There wasn’t any official activity planned to celebrate Nigeria’s 61 years of independence anniversary in Borno state on Friday, October 1, 2021.
The state government did not roll out drums to glorify 61 years of freedom that Nigeria attained on October 1, 1960, when it finally broke away from the British Colonial administration.
Though in the past 10 years such activities had been marked with very low-key commemoration, due to insecurity, it is expected that the event would be marked differently this year, due to the improved security situation severally proclaimed by the state government.
Friday would have gone down as one quiet public holiday in Maiduguri, but it didn’t because the youth of the city had a different plan for the National day.
At about midday streets of Maiduguri erupted with an uncommon carnival-like extravaganza coloured the city in their different style of white and green adornment.
In their different and several groupings, the youth identify themselves with unique club names that echo the neighbourhood they come from.
While some walked on foot, others were seen in chartered tricycles, taxis and even private cars as they thronged the major routes of Maiduguri waving the Green and White Nigerian national flag.
Their uniformed attire with different unique designs and inscriptions betrayed the fact that the young boys and girls had had weeks of planning for their country’s independence anniversary.
Coming from remote locations like Ajilari Cross, Ruwan Zafi, Gwange, Kalleri, customs, Shehuri, 1000 housing, Shagari Low-cost, Bulabulingaranaram, Molai, Muna garage, Baga Road, Abbaganaram, Customs, 202, Bulumkutu, the youth marched or wildly rode to Post Office, which is the city centre.
Their place of convergence was the State Zoo and Amusement Park. It is a common practice that during Eid days or Christmas and New Year celebrations, Maiduguri youth would spend a whole week catching fun at the Sanda Kyarimi Zoo and Amusement Park.
But no one listed October 1st Independence Day as one of the events that would have the zoo hosting fun catchers of Maiduguri.
The Youth groups, in their hundreds, were also seen catching fun at different shopping malls and fancy eateries where they grab snacks and drinks to spice up their days.
Apart from numerous poses for selfies, professional photographers too keyed into the celebration mood by following the groups about and taking photos on demand.
The Humanitarian Times reporter spoke to some of the young boys and girls on why they turned in such a large number at a time that the state government had chosen not to celebrate.
Abdullahi Tujjani, an 18 years old secondary school student who leads his group, “Yerwawu”, said the idea about their colourful outing was to thank God for the 61 years of Nigerian Independence and celebrate the emerging peace in Maiduguri.
“As you can see, it is a unique form of celebration we are having this year,” he said.
“Everyone wants to unwind and have fun as our country clocks another year of independence. And in Borno stat,e the youth want to have a break from troubles of insecurity. We have achieved enough peace in Maiduguri especially now.
In the past year,s many of us didn’t know what Independence was all about. And we can’t just sit and watch these important events pass us by in our growing up age. That is why we all, on our own, decided to make this national day unique for ourselves.
He said their group is also like a cooperative where they contribute tokens of money to support themselves in times of need, or to engage in small community services.
Yohana Musa, another youth, told The Humanitarian Times that the independence day celebration gives them a chance to mix up with their peers irrespective of their tribal or religious differences.
“This is the biggest Sallah for us because we all come together, go to the amusement park to enjoy ourselves as Nigerians and not as Muslims or Christians. No fighting or any intergroup clash has been recorded from morning to this evening. It is a sign that we are one and undivided citizens. We have no political or any religious colouration,” he said.
The young people said they don’t care if the government celebrates or not.
All we know is that we have had our day in the street, if the government did not organise it for us, perhaps they have their superior reason for that,” said Ayuba Buba, a Senior Secondary (SS) 2 student.
The 12 years long Boko Haram insurgents have not so far claimed thousands of lives and destroyed property; it has also robbed the people of Borno state of the pleasure of social life for a significant number of years.
Earlier, Isa Gusau, a spokesman of Borno state governor, Babagana Zulum, shared a press statement containing an anniversary message of his boss, to the press.
In the statement, Governor Zulum called on the people of the state to pray for the state to surpass the recent gains on peace.
The Governor felicitated with “President Muhammadu Buhari and all Nigerians while calling on citizens to pray that Borno surpasses recent gains being recorded by security stakeholders in the sustained search for enduring peace across the State.
Governor Zulum said although evidence of peace is being felt at the moment, “it is not time to relax, but to redouble shared commitment in multiple efforts which require the continued help of God.
“With gratitude to the Almighty God for the grace He has bestowed upon our dear country, I felicitate with our President, Muhammadu Buhari, and all fellow citizens, especially the good people of Borno State, as our Nation marks its 61st Independence day.
“I respectfully urge us, the people of Borno, to use this moment to reflect on recent gains being recorded in our peace-building efforts. While we all can feel these gains as things gradually become normal, this is not a time to relax. It is rather, the time to redouble efforts in our shared obligations,” the governor said.
He reminded the people that “peace rarely happens by accident”; that “Peace comes with shared efforts from different stakeholders who, constantly, undertake and deliver on peculiar tasks”.
Governor Zulum had later joined Muslims at Central Mosque Maiduguri for the Friday Jummat prayers where blessings were sought from God for Nigeria at 61.