Nigeria’s National Independence Day Celebrations, New York 2005

by Paul I. Adujie

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!

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Daoud Abubakar Balewa January 8, 2006 - 9:28 pm

Very Good..

Insightful And Expressive

Na Gode Kwai

Anonymous October 22, 2005 - 8:10 am

it is objective

Anonymous October 14, 2005 - 10:22 am

And by the way being arrested by the police is not necessarily a shameful thing if you are arrested in a good cause. Think of all the people that have been arrested and even jailed in history

Anonymous October 14, 2005 - 10:19 am

Why don't we just accept that people are different will have different views and the beauty of democracy is that it allows everyone to speak out. If Sowore feels that he wants to protest and others support and join him all well and good.

And you don't need to go back to Nigeria to have a positive impact. Sowore's articles explaining the property our so called leaders are amassing abroad have been reproduced in many Nigerian papers and so people are becoming more aware. A beg leave de man jo.

And to the guy who talks about having been radical in his youth you've done your own and maybe you now regret it allow the young men and women of today to dream their own dreams and if necessary make their own mistakes.

With the kind of "Don't rock the boat make we manage am so" attitudes being displayed by some here is it still any wonder that our dear country is where it is today

Anonymous October 10, 2005 - 11:11 am

The writer clearly wrote from his heart. Didn't agree with everything he said but he gave an accurate depiction of the events. As a 30 year old Nigerian I'm angry with the way the older generations have exploited Nigeria; I say it to everyone who cares to listen that they stole my children's birthrights but I still came out to celebrate our independence day in NYC because no matter how much greedy unethical and unscrupulous people have wrecked Nigeria it doens't make me less of a Nigerian. And no matter how much I've challenged our traditions and authority (I told a soldier to go to hell in Mile 2 when he wanted to seize my oh so stylish boots because he thought I was committing a crime by wearing military style boots; also showed my inlaws when they came to visit us in the US that I was not a second class citizen just because I had married their son if you catch my drift)I'm as Nigerian as Amala and vegetable soup!

Anonymous October 9, 2005 - 7:45 pm

Goddy and Lekan; your readers will appreciate it more if you include your surenames. You guys has always contributed well to the discussions. We need to know you guys by your surenames too.

Femi Olawole October 8, 2005 - 7:18 pm

Hi Bianca I hope this comment is published before my friend Lekan responds to your poser.

You asked Lekan (Where is a true democracy is it here in america or is it in nigeria neither country has shown the example of democracy).

Oh my! For your info no system is perfect! There is no State of Utopia any where even though that is what some of you guys and gals appear to be expecting in Nigeria and America. Here in the United States you are free to aim toward achieving (legally) anything you want without any secret police breathing down your neck.You can even abuse the mother of the Nigerian or American president and get away with it. Please visit Cuba or Libya and try that.

And you also stated that (i do not believe in democracy. And i do not believe that a counrty has to have a democratic form to function optimally).

My response to that view is that you might wish to ask citizens of the former Soviet Union what life was like within the iron curtain. Trust me Bianca you'll prefer the littlest democracy to a mighty dictatorship!

And to you Goddy and Lekan you guys should please keep it up! You had been quiet for too long but since it is better late than never your foray into internet discussions even at this late hour is quite appreciated..

BIANCA-ONYEOJI October 7, 2005 - 4:39 pm

Lekan even though you were asking dele (if he believed in democracy) i will asnwer the question. Where is there a true democracy is it here in america or is it in nigeria neither country has shown the example of democracy so i will answer that no i do not believe in democracy. And i do not believe that a counrty has to have a democratic form to function optimally.

Anonymous October 7, 2005 - 3:04 pm

My only grouse is that i missed the whole celebration.Wellanother time It seems to me that we are the best Nigerians ever when out of that nation…..For all the different opinion holders-its over let's do our best to keep the spirit of that parade alive.


Lekan October 7, 2005 - 11:40 am

Dear Dele Oyediran I was happy to note that you admitted that Sowores action at the independence celebration in NYC was (by all account a loud protestation that attracted the everyone on 44th street including the NYPD. Twice the NYPD had to intervene). You also admitted that you (saw as these patriots were led away by the police). Now would you say it was alright for Sowore etc to crash a party instead of organizing their own some where else.. Was it dignifying for a patriot to be led away shamefully by the Police for breaking a law..

