By Harrison Arubu
Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, was among participants in this year’s New York City Nigeria Independence Day Parade and Carnival, which ended on Saturday evening.
The three-day event, held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, featured music performances, cultural exhibitions, quiz, goodwill messages from personalities, among others.
Founded in 1991, the annual fiesta is organised by the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) and Nigeria Independence Day Committee, a coalition of Nigerian cultural, professional and civil society groups.
It is touted by organisers as the largest celebration of Nigeria’s independence overseas, providing an opportunity for participants to showcase the country’s rich culture and tradition.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the parade normally holds on Second Avenue in Manhattan, New York, starting at 54th Street and ending at the Nigerian House on 44th Street.
But this year’s edition, streamed live on social media, saw the hosts and DJ operating from the Nigeria House’s conference hall under strict COVID-19 guidelines, with other participants hooking up remotely.
Gambari has been a strong supporter of the event since his time as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 1990 and 1999.
In a pre-recorded video message, the chief of staff expressed pride in his country, saluting its resilience and relishing its triumphs over adversities.
“Since Independence, the country has gone through many challenges, but we have always survived and proven to the world that above all we are resilient.
“We have proven that we love Nigeria and want it to remain together to achieve the objective of a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure country,” he said.
Gambari lauded Nigerians in the Diaspora for making their country proud around the world in various fields of human endeavour.
“In fact, they are indispensable in many ways in the communities in which they live, and in the various services they provide. Please remain good citizens and ambassadors of our country in your various communities,” he said.
He also commended their enormous contributions to the development of their fatherland.
Gambari said it was a source of pride to him that the event has grown in size and popularity within and outside the U.S.
While congratulating the organisers and other participants, he urged them to keep celebrating the country, its culture, tradition and pride.
The Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, who was the Chief Host, said Nigeria had come of age at 60.
Okoyen stated that in spite of its current challenges, the country was well on its way to becoming the global destination for tourism and investments.
He said: “We have all the requirements of becoming an economic force in the world. More importantly, the greatest asset of Nigeria is the human capital which the nation has in abundance.
“This is why other countries are envious of young Nigerian professionals in Diaspora who are very knowledgeable, experienced, dynamic, talented and resilient.
“Nigeria celebrates you today,” the envoy said, urging them to continue to think home and sustain their contributions to the development of the fatherland”.