- As fighter jets display combat readiness
By Lawrence Olaoye
Both the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were conspicuously absent at the 58th Independence Day Parade in Abuja yesterday.
This development further accentuated the estrangement between the Legislative and Executive arms of government in the country.
Saraki and Dogara were elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) only for them to dump the party for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently.
The Senate President is one of the Presidential aspirants on the PDP platform, while Dogara has also picked the PDP House of Representatives nomination form.
However, former Heads of State, Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar alongside the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen were among the dignitaries that witnessed parade with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
President Buhari did not make any speech at the ceremony that saw different armed forces displaying their combat readiness in case of any external aggression and even internal security.
The Nigerian Police was not left out, as its outo-riders entertained the public including members of the federal cabinet, Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha and other government functionaries that came out to witness the parade.
Also present was a former military leader, Oladipo Diya.
There was inspection of guards by President Buhari, which was followed by march past in slow and quick motion.
There was also march past by para-military organisations, agencies and Nigeria Police Force (NPF) mounted troops.
Also on display were military equipment march past on low loaders.
The last time the ceremony held at the Eagles Square was in 2010 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
That parade in 2010 was marred by bomb blasts.
Since that year, subsequent independence anniversary parades were held in low key at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari, who made national broadcast marking the 58th independence anniversary at 7am, on Monday broke the jinx and arrived the Eagles Square, venue of the parade around 9.30am.
According to the programme schedule circulated to guests, Saraki and Dogara were listed to arrive the venue by 9.10a.m for the event. Even on Sunday at the Interdenominational Church Service at the National Christian Center, NCC, Abuja, Dogara was listed on the programme to take the second Bible reading, but he was absent and the reading was then taken by former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
There was also aerial show by the Nigeria Air Force.
Recall that while training for the final rehearsal of aerial show on Friday, two jets crashed, which claimed the life of one pilot, Squadron Leader Baba Bello and leaving two, a Squadron Leader and Flight Lieutenant wounded.
The two survivors were taken to Nigeria Intelligence Agency, NIA, clinic, Abuja where there are receiving medical treatment and recuperating.
Rounding off the ceremony at the Eagles Square, there were firing of volleys and 2 1 gun salute by the military personnel.
Before departing the venue, President Buhari signed the 58th Independence anniversary register.
Speaking to journalists at the end of the ceremony, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said “You have seen what we displayed today. We are capable of defending this nation.”
On his part, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, noted that the last time independence anniversary was celebrated in full was in 2010.
According to him, a child born seven years will not have idea of how independence anniversary is celebrated in Nigeria.
He said that there was relative calm in the north east and checkmating of banditry in the North West and north central as a result of acquisition of more military equipment under the present administration.
He urged Nigerians to be patient and trust the leadership of President Buhari.
Shortly after Buhari and the dignitaries left the venue, some APC youths wearing black T-shirt took over the arena.
In a procession with the APC flag, they started moving around, singing songs in support of the President towards the 2019 Presidential election.
Trouble however started when somebody, who infiltrated the group, stole the telephone set of one of the youths.
Rather than submit the telephone set when he was caught, he drew out dagger to scare away those who tried to get the telephone set from him.
With the thief’s supporters at the venue backing him, it almost turned to free fight for all. They ran, pushed and pursued one another around the venue for over 15 minutes. It got bloody when some of the thief’s gang started throwing stones, which made the youths to run helter skelter around the venue for safety.
One young boy of about 15 years was not too lucky as one of the stones landed on his head.
The boy, who was bleeding profusely, was given first aid treatment by some members of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps at the venue.