This is usually the most difficult message I have to send every year. It is even more difficult this year because you knocked it out of the park!!! Just like our Cultural Night show was sold out on Friday, New York City Police Dept is now telling us that Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (Park) cannot contain our crowd anymore. Despite the fact that we are still more than $20,000 in deficit, you truly turned New York City, the Big Apple and capital of the World, green-white-green on October 5, 2013. Nigerians, I am so proud of you and I say congratulations for a super successful parade this year.
GLORY BE TO GOD
First, I thank Almighty God for his blessings on us and for granting us a very successful parade this year. Yes, we prayed to God for a successful parade, including a good weather. Our prayers were answered. God allowed this year's parade to surpass all previous parades in every aspect: According to the report, tens of thousands of Nigerians and friends of Nigerians were on the parade route and the park dancing and waving green white green in celebration of Nigeria's 53rd Anniversary of Independence from Britain. We finally shut down New York City. Second Avenue, one of the busiest streets in New York City, was covered with green white green. The music was blasting and one can hear the usual voice of Sumonu Bello-Osagie roaring all over Manhattan: " Nigerians, kwenu; Nigerians! raise your flags." And CAC, Absolute Faith and Winners Chapel's floats were all jamming really hard on the parade as never before. And there was the "Ati De" float trying to knock off Big Moose and UnderDaRock float from their spot and gave Big Moose the biggest challenge since the inception of the parade. Even the Nigerian National Athletic League's float refused to be over-shadowed. The parade route was full of exuberant Nigerians, young and old from everywhere in the world. Every nationality was a Nigerian on Second Avenue on that glorious Saturday. It was a blessed day for NIGERIA. And O God, we thank you and we praise you for your kindness and mercy, for not forsaking us and for not putting us to shame. Thank you God. All praises and adulation belong to you for this year’s super successful Nigeria Day Celebration.
Second, I thank all the members of the Nigeria Independence Day Parade Committee, Inc. for giving me the opportunity to be the chair of this patriotic group of Nigerians. I thank you for your cooperation. I thank you for putting up with me and the leadership of our Organization. I thank you for your hard work throughout the year to make this year's parade the best we have ever organized. I thank you for your selfless service to Nigeria, the Nigerian community and, more importantly, our children. I thank you for being on the streets giving out fliers while other Nigerians were looking at you as if you have nothing better to do with your time, or that you were paid by the Government of Nigeria to do it. I thank you for your dedication. I thank you for your prayers and fasting for the success of the parade; and I thank you for the different roles that each and every one of you played at the parade route, vendor stands, stage for performers, cultural night, welcome party and after party. As I said before, you are the best group of Nigerians anyone can hope to work with. And I am indeed very lucky.
Starting from our marshals/coordinators, Ganiyu Abu (a man who is willing to sacrifice all he has for the love of his country), Most Special Apostle (Dr.) Afolabi Aiyedun (the best General Secretary any organization can hope to have) and Alhaji Raheem Banire (a diehard member of the Parade Committee), to all the parade marshals - Dr. Olatunde Olusesi (who also emceed at the festival), Mazi Agwu Agwu ( our indefatigable vendor enforcer and VP of the Igbo Asso), Jide Okunnubi, Chima Nwankpa, Richard Iyasere (our stage enforcer this year), Prince Arusi Obi, Chairman Caretaker Committee of Anambra State Association, USA, Wasiu Bello, Yemi Ade to our vendor coordinators - Mrs. Omotade, Tunde Bakare, Bukky Adesokan, Sumonu Bello-Osagie; to our media coordinator, MSE Solomon Adelaja; to our program coordinators - Solomon Bakare ; to my deputy - Mrs. Antonia James; to our masters of ceremony - Dr. Olatunde Olusesi, Sumonu Bello-Osage and Lola Olayoku; to our receiving guests, immediate past president of OAN, Michael Adeniyi, Mrs. Victoria Omotade (mother of OAN) and Alhaji Raheem Banire. I am very grateful for your hard work and for making this parade a big success.
THE PRESIDENT OF OAN
I like to thank the President of the Organization for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN), Solomon Bakare, for his outstanding contributions to the success of this year's parade. You did not only only step up to fulfill your responsibilities as the president of the most dynamic and progressive Nigerian organization in America, you also contributed your time and money to the success of this year's parade. You handled some very challenging tasks this year, and your outstanding performance during the preparation and execution of this year's parade is unparallel. I truly cherish your suggestions and advice during the planning of the three-day celebration.