We are all in a civilized democratic country (USA). We need to abide with the law. Just as Sowore etc have the right to hate their leaders and their country so also do the celebrating Nigerians in NYC have the right to appreciate their nation. And to you defacing our national flag was no big deal.. How would you attain dignity as a citizen of Nigeria with your national flag dragged in the mud.. Remove the national flag and you are a nobody worthy of dignity and respect in the presence of Americans and citizens of other nations! Didnt you guys study civics in school..

In spite of the ignorance you were entitled to the opinion you expressed. And so did my friend Goddy and the rest of us who are commenting on Paul Aduijes article. Those who commented before and after you have written the same things I would have stated in response to your comment. But the worst insult you or anyone could heap on fellow Nigerians is to call them paid agents. Your reference to Aduije as a paid agent of govt was not only ignorant and arrogant but also mischievous! Dont you guys believe in democracy at all.. We all cant share in the same opinion! Just because you Sowore etc choose to hate and wage incessant wars against your nation does not mean everyone who disagrees with you is a paid agent of Obasanjo. How about some of saying you Sowore etc are also agents of Alhaji Mujahideen Asaro-Dokubo.. Or maybe you guys are agents of MASSOB OPC and all those militia groups who are working against the interest of a united Federal Republic of Nigeria!

The problems with many of you young turks of nowadays is that you keep thinking that there were no radicalism before you learnt to read and write. For your info there were protestations and radicalism Marxism socialism and all other ideologies in our country long before you were born. And it might interest you to know that those of us who are now appealing for listening ears to voices of reason are no wimpIn fact some us used to be blind followers of radical elements like Ebenezer Babtope Segun Okeowo Bala Usman Gani Fawehinmi Tai Solarin etc in those days.

But along the way we soon realized that there was more to leadership and governance than radicalism slogan-chanting and idle romantic dreams of revolution! We have also seen the transformations (good or bad) in our radical idols of old.

The last time I saw Okeowo (that once heavily bearded red tunic wearing radical student leader) of the Ali Must Go fame I had to control myself from laughing at his transformation. Now a retired high school principal with maturity and experience on his side I couldnt help asking him what had happened to the man who indirectly inspired me into going to the NDA.

I accept that you guys love our nation. But one of the most effective practical ways you can bring about a worthwhile change in the polity is for you to go into politics. Some of you can even penetrate the ruling PDP and not only effect some changes but also contest for political offices. It will be my pleasure to see someone like Sowore performing as a local govt councilor or chairman. Just look at Tokunbo Afikuypmi! He did not only chant slogans he also joined a political party and is today a senator. You can only effectively change the system from within..not from without! And you can practically influence the situation in our nation right there in the country..and not from about 10000 miles away!

Anonymous October 7, 2005 - 9:54 am

Dele or "Judas"; you abandoned Sowore when it mattered most. You claimed that your betrayal will hunt you for a long time. What are you waiting for Judas hung himself; there is the solution.

Anonymous October 6, 2005 - 9:49 pm

Very ignorant for Dele not being able to separate Nigeria as an organization and the her citizens in leadership positions. The corruption of some Nigerian leaders does not mean that the nation of Nigeria and her flag do not exist any longer. Nigeria and her flag were there before you were born and they will continue to exist after you have passed on. By the way living in a democratic America does not mean that you understand the system. There is a lot you do not know young man.

Anonymous October 6, 2005 - 9:23 pm

Dele Oyediran Sowore is no Rosa Park and will never be a Rosa Park. And who dare you compare both this roaring man to Rosa Park. If your man wants to make his mark he better go back to Nigeria and make his mark there. You do not compare the protest against your corrupt leaders to the racist plight of African American. You go back to Nigeria to protest and change things in your country and not in the city of New York or any city in American since you think African Americans are not that important. You should listen to your fellow Nigerian instead of speaking through two mouths. African Americans are not important but you referenced Rosa Park. You do not know what protest is about. Shouting like an angry caged animal is not protesting. It is for someone seeking attention.

Dele Oyediran October 6, 2005 - 7:49 pm

The article written by Paul Adujie and the incendiary comments posted by those special citizens of Nigeria who equates the rights of a Nigerian flag to that of her displeased citizens saddens my heart.

