Abuja - President Goodluck
Jonathan on Wednesday led former Heads of State, the leadership of
the National Assembly, the judiciary and other top government officials to
celebrate the country's 54th independence anniversary.
The event, which was held at the forecourt of the
Presidential Villa, Abuja, featured the Presidential Change of Guards
Parade, a military affair.
The parade was performed by men of the 177
Battalion, Presidential Guards Brigade, Keffi, Nasarawa state.
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Other features of the colourful event included
inspection of new guard/quarter guard, silent drill, posting of sentries/colour
patrol and echelon reporting of parade, among others.
Others were foot and arms drill, rhythmic and calculated
steps, and checking of weapons to ensure they were clean and that rounds of
arms were not left in them.
At the end of the parade, Jonathan signed the independence
anniversary register and released pigeons to signify peace.
He was accompanied by the President of the
Senate, Sen. David Mark; Service Chiefs; Acting Inspector-General of Police
Suleiman Abba and other dignitaries.
Among other dignitaries at the event were former Head
of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), and former Head of the defunct Interim
National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; Deputy Speaker of
the House of Representatives, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, and former Chief of General
Staff, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd).
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the
ceremony, Gowon said that the country would overcome its challenges and remain
indivisible beyond 2015.
He said: "I believe in Nigeria. I love Nigeria. And we
all must work for Nigeria; that is everybody, including the government and the
opposition, in order to make Nigeria great. That is my wish.’’
Mark also said that the future was bright for the country,
adding that Nigeria would come out of its current challenges stronger and
On his part, Ihedioha enjoined Nigerians to resolve to work
together to build the country and confront its common enemies.
"Division is not an option for us. We
must resolve to commonly address our common enemies and collectively
decide that we should make Nigeria a great country,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Chairperson of the Nigeria Social
Insurance Trust Fund, Mrs Ngozi Olejeme, urged Nigerians to rally round the
president in his efforts at transforming the country.