Plans for the 100 birthday celebration of Nigeria as a corporate entity have kicked off and corporate Nigeria is deeply involved in it. They were there: Mrs Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Petroleum, Reginald Ihejiahi of Fidelity Bank, Segun Agbaje of GT Bank, Aig Aig-Imokhuede and many others. Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga Jr. sent representatives.
It was a national call and they obliged President Goodluck Jonathan, who had sent an invitation to chief executive officers of major Nigerian companies to come to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to further talk about the centenary celebration of the amalgamation of Nigeria.
On the government side, President Goodluck Jonathan led the table. Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim and coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, were present, alongside other ministers and high-ranking government functionaries.
It was a Thursday dinner on March 14 and there was laughter amidst dining and clinking of glasses.
Historically, the southern and northern protectorates were united under a single administrative and political entity on January 1, 1914 under British colonial rule. It is this epoch event that the government has lined up a series of activities to celebrate and has given the private sector the task of funding.
The private sector had been involved in the project from the beginning. From the outset, the government had said it would not be financially involved in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Nigeria but that the private sector would fund it.
Earlier, at the unveiling of the project on February 4 at the Presidential Villa in which all former living heads of state, except Ibrahim Babangida were present, it was corporate Nigeria that bankrolled the event.
At that occasion, Jonathan had declared that “the amalgamation of 1914 was not a mistake but an act of God to create a a unique entity of the globe called Nigeria, a beautiful country richly blessed and which had turned out innovative people across the world.”
Therefore, the dinner for chief executive officers of major Nigerian companies hosted by Jonathan on Thursday, March 14, Jonathan opined that the support of corporate Nigeria was crucial to the successful hosting of the year-long activities marking the centenary celebrations.
The support of the corporate chieftains, he noted, was all the more essential since The Nigerian Centenary Project would not attract any funds from the government but will be entirely financed by the organized private sector.
The president emphasised that the involvement of the private sector in the project was a demonstration of his government’s confidence in the sector.
He added that the Federal Government wishes to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, with the development of a new city in Abuja to be called “Abuja Centenary City”.
He disclosed that beside the centenary city, which would provide all the facilities that Nigerians travel out of the country to go and enjoy abroad, unity squares would also be built in all state capitals to add to their beauty.
The support of the corporate chieftains, he noted, is all the more essential since The Nigerian Centenary Project will not attract any funds from the government but will be entirely financed by the organized private sector.
Jonathan emphasised that the involvement of the private sector in the project was a demonstration of his government’s confidence in the sector.
In his remarks, Anyim said that the production of the Centenary city’s final master plan was at advanced stage while foremost consultants, Price Waterhouse Coopers had been appointed financial consultants for the project. Anyim noted that frontline advertising agency, DDB, Lagos had been appointed the official marketer of the centenary activities while Sterling Partnership was appointed the legal consultant.
“The entire celebration is planned to be investment driven such that nobody should put in a kobo without getting value for it”, he said.
Okonjo-Iweala assured that government was taking necessary steps through the formulation of appropriate policies to ensure that the discernable growth in the private sector would be sustained.
Anyim, whose office is co-ordinating the project, had last January while briefing members of the House of Representatives on the centenary project, had said the project would create a total of 15, 000 jobs even with the government not putting one naira.
“With the support of and active participation of the private sector, the centenary celebration will provide 5,000 jobs directly and more than 10,000 jobs indirectly.
“We must celebrate because our unity is the common symbol of our collective existence that has put the nation on the path of development and potential global ascendancy,” he had said.
Documents on the centenary project reveal that till January 1, 2014, activities have been lined up to make the celebration a memorable one. These activities would involve Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora; corporate organizations in Nigeria and abroad; and friends of Nigeria from across the world.
Besides Abuja, the nation’s capital, the celebration is expected to hold in all state capitals, some historic towns and cities in Nigeria and in other cities around the world.
The project is anchored on three main pillars centered around the enduring legacy initiative, commemorative projects and the history and heritage programme.
The enduring legacy initiative is a collective name for a number of specially selected initiatives. These are needs-driven, socially impacting projects and events designed around strategic national institutions/assets and or local communities in each state of the federation.
New projects and restoration/rehabilitation of existing projects in communities will focus on such projects as a new Abuja City Gate, Abuja Centenary City, Unity Squares recommended in every state capital, a medical diagnostic centre in each geo-political zone; ICT Centres in all the universities that are yet to have one, modern libraries in six universities (one in each geo-political zone); science laboratories in six universities, one in each geo-political zone; building/Renovation of Sports Facilities, one in each of the Federal Universities in the country; and upgrade and naming/renaming of historical sites in the country.
The commemorative aspect of the centenary project began in February 2013 and will reach its peak in the centenary month of January 2014 and end with independence celebration on October 1, 2014. It will involve official flag-off by the president, military and para-military parades, music and fireworks, special legislative sessions and unity rallies in all state capitals and Abuja.
Others include Special Centenary Prayers (Christian/Muslim); Exhibitions, Symposia, Youth and Children Programmes; Women-Related Programmes; Programs for the Physically-challenged; Awards among other activities.
The history and heritage programme, which is the third component of the centenary celebration, according to the organizers, draws out the nation’s soul for the world to see and creates a new understanding of Nigeria’s history, strengthened by art and culture.
This component is expected to feature art exhibitions, literary festivals, essay competitions; photo exhibition, festivals and carnivals, a film festival;
presentation of some of Nigeria’s landmark plays; re-enactments of Nigeria’s story through captivating poetry and an interpretation of Nigeria’s globally acknowledged music; and acknowledgement of the exploits of young people, through sports, science, inventions and literature.
It is a programme that is packed full. In the weeks and months ahead, if the plan is followed, Nigerians will be thrilled by the epoch celebration.