The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on Thursday received a letter of invitation from President Goodluck Jonathan to attend activities marking the nation’s centenary scheduled for February 27.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, received the invitation on behalf of Ban who was in Kuwait for a fund raising conference to support the Syrian people.
However, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Martin Uhomoibhi, delivered the invitation also accompanied by Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Joy Ogwu and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Amb. Usman Sarki.
Speaking with reporters, Uhomoibhi described the letter as “a very special letter from Mr. President, inviting the UN Secretary-General to do all he can to be present at the centenary celebration.
“There is a role for the Secretary-General’s office to deliver a goodwill message for Nigerians,” he added. “The letter also contained a concept paper describing in very meticulous detail the importance which Nigeria ascribes to the celebration and the need for the UN to reinforce this commitment and the belief of Nigeria that our great country is committed to peace, democracy and good government.
“It also stresses the need to remain a united, strong and indivisible country for many, many years to come. “
Uhomoibhi added that “the reception was warm, the reception was very cordial and we have it on good record that they will give it very serious consideration, based on this personal delivery of this message to the Secretary-General’’.
Responding to questions on whether the passage of anti-homosexuality law by government would not discourage the UN Secretary-General from honouring the invitation, the Permanent Secretary said there was no linkage between anti-gay legislation and the celebration.
“Absolutely not and I do not see any reason whatsoever why a nation such as ours that has played an important role in the development of the human race can be summarised negatively in terms of one piece of legislation, a legislation which an independent country such as Nigeria has decided to effect because it considered it to be in its own interest.”
Also on what difference the centenary celebration would make in the political structure of Nigeria in view of speculations regarding the likely consequences, Uhomoibhi said he believed this was the problem of the elite.
According to him, such imaginations are the problems of the elite, saying “we should not deceive ourselves on how the average Nigerian feels about his country”.
” The tragedy is that these elite are so blinded in their views, yet they know that they know they are nothing without Nigeria; yet they exploit Nigeria to their own selfish advantage.
“The average Nigerian is committed to Nigeria and does not conceive of such illusions or delusions of the fragmentation of the nation.
“You recalled that six years after independence as a nation, Nigeria fought a war of unity not a war to break but a war to unite and it has not changed.
“There are very many things that bind our country together than what the elite who are fighting for their own selfish reasons would want to claim. But the truth is Nigeria will remain strong; Nigeria will remain united
“Nigeria will be a lesson and will present a lesson to the rest of humanity on how to build a complex society such as ours into one strong united polity.
“A nation is a dynamic entity, Nigeria is changing and evolving and getting better in forging the pillar of unity.
“No country, not even the U.S., including those countries that have been around for 200 and more years, that have experienced full development without issues confronting them as a people; nations all round the world are still growing.
“Nigeria is also developing and growing. What I am telling you is that Nigeria does it better than most nations in the way that we confront issues that bind us together and the nation engages in dialogue and communication as we seek to forge unity among ourselves.
“That is what we are doing in Nigeria and we are doing it very, very well.’’