Nigerians were everywhere! Nigerians in their multitudes filled Manhattan. There were bevies and bevies of Nigerians with a plethora of our national colors memorabilia. Nigerians, from all over, converged on 2nd Avenue between 57th Street and 44th Streets, along 2nd Avenue where Nigeria House is situate at 828.
October 1st, Nigeria’s National Independence Day, was Thursday, a workday, and as a result, Nigerians in North America, the Northeast, and particularly the New York Metropolitan Region, selected Saturday October 3rd 2009 for the annual parade to mark the 49th anniversary of our political independence.
The Nigerians are coming! And now, the Nigerians Are Here! This “coming” seemed to sum up the aura in the air. This sorts of “coming” used be said in reference to be that a nation in the Caucasus who were proclaimed to be the ones who Are Coming, but now, it is a different nation, far from Eastern Europe, but instead, this lovely nation, in West Africa inhabit 150 million people. We; The Nigerians Are Coming! Nigerians Are Here! These seemed to be unstated themes and terms of Nigeria’s National Day Parade in New York City on Saturday 3rd 2009.
Nigeria’s National Independence Day has become very popular and has over the years become a mammoth gathering in various states in the United States, most especially so, the New York City version which is uproarious and thunderous in joyful hooplas!
Ambassador Auwalu Ibrahim, the Consul General at the Consulate of Nigeria in New York City, was accompanied by top Nigerian diplomats from the Consulate of Nigeria, as well as Nigeria’s United Nations diplomatic hierarchy. The world famous Nigerian comedian, Chief Zebrudaya Okoro Igwe Nwogbo Alias 4:30 was in person, present and he was nicely introduced to sundry guests, by Ambassador Auwalu Ibrahim, who was himself brimming with smiles, as he interacted with Nigerians and others, affably and effacingly, in his signature unassuming manner.
The parade attendance was huge, everyone was jolly and celebratory and the ambassador had played his role perfectly, and according to my information, he was said to have been very supportive and accommodating, to various Nigerian groups, in the planning processes of this wonderful event.
The New York City highest political leader, Mayor Mike Bloomberg was represented by New York City Commissioner for Immigrants Affairs Ms. Fatima Shama, who appropriately, is a daughter of Brazilian and Palestinian Immigrants.
The commissioner’s presence, gracing Nigeria’s National Day Celebration, added verve to the recognition of the growing importance of Nigerian immigrants in New York City; New York State and the entire United States. Ms. Shama’s appointment by Mayor Bloomberg also adds to our sense of a vibrantly diverse New York City as the gorgeous human mosaic, of which hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are a valuable part; a very valuable part of this American melting pot. Mayor Bloomberg sent a congratulatory letter to Nigerians on this important day as well.
Our African American siblings were amply represented, notably, by New York City Council Member, Robert Jackson (7th Council District) the co-chairperson of New York City Committee on Education, who is also the co-chair for Blacks and Latino and Asians Caucus, he was accompanied by another fellow New York City Council Member Bill Perkins, and the Honorable Eric Stevenson, the New York City Council District Leader 79th Assembly District; there were of course, throngs of African Americans, Jamaicans, Ghanaians, peoples of African descent.
Others in the crowds comprised of persons from the general American population. Notably unmentioned and conspicuously absent, was, New York City Comptroller and Democratic candidate for Mayor, Bill Thompson. I wondered aloud about this, to Messrs Jackson, Perkins.
Nigerians groups were present in full colors. The Nigerian Nurses Association as always was the most impressive. They operated two canopies and had a large presence on the parade. The Organization of The Advancement of Nigeria a founding member of the fulcrum of the Nigeria National Independence Day celebrations followed closely.
There were more floats this year, than ever before. Floats from various states of the federation and then, corporate and as well as religious floats. Akwa Ibom State was the most colorful state float, Akwa Ibom float was decked with gorgeously attired female dancers. There was, as well, an Imo Progressive Union in the parade procession. There were more states, corporate, socio-cultural and religious groups than can be exhaustively described within this space.
There was Arik Airlines which informed of, it’s soon to commence direct flight from New York City to Nigeria, before the end of the year. African Independent Television, a subsidiary of DAAR Communication Inc USA was represented, in float and canopy. The Nigeria In Diaspora Organization (NIDO) was ably represented by Ms. Bukky Shonuga, who conducted enrollments of new members, even as she doubled, as well as public affairs person, and coordinator for NIDO New York Region.
At the NIDO canopied table, she busily explained the purpose of NIDO as an umbrella organization and clearing house and liaison, with the government of Nigeria, toward the improvement of the human condition in our homeland, through which progress, development advance and greatness of Nigeria will be attained.
There were hundreds of associations, entities, organizations in the Nigeria Independence Day Parade Committee according to documents made available by The Organization for the Advancement of Nigeria; the premier organization of Nigeria Independence Day Celebrations in North America. Among these hundreds of associations, organizations and commercial entities, there were more than forty –two member in the core Nigeria Independence Day Parade Committee.