CHAIR OF GOVERNMENTAL OUTREACH COMMITTEE AND OAN BOARD MEMBER
I like to thank the chairman of our governmental outreach committee, Michael Adeniyi, for his selfless service to the Nigerian community and for making the site for the parade possible. Without Michael's continuous pressure on the Police Department, the Mayor's office and other governmental agencies, we would not have been able to secure the venue and all the necessary permits for the event. Despite the fact that you reside in the outskirts of New Jersey, you still find time to serve your community. No wonder people say that OAN leaders are a different breed of Nigerians. Michael, we say a big “thank you” for your dedication. You are certainly a blessing to our community. God shall bless you and your family.
CHAIR OF FUND RAISING COMMITTEE AND OAN BOARD MEMBER
I am really at a loss on how to thank my good friend and my brother, Ken Osho, for his hard work this year. In addition to your daunting task of raising funds for this organization, you assumed another difficult responsibility of putting together the parade booklet for this year. And you performed the two roles wonderfully well. You combined the power of prayer with your aggressive fundraising style to reduce our inadequate fundraising; and just like last year when all hope seemed to be lost as to where we would get money to fund this parade, Ken took our fundraising committee to another level. With prayers and his aggressive fund raising campaign, Ken was able to generate the funds for this parade. Even though we are still over $20,000.00 short, the deficit could have been much bigger. You are certainly a great blessing to our community. I can only pray that God will thank you for us. He will shower His blessings upon you and your family. AMEN.
CHAIR OF PROGRAM AND OAN BOARD MEMBER
Well, here comes the hardest part of my thank you message. It is even interesting this year when I looked back to see how Francis single-handedly guided our youths to plan and execute (without any adult involvement) this year's Cultural Night event. While the success of last year's Cultural Night was beyond everyone's expectations, this year’s success was beyond the community’s imagination. It is the most successful Cultural Night we have had since the project was made part of the Nigeria Independence Day Celebration. Well, Francis did not put on his Chinese hat this year; rather, he donned the hat that he was given in his ancestral village in the Eastern part of the Nigeria when he visited in July this year. Seriously, how do you begin to thank someone who is so committed to the development of our youths that he will do anything humanly possible for them? How do you thank someone who spent his money, time—I mean many sleepless nights—working on how to make each year's parade successful? How do you thank someone whose goal is to make people around him better? Francis, the best teacher and mentor for our youths. Francis, my best friend, my confidant, a member of the board of directors of OAN; and, I will proudly add: “I am the luckiest person in the world to have met and known you!” Only God can reward you for all your efforts to make us proud Nigerians. You are not just a great blessing to our community; you are a tremendous inspiration and a great role model to the young men and women of our community. We cannot repay you for what you are doing; but we know that God in His infinite mercy will bless you beyond your imagination. God will not leave you and your family alone anytime. God shall continue to shower His blessings on you and your family. And for those of you are afraid that Francis may go into some sort of early retirement, be rest assured that as long as we have Nigerian youths, which we will have forever, Francis is not going anywhere. The temptation is just too much for him. The mere thought that he may be deserting or abandoning our youths or his crusade to make Nigerian community in the USA better will too much for him to swallow. Thusly, let us pray for long life and prosperity for him and his family.
CHAIR OF NIGERIAN ORGANIZATIONS OUTREACH COMMITTEE
I like to thank all Nigerian organizations who came out on the parade route to make the event successful. New York has never seen anything like this before. Starting from Esan Association women cultural dancers and their beautiful traditional dresses, to the Canaan Sisters from Cross Rivers State, to the Umuandandi Igbo in Diaspora, to the Stilt dancers from Maryland, to the Nigerians in the US Navy, to the Nigerian Professionals in the New York City Transit, to the Modakeke Progressive Union, to the Regional Council of Nigerian Muslims, to the Christ School Ado Ekiti Alumni Association, to the Igbo Youth Movement, Igbo Women Association, to the Lagos Elite Club, to the People Liberty Forum, to the Nigerian Unique Club, Nigerian Nurses Association, League of Nigerian Women, Edo Youth Movement, Akwa Ibom State Association, and other Nigerian organizations at the parade route. We thank you all and we pray that God will continue to bless you.
We like to thank all organizations with floats on the parade route: Starting with the Organization for the Advancement of Nigerians that led the parade with its beautiful float, to Christ Apostolic Church 1st in the Americas, City University of New York and its beautiful float with Nigerian students in the CUNY system, to Absolute Faith in Jesus Christ float, to The Winners Chapel, to Arik's float with its exquisite design this year, to Moneygram float, to Nigerian National Athletic League's float, to A ti De float and its beautiful costume girls and of course the Big Moose Entertainment and UnderdaRock float. What can we say? You guys did it again this year with your elegantly decorated floats. We thank you very much.
Once again, thank you Nigerians for painting NYC green-white-green, Happy Independence. If your name or organization is not mentioned here, please forgive us, it is not intentional. May God bless you; may God bless Nigeria.