It was a big honour for Nigeria as Newark, the largest city in the State of New Jersey honoured the country with the hoisting of the green-white-green flag in the City Hall.
The Mayor of the City, Ras Baraka, also presented Nigeria with the City’s Highest Order of Proclamation in recognition of the contributions to the City and the United States.
Nigerians in Newark and New York shut down the city hall as they trooped out to commemorate Nigeria’s 58th independence anniversary.
This was the second time a U.S. city celebrated Nigeria’s independence with the raising of the country’s flag at the city hall.
Newark’s proclamation came only few weeks after Hempstead, a city in the State of New York, hoisted the Nigerian flag to commemorate the country’s 58th independence anniversary on Oct. 1.
The Newark mayor said that the hoisting of the flag at the City Hall was significant for him and the largest city in the State of New Jersey.
He added that “the significance of the proclamation is that the Mayor and the City of Newark recognize Nigeria on this day: this is ‘Nigeria’s Day’ at the City Hall”.
Represented by Mr Ugochukwu Nwaokoro, the Deputy Mayor for International Relations and Diaspora Affairs, Baraka said: “the raising of Nigeria’s flag at the City Hall symbolizes that the city accepts you; it means your flag is rising.
“Nigerians are very hard working people and they are highly goal-oriented individuals. So that’s how the city sees them – as very valuable members of the City.”
The event, jointly organized by the Mayor’s Office and Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), New Jersey, was attended by Nigerian officials, led by Consul-General in New York, Benaoyagha Okoyen, and Ambassador to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande.
The Consul-General said “Nigeria is a land of promise” that had endured a tortured history of political instability, religious and ethnic conflicts like many countries.
Okoyen, who spoke on: ‘Nigeria the Promise’, said “the nation has come of age”, noting, however, that “if the country must succeed, Nigerians must be truthful to the national pledge.
“We must be faithful, loyal and honest, serve our country with all our strength with sincerity, defend her unity as a people and uphold what brings honour and glory to our dear nation.
“To truly make Nigeria a place of the ‘promise’, we must uphold the ideals of true patriotism and nationalism,” he said.
Okoyen regretted that the consequences of Nigeria’s post-colonial disposition were enormous but said the country must overcome the internal contradictions and marshal out a purposeful direction for the citizenry.
According to him, Nigeria must look inwards to solve its problems with what it has, adding that citizens must stop blaming the government and take the destiny of the country into their own hands.
“As Nigerians in Diaspora who have seen it all, it is your duty to replicate your experience, knowledge and intellectual capacity back at home.
“We must, therefore, help to support the government to succeed. We must pursue developmental initiatives by building institutional capacity and utilize our intellectual capabilities to benefit Nigeria.
“Nigerians must be good ambassadors of our great nation. Nigeria’s flag must continue to fly higher to project the good image of the country in the United States and beyond.”
The President of NIDO, New Jersey, Dr. Kazeem Bello, said the event was to celebrate efforts toward nation-building that ultimately delivered the promise and dividends for the benefit of citizens.
Bello said: “we must work together to sustain the hopes, we must remain steadfast and join the efforts to positively contribute to relieving the challenges of nation-building.
“We must become proactively engaged and actively participate in enthroning the spirit of good governance and sustained democratic principles.
“We must take our past as relevant and acknowledged history teachers and open our hearts for future development for our country in all ramifications through our individual and collective contributions.
“We must remember that the world is a generational dynamics, our focus must be to ensure that the next generation in our country lives a better life, dynamic life, modern, scientific and technological life than it currently exists.”
Nigerians honoured for their exemplary service to Nigerian diasporas included Mr. and Mrs. Moses Adeniji of New African Broadcasting Network; and Mr Okems Okemezie, the Commissioner for African Affairs, City of Newark.
Others were Dr. Abel Famubode, pioneer African trado-pharmacist in the U.S.; Ms. Olamide Talabi, Commissioner in the City of Newark; Pastor Christopher Talabi, a foremost philanthropist; and Miss Chierika Ukogu, a Nigerian Olympian.
Others were Hon. and Councilman Charles Onyejiaka, African immigrant’s only elected public official in New Jersey; and Chief Albert Okagie, a distinguished Nigerian community leader.