Absolute Faith Church; AfroEath.com; Afro-Heritage Ventures; Akwa Ibom State Association of New York; Anglican Church of Pentecost; Applause Magazine; Ariya Entertainment; Big Boys Production; Big Moose Entertainment; Bini Club; Cherubim & Seraphim Church of America; Cherubim & Seraphim Movement Church; Christ Apostolic Church First in the Americas; Christ Apostolic Church Manhattan; Celestial Church of Christ; Coalition of Niger Deltans in the Diaspora; Egba Club of New York; Egbe Omo Obokun of Ijeshaland; Egbe Omo Yoruba; ELDIMAA Fashion Collection (UK); Everlasting Light Christian Center; Eternal Life Christian Center New Jersey; Hudson Valley Nigerian Association; Igbo Organization, New York Chapter; Imo State Association; Leopard & Peacock Production; Nigerian- American Committee of Friends New Jersey; Nigerian-American Community Organization (NACO Boston Massachusetts); Nigerian Nurses Association of the United States; Nigerian Social Workers Association; Omo Naija Magazine; Organization for the Advancement of Nigeria; Regional Council of Nigerian Muslims; Save Africa Concert Foundation; Tuffgig Entertainment; UnderDaRock Entertainment; United Committee to Save Nigeria; United Nigerian Foundation; United Nigerian Association of New Jersey; World Mission Foundation; Zumunta Association
There were spectacular entertainments provided by various performers, live music by musicians and comedians. There was the Palm-wine Drinkards Club (The Kegites) which was not part of the formal schedule. They however, were applauded loudly with repeated ovations, due to their very energetic and spirited drumming, dances and their delivery of the most convivial of jollities! The Palm-wine Drinkards, ‘derisively’ called me “Comrado” because I could not recall my proper recitations! It was fun indeed!
But, I joined the Kegites hilarities nonetheless! Believe me they had actual Palm-wine in abundant supply, on site. They poured libations with incantations, and everyone, including our American audience, among them, police officers on guard duty, and other guests, were all transfixed. The Palm-Wine Drinkards were the only ones who could drink alcohol, because of a New York City Ordinance which prohibits public drinking by revelers, on parade or not on parade.
I suspect, except for the natives, most onlookers were not familiar with Palm-Wine bottled in green bottles, as alcohol. The Kegites were cohesive and organized, they sang in unison and in sync to the delight of all.
There was also a group which has caused irritations and frustrations to parade participants yearly, and they were again present this year. Their stated mission is to complain and protest the imperfections in our system of government in motherland-homeland. The parade proceeded smoothly, thereafter.
The parade spanned more than 15 city blocs, which began from high fifties to 44th Street the location of the edifice, also called the Nigeria House on 828 between East 44th and East 45th Streets.
When the parade was about two more blocs to Nigeria House, we saw rain in the distance, about four city blocs ahead of the parade, and those of us in the front, joked and laughed about divine intervention and rain doctors, because it did appear as if the rain was deliberately held at bay, until the procession was terminating at the Nigeria House destination point.
The rain finally found us as we approached Nigeria House. Even still, the eventual rain did nothing to damper the celebrations which were greatly infused with euphoria and enthusiasm. All revelers who could be accommodated were gathered and assembled on the porch of Nigeria House. We all subsequently, soon after, moved to a pre-designated public park, where canopies have been erected, prepared and readied by parade organizers, participants and various socio-cultural, religious as well as commercial entities.
There were foods of various ethnic and regional backgrounds, presented on the park grounds, for sale to participants and onlookers alike. I learned that Nigerian Nurses Association actually served free foods!
There were uncountable sheds of canopies where Nigerian flags, Nigerian themed T-Shirts, bangles, armbands, earrings, and everything in Nigerian colors and memorabilia! This is quite unlike what it was in previous years, in New York City, when finding a Nigerian flags, Nigerian colors and assortments of Nigerian memorabilia was near impossible a task. But now, these are plentiful, in availability, in designs, in innovativeness and uniqueness.
There were many Kente Cloths designed in our national colors for the parade Marshalls and other parade segments heads. Nigeria Independence Day Celebrations and Parade has really come of age! Though, Nigeria still remains the only nation out of the 53 African nations that has celebrated National Independence Day through parades of pomp and pageantry for decades.
These Nigerian annual celebrations have increased immensely and tremendously in quantum. Nigeria image, name and flag recognition, have improved among the American public, as a result of these celebrations. A thing of joy and a sign of better days ahead for Nigeria are very evident in the significant presence in these celebrations, by children born to Nigerians in the United States. The majority of parade participants were under twenty years of age!
This under-twenty age-group, the Nigerian youths, represents our future, a different future, without the baggage of their forebears. You should have seen them in varying degrees of Green and White and conglomerations of our national colors on the parade route in procession, and then, at the Nigeria House and later, in the public park grounds, where the podium platform was set, with canopies. The public park grounds, where the party proper took place! They were excited, colorful and united in their celebratory gaits! They danced Nigerian dances well!
This year’s parade was glorious! Next year is the 50th Independence Anniversary and I have it on good authority, that next year’s Nigeria Independence Day Parade Celebrations is slated to be, even in grander scale in planning and rendition. Nigerians have come. Indeed, Nigerians are here!
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