President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed the hope that Nigeria will overcome the transient pains of the moment and eventually take its rightful place among the greatest nations on earth.
'Like every country of the world, we have had our troubles. And we still do. We have fought a civil war. We have seen civil authorities overthrown by the military. We have suffered sectarian violence. And as I speak, a part of our country is still suffering from the brutal assault of terrorists and insurgents,' President Jonathan said Wednesday in his nationwide broadcast on the occasion of Nigeria's centenary celebrations.
He said while the occasion undoubtedly called for celebration, it was also a moment to pause and reflect on the journey of the past 100 years, to take stock of the past and consider the best way forward for the country.
'Even as we celebrate our centenary, we must realise that in the context of history, our nation is still in its infancy. We are a nation of the future, not of the past, and while we may have travelled for a century, we are not yet at our destination of greatness.'
He said Nigerians must not lose sight of 'all that we have achieved since 1914 in terms of nation-building, development and progress, saying ' Today, we salute once again the great heroes of our nation – Herbert Macaulay, Ernest Ikoli, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alvan Ikoku, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, Dr. Michael Okpara, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Mallam Aminu Kano, Mokwugo Okoye and Chief Michael Imoudu, among others.'
According to Jonathan 'We must be inspired by our past to overcome the obstacles we face in the present and honour our forebears by realising the promise of a Nigeria that is not only independent but also truly unified, prosperous and admired the world over.'
He remarked that the history of Nigeria since independence 'is the story of a struggle to fulfill our great promise'.
The Nigerian leader said the discovery of oil in the late 1950s offered new hope of prosperity but regretted that 'we have not always been able to reap the benefits in a fair and equitable way.
'The situation was not helped by political instability and the frequent suspension of democracy by military coups. During the civil war, the very existence of our country was cast into doubt but through it all, the promise of a Nigeria that is united, free and strong remained in our people's hearts.'
He said the Nigerian union, resulting from the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to give birth to the single geo-political entity called Nigeria, has endured and flourished.
He commended members of the Armed Forces for their contributions and sacrifices to keep Nigeria one, saying 'the nation has become our home, our hope and our heritage.'
President Jonathan said: 'I have often expressed the conviction that our amalgamation was not a mistake. While our union may have been inspired by considerations external to our people; I have no doubt that we are destined by God Almighty to live together as one big nation, united in diversity.
'I also believe that the future greatness of our country is assured by the favourable tail winds of a resilient population, ecological diversity, rich natural resources and a national consciousness that rises above our differences.'
He appealed to the international community 'do not judge us by how many times we have stumbled, but by how strongly we have risen, every single time that we have faltered.'
The president warned 'We must never be afraid to embrace dialogue and strengthen the basis of this most cherished union. A strong nation is not that which shies away from those difficult questions of its existence, but that which confronts such questions, and together provides answers to them in a way that guarantees fairness, justice and equity for all stakeholders.'
President Jonathan said the proposed National Conference, scheduled for 2014, would provide the platform to confront challenges.
'I am confident that we shall rise from this conference with renewed courage and confidence to march through the next century and beyond, to overcome all obstacles on the path to the fulfillment of our globally acknowledged potential for greatness.'
He said the National Conference should not be about a few, privileged persons dictating the terms of debate but an opportunity for all Nigerians to take part in a comprehensive dialogue to further strengthen the Nigerian union.
On security, President Jonathan said the security situation in some North-Eastern States, sadly remained a major concern for all Nigerians.
He pledged: ' We will continue to do everything possible to permanently eradicate the scourge of terrorism and insurgency from Nigeria,' saying 'We recognise that the root cause of militancy, terrorism and insurgency is not the strength of extremist ideas but corrupted values and ignorance.'
President Jonathan indicated that Nigeria's counter-terrorism strategy 'is not just about enforcing law and order as we have equipped our security forces to do.
'It also involves expanding economic opportunities, social inclusion, education and other measures that will help restore normalcy not just in the short term, but permanently.'
He told Nigerians that terrorism, strife and insecurity in any part of Nigeria are abhorrent and unacceptable, and urged Nigerian leaders to ensure that ethnicity and religion were not allowed to become political issues.'
He said efforts must be enhanced to empower the youth, because 'Our common heritage and future prosperity are best protected and guaranteed by them.
'We must commit our full energies and resources to empowering them to achieve our collective vision of greatness in this second century of our nationhood.'
He declared: 'This is the task before our country; that is the cause I have chosen to champion and I believe we will triumph.'