It will remain sad everydayfor so-called civilized Nigerians to hide behind a non existent flag to defend the injustices and corruption of Nigerian leaders. I still don't understand how and why the protest led by Sowore and the NLF violates the rights of an ignorant majority of Nigerians who refuse to do something about their own plight. And what is with that hedonistic report about African Americans who came to enjoy the parade and then witnessed a protest Are those African Americans more important than our country men and women who have to die in our hospitals because state governors ran away with their revenues

Why would an African American be upset to see another blackman (or black people) protest against injustice-where is the heresy in protesting against useless leaders

Haba who are these blind commentators and what are they talking about really! Who is paying this Paul Adujie to be such hater of truth I am also writing because I witnessed the parade and the protest to describe it as a minor "scuffle" remains the greatest lie ever told. It was by all account a loud protestation that attracted the everyone on 44th street including the NYPD. Twice the NYPD had to intervene. Folks I saw as these patriots were led away by the police I waited behind to continue the events but in my personal confession I must say that I felt ashamed at myself for standing aloof when it matters most. This will hunt me for a long time I really felt guilty. It is good to give honor to whom it is due. It took one woman Rosa Park refusing to obey the law and the US flag to desegregate the bus transportation in the South. Today Uncle Toms like Paul Adujie are enjoying that freedom that came from a courageous act of someone who broke the law for the sake of the black race.

Let the flag burn if it can't give our people their dignity!!!

My case rested until provoked again.

Goddy October 6, 2005 - 4:28 pm

Once again Paul Aduije has wriiten an excellent article. I must also commend the wonderful comment by Cletus.

Even for those of us non-New Yorkers who witnessed the beautiful parade it was a moment of joy and appreciation of our nation. While we all acknowledge the nation's problems we also note the vast improvemnets that are taking place. And we are confident that one day and soon too the nation will finally attain the great status we envision. Like a friend never tires of saying a ten year-old sore can never be cured in one year…..not even by the best doctor in the world.

As for the shameful actions of Sowore and his fellow perpetually cynical sad and disgruntled Nigerians on the occasion we can only hope (as someone once stated) that one day they will learn to grow up!

It's okay for them to be so cynical but in a democracy they should not expect or demand that everyone must share in their negative attitudes. It was very disgraceful to see Sowore as he was led away by New York police at a moment when several African Americans were telling us that the mere seeing the beautiful Nigerians on the occasion made them feel very proud of their Black African heritage.

As Sowore was being led away we did explained to our curious African American friends that the young man was protesting against our government. But our American friends were only amused wondering if the young man (Sowore) has not lived long enough in America to know that even America is plaqued with several of the political social and other problems he was protesting against.

But more importantly everyone agreed that instead of crashing a party Sowore and his group could have had their own occasion on a different day or at a different venue.

Cletus E. Olebunne October 6, 2005 - 9:42 am

Paul I share your sentiment. I spoke with you at the parade.

Nigeria Liberty Forum may have carried the biggest flag but the group made the flag the smallest of the flags by defacing our beautiful national flag. As the next generation of Nigeria leaders we should learn how to set example first by respecting our national flag. Our dislike for one nigerian citizen should not give any other citizen the right to disrespect our national flag because no one individual owns that flag. Therefore a group of persons or a person who disrespects the Nigerian flag disrespects every Nigerian on the surface of this earth. It was more disappointing that few of NLF members that I noticed are well educated young Nigerians who should have known better if they want to set good examples to especially the American born younger Nigerians in the Parade. These younger American born Nigerians know not to deface the American Flag even when in disagreement with their leaders.

As a student of organized interest and public policy in democratic governance; I have come to appreciate the importance of organized interests as major conduits — along with voting and political parties — through which citizens come to understand and then express their policy preferences to the public officials. I respect this principle of association withing organized interest groups or political action committees (PACs). When successfully applied in a greater multitude of objects it allows dialogues that presents the best public policies that benefit every citizen. Interest groups are also very important either to circumvent elected officials should they be overly influenced by special interest or to remove public decisions from their hands into those of professionals attentive to the public interest.

In concluding my case I note that as the next generation of Nigeria leaders our participations in the expression of our collective interest to the government should be beyond the political activities of individual citizens as we learn to respect our national flag and hope for a generational change in leadership in the Nigeria democractic dispensation.


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