For Nigerians, Sunday October first was a special day in more ways than one. It?
For Nigerians, Sunday October first was a special day in more ways than one. It marked the eighteenth anniversary of independence, and the promise of an end to military rule next year.
SYNOPSIS: For Nigerians, especially those in the modern capital city of Lagos, the eighteen years of independence have been eventful. Several coups and a civil war have not diminished their enthusiasm for the Independence Day review, essentially a military occasion.
And for the Nigerian Head of State, Lieutenant General Olusegan Obasanjo, arriving at Lagos Stadium to a welcome from his fellow members of the Supreme Military Council, it is also an historic day. It is the last time as the council's leader that he will review an Independence Day marchpast of the nation's armed forces. He has decreed that elections will be held next April, with a return to civilian rule to follow.
General Obasanjo came to power two years ago following the assassination of his predecessor, General Murtala Muhammed. General Obasanjo ended the twelve-year State of Emergency in the country last month, and he said then that Nigeria was ready for a democratically-elected government in 1979.
Observers say that the crowds, cheering as the troops dip their colours when marching past the reviewing stand, were expressing their support for the decision by General Obasanjo, who has also lifted the ban on political activity. These moves were followed almost immediately by the forming of more than seven political parties, in preparation for the elections, and the return to civilian government.
When the plans for an orderly change to civilian rule were announced, the Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Shehu Aradua, said political, economic and social reforms in the previous three years had shown that Nigeria had achieved the objective of laying a solid foundation for the change.
Schoolgirls with banners march past, a crash of guns ring out in salute, and the troops doff their headgear in a cheer for General Obasanjo as the review comes to a close.
As the Nigerian leader prepares to depart with the other member of the Supreme Military Council to drive through the cheering crowds in a motorcade, the Independence Day celebrations continued throughout the nation. Under the plans for return to civilian Government, there will be an executive President and a two-house federal legislature. This announcement followed a twelve-month debate on a new Constitution.