When 45 years ago, the Military administration of General Murtala Muhammed unveiled the idea of a new capital city for Nigeria that is devoid of all the geographical, economic, social and even political challenges inherent in Lagos, the then capital city, many Nigerians maintained an attitude of cautious optimism.
However, 45 years later, Abuja has not only become a reality as the capital city of Nigeria but has also evolved into one of the most beautiful and fastest growing cities in the world. She has become the pride of our great country and indeed the pride of Africa as well.
Abuja, we must remind ourselves was conceived as a symbol of Nigeria’s unity and a place where every Nigerian can call home with equal rights and opportunities for all who have chosen to make her their place of abode.
Over the course of 45 years, millions of Nigerians have indeed chosen to make the FCT their place of residence, settle down, raise their families and some even chose to make her their final resting place.
In an earlier address, the current Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello mentioned that there now exists a generation of Nigerians who know no other place than the FCT as their homes having been born here, schooled here, are employed here, are married here and currently raising their own families here.
Indeed, Malam Bello who has over and again proven to possess an uncanny grasp of the finer workings of the FCT’s people and politics and shown great dexterity in the management of the FCT, is quite right.
This generation of Nigerians who are originally from various parts of the country have now established and maintained an unbroken cord of unity, amongst peoples and cultures, that cuts across every nook and cranny of the country. Nigerians who have chosen to make Abuja their home have brought to fruition the dreams of the founding fathers.
Looking at the FCT after 45 years, Nigerians can afford to beat their chest with pride and congratulate themselves for a job well done. The Abuja project is indeed a national project where every Nigerian has an equal stake.
A city, like a person is a living entity that must be carefully nurtured and guided carefully through the meanders of life lest its existence is truncated untimely. Many great Nigerians and everyday citizens of our great country have nurtured the FCT and cared for it to its present state.
It is important at this point to remember and pay tribute to the visionaries and the titans who dreamt big and were not afraid to take the first huge steps and had the determination, despite setbacks and uncertainties, to stay the course and not waver.
We hereby remember the pioneers, the risk takers who came to the FCT when there was not much to be had here. They braved the elements, slept in the tents and endured all manners of inconveniences as they gave life to our city.
We acknowledge the administrators, the civil servants the journalists, the brave entrepreneurs, the private school and hospital proprietors who have contributed their own quota so much so that Abuja became synonymous with growth and progress.
We also remember and pay tribute to all those who paid the supreme price in the course of bringing Abuja to life. These are the engineers, the craftsmen, the artisans, the laborers and even the travelling traders and salesmen and women who succumbed while on duty of building this great city.
We extend our gratitude to them and say it loudly that their labors have indeed not been in vain. I speak directly to all FCT residents when I say that we should be reminded, that as residents we owe an obligation to the founding fathers and all those who have worked hard over the years and sacrificed so much to ensure that their dreams for Abuja remains alive.
The principles of unity and oneness can indeed be fragile especially in the face of relentless onslaught by forces determined to truncate our hard won democracy and right to all forms of freedom as enshrined in our constitution.
Residents of the FCT, as the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has always emphasized, have the obligation to keep these ideals of our founding fathers alive.
“We should play up those ideals that tend to unite us over those that tear us apart. We should work hard to see and acknowledge the humanity in each other rather than dwell on where one has originated from or the faith one professes” he said at a recent public event.
Indeed the greatness of our country is to a very large extent hinged on the unity of her people. In spite of our differences and diversities, we have forged together a great nation and laid a path to actualize our dreams and aspirations.
In no place is this more apparent than the FCT. While we know that not all who identify themselves as Nigerians share the vision of a united and indivisible nation of the founding fathers, it is apparent from what has been happening here in the FCT that majority of our people, truly believe in our country and are committed to ensuring her success and greatness.
Now is the time, therefore, for all residents of the FCT to begin, in their words and deeds, to profess the indivisibility of our great country and the FCT as the symbol of our unity.
Abuja has come a very long way over the last 45 years and has the potentials to surpass its achievements over the next 45. The onus really is for us to embrace her and continue to nurture her as she continues to grow into the city we all want her to be; a city of pride, a city of progress, a city of joy and happiness and above all else, the eternal symbol of Nigeria’s unity.
– Ogunsakin wrote from Gwagwalada, Abuja