By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, Oct. 9, 2021
Nigerians living in the U.S. on Saturday converged on New York in a carnival to celebrate the 61st Independence Anniversary of their homeland.
The Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the annual event, which usually features parade and carnival did not, however, hold the parade component because of COVID-19 pandemic.
Described as the largest gathering of Nigerians outside the shores of their homeland, the event was attended by Nigerians from all walks of life, particularly, the youth.
The Nigeria Independence Day Parade was started about three decades ago by the Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) as part of an effort to challenge some negative stereotypes about Nigeria and Nigerians in the United States.
Speaking on the event, Chairman, Nigeria Independence Day Committee, Mr. Yinka DanSalami, said the event was a means of showcasing Nigeria’s rich culture and bringing Nigerians in the U.S. together.
DanSalami said the event was also meant to bring the youth to network with one another and to understand their community better.
“It is also a way to let the whole world, City of New York, State of New York and America recognise Nigeria and Nigerians for who we are,” he said.
“Nigerians are the most educated group in America according to statistics. So, the parade is usually used to celebrate our accomplishments as well.
“We have used this parade to help Nigerians to marry one another. Apart from networking professionally, this is a best place to promote our culture.”
According to him, the 2021 edition is somewhat low-key without the parade component because of COVID-19.
“We would have cancelled it (2021 edition) but our youth insisted that they want to celebrate their culture and independence, so we settled for only the carnival.
“Hopefully, next year, we will be able to put at least 300,000 people on the streets of New York to have both the parade and the carnival.”
The Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija, in his remarks, said the annual event was a rallying point for Nigerians in the diaspora.
Egopija praised Nigerians in the U.S. for continuing to make Nigeria proud by excelling in their chosen endeavours.
He said the Consulate remained proud of their achievements and celebrate their contributions that cut across every sphere of life in the U.S.
“I wish to specially recognise the patriotic zeal of our youths and their commitment to our country. Youths have been an important group at this annual event as their energy adds glamour to the Carnival.’’
The envoy urged the participants to observe the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the host authorities and implored the nationals who have not taken the vaccine to do so.
In his remarks, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, thanked the organisers of the event for coming up with the 2021 edition in spite of the COVID-19 challenges.
Muhammad-Bande said it was important for Nigerians to celebrate life and add to the diversity of New York City as it is a very important city in the world.
“It (New York) prides itself as being host to millions of people and the Nigerian component is a very important one,’’ he said.
The Nigerian envoy also thanked friends of Nigerians for their support and assured that Nigerians never fail.
The carnival featured musical performances by Nigerian artistes, DJs, Nigerian cuisines, cultural performances and tributes to members of the Nigerian community who lost their lives since the last event.
Late Ifeoluwa DanSalami, late Raheem Banire and late Robert Omotade were honoured and presented with memorial plaques at the carnival for their contributions to the development of the Nigerian community in the U.S.