Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday called for greater national unity in 2014, urging compatriots to build on the work of their predecessors as the country marked its effective centenary.
The amalgamation of the separate protectorates of northern and southern Nigeria by the British former colonial rulers on January 1, 1914, was the birth of the nation, said the president.
“For us therefore, today (Wednesday) is not just the beginning of a new year but the end of a century of national existence and the beginning of another.
“It is a moment for sober reflection and for pride in all that is great about Nigeria,” he added in his New Year message, copies of which were emailed to media organisations in advance.
Nigeria was given full independence in 1960 and has had a troubled time since, experiencing bitter civil war, harsh military rule and endemic graft that has characterised civilian government since 1999.
Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer is currently gripped by a bloody, four-year Islamist militant insurgency in its predominantly Muslim north, which has claimed thousands of lives.
The country of 170 million is widely tipped to become Africa’s biggest economy in 2014 yet the majority are not experiencing the benefits of growth.
Jonathan, who is expected to seek re-election in 2015, acknowledged the country had faced “challenges” but always pulled through, hailing Nigeria’s diversity as a source of strength, not division.
“The amalgamation of 1914 was certainly not a mistake but a blessing,” he said, countering some critics who believe that the union was doomed to fail and is the root of the country’s problems.
“As we celebrate 100 years of nationhood, we must resolve to continue to work together as one, united people, to make our country even greater,” he added.
“I assure you that our administration remains fully committed to the progressive development of our country and the consolidation of peace, unity and democratic governance in our fatherland.”