! October 1st 2005 events in New York must be the year we crossed the Rubicon!
The events began with a parade of several city blocks which rested at the streets surrounding Nigeria House, streets that were blocked off, for the purpose of Nigeria’s national day celebrations. Speeches were given by three governors, Governor Shekarau of Kano, Governor Bafarawa of Sokoto and Governor Saraki of Kwara state, thereafter, there were dancing, singing and eating. There was a further invitation to Marriot Hotel for dinner and party, but, at the end of the speeches and my running around taking pictures of all Nigerian colorful groups, I was too tired to go to the Marriot Hotel party, besides, I did not have any personal invitation! And I will not grate-crash any party.
The weather was beautiful, as mother-nature cooperated just as well, it was sunny, coolest breezes of October, Fall Season and the street felt like air-conditioned rooms!
The New York Police Department NYPD provided public safety and protection as is usual in New York City, where there are parades galore, due to the fact that countries of the world have their citizens all represented here, and so, when the different nationals of the conglomerate of nations have cause to celebrate or protest, for the different multiplicities of situations or issues emanating from various countries, the NYPD is always on hand to take charge of public safety and orderliness. In New York, there is always some parade or some flag waving ceremonies or parade going on. It feels wonderful that Nigeria has finally joined the fun in large numbers
During the parade last Saturday, a Nigerian activist Mr. Omoyele Sowore and members of Nigeria Liberty Forum or NLF, graced the parade with a protest entourage, his activities led to a minor scuffle, because some had expressed dissatisfaction, as they saw him as raining on our parade or trying to hold it to a standstill, but Sowore insist that he was doing his protest for the good of Nigeria and for a good cause. He was eventually allowed to participate after earlier scuffles were quickly resolved, Sowore formed one of the groups in the parade proper, and marched along with others, so, the Sowore entourage marched side by side with fellow Nigerians who were in joyous celebratory mood.
A day before, NLF actually organized a public lecture to celebrate Nigeria, I was a guest speaker among others, and in the lecture, we examined Nigeria’s achievements, challenges, accomplishments and past, present and prospects, with particular attention paid to the past forty five years since political independence on October 1st 1960 when Britain ceased to occupy Nigeria as colonial, political and economic administrators.
At the NLF event, there were speculations that six state governors will be attending the Saturday parade and festivities, but, there were actually three governors at the ceremonies. Some Nigerians had questioned whether these governor were doing the right thing coming to New York on October 1st, instead of staying home in their various state to address their citizens, and then take the salute on that all important day in Nigeria, some argued that these governors could have sent cultural troupes, with commissioners for tourism and culture etc. There were also questions about the cost to taxpayers, especially, if these gov
ernors had traveled with sizeable entourage.
I wished that Sowore or anyone did not demonstrate or protest or put any damper on the parade, even for a minute. I wished that I did not witness any protests, or the defacing of our flag by any activists, or Sowore and his group who had written scurrilous epithet on our flag! But we must see this as the gain from democracy, as we must ask the question, what is democracy without dissent? What is democracy without the requisite freedom to be different? Or the freedom to associated or assemble or the freedom of expression of one or group political gripes?
The Sowore group, despite their protest mission, it turned out, that they actually brought the longest and largest flag of Nigeria to the parade events, this is new! Everything this year was new, different and better! Everyone brought a copy of our flag or bought a copy of flag of Nigeria on the parade route and 90% of the parade attendees wore African attires, or some clothes rendered in green white green combinations of our national colors, either engraved or embossed on shirts and or T-shirts, with messages ranging from ‘I am 100% Nigerian’ to ‘Nigerian, born in the USA’ and other T-shirt messages were such as ‘Naija Girl Powered by Garri’ and ‘Born Nigerian, Nigerian Always!’ etc
The surprise was that 95% of the attendees at this year’s parade were very young Nigerians or young boys and girls born of Nigerian parents here in America, and not just our old and nostalgic or home sick older Nigerians like me, but, instead, I was pleasantly surprise to find that, I met parents who told me that their teenage children brought them or insisted on coming to the parade! This is of course contrary to the speculations that are rife, it is to the effect that generation X or the iPod generations of Nigerian are completely out of touch with things Nigerian and Nigeria, as they are also said to be angry at the older generation who have not done well by Nigeria, wasted opportunities and resources and all. But last Saturday national day celebration put a lie to all that, the young Nigerians present sang, danced and flirted with each other and their commonalities were clearly apparent to all! They the young people displayed such youthful and nationalist or patriotic enthusiasm and outstanding exuberance
This year’s October 1st was a bumper harvest of euphoria for me in a very personal sense! What with the flag of Nigeria galore? Flag of Nigeria was everywhere! Nigerian flag in all shapes and sizes plentiful! It is the most exuberantly colorful Nigerian National Independence Day parade that I have ever seen anywhere outside of Nigeria. Sokoto sponsored a float with dancers wrapped in the flag of Nigeria, there was the colorful Esan Masquerade, the Calabar colorful scarves in green white green dance troupe, gorgeous costumes and all, perhaps, other states will join the parade next year and years to come? A healthy competition between the states in float sponsorships, float decorations, cultural troupes display, tourism ministry interacting with New Yorkers, all this will be good for the uplift of tourism, culture, and economy of participating states and all these, will be benefits for all Nigerians and Nigeria, after all, it is all about Nigeria! When states in Nigeria engage in healthy competition, Nigeria wins! See everyone next year!