In preparation for Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Day celebration, the late Pa Taiwo Akinkunmi, who designed the Nigerian flag and 10 other heroes will receive the Citizenship and Patriots Award from the Federal Government led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Nigeria got her independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1960 and would mark its 63rd independence anniversary with a low-key celebration due to the country’s economic challenges, according to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume.

The ceremony, which is planned for October 5, is a component of the National Orientation Agency’s initiatives to advance civic education across the nation.

During a press conference on Tuesday, in Abuja, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Dr. Garba Abari, stated that September 16 of each year has been designated as National Symbols Day and September 30 as Citizens and Patriots Day.

The other awardees are Naval Rating, Salaudeen Akano, who hoisted the Nigerian flag at midnight to mark the independence of Nigeria in 1960; and the late Commander Onwurah Chiazor, the commandant under whose order Naval Rating Salaudeen hoisted the flag, John Ilechukwu, Eme Akpan, B.A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui and P. O. Aderibigbe. All contributed to the lyrics of the country’s National Anthem.

Also slated for honour is the man who directed the Nigerian Police Band which included the late Benedict Odiase, the woman who created the National Pledge, Late Felicia Adedoyin and Adewusi.

According to Abari, the National Symbols Day commemorates the day when the nation’s Coat of Arms and national ordinance were officially adopted, which is a day before Nigeria’s Independence Day in 1960.

He said the occasion serves as a reminder of the importance of treating Nigeria’s national symbols with pride, allegiance, and respect as emblems of Nigeria’s existence and sovereignty.

He said “Nigeria today stands in dire need of an uprising of more patriots to meet the challenging demands of this moment of her history. Never before has this need been more pressing than it is today. In the face of the economic difficulties of the time, the persistent “Japa” syndrome among our youth, the disturbing insecurity in parts of the country and the failure of our power supply systems, Nigeria needs Nigerians to rise with initiatives that will bring the necessary solutions, even if it is at some personal cost. That is what patriotic citizenship is all about.

“We have consistently campaigned for Nigerians to take pride in our nation, its symbols and its people. For us, the task of mobilizing the people to become part of the progress of their fatherland is a special task that must be accomplished.

“It is for this reason and in furtherance of our campaign for citizens-inclusive national celebrations, that NOA, in 2021, began to collaborate with team “HIYA NIGERIA” to celebrate the National Citizens and Patriots’ Day on the 30th of September, to reenact the significance of the unity of Nigerians and most importantly restage the 1960 nostalgias that preclude the commemoration of the nation’s Independence Day. The events of 30th September and 5th October 2023 marking the 2023 edition of these celebrations are results of this continuing partnership.”

Speaking further, he said it is impossible to overstate how important patriotism is to the growth of a nation since it needs patriotic individuals to make it happen, adding that citizenship without patriotism is maybe the biggest curse on any country or society.

“Indeed, the concept of citizenship has evolved beyond having a legal right to participate in the affairs of the state. Today, it connotes having a personal sense of belonging to a given community. Culturally, citizenship speaks to the consciousness of a common cultural heritage with specific fellows. Therefore, for us as Nigerian citizens to contribute meaningfully to the development of our nation, we must possess a personal sense of belonging in Nigeria while respecting and upholding our cultural heritage as a people, whether we are at home or abroad. Such disposition is the bedrock of patriotism and national heroism.

“Even as we mourn the designer of the National flag, Pa Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, we remember with pride his enduring legacy of more than 60 years. The massive eulogies that have followed his death remind us of the huge reward that will always come for those who demonstrate active citizenship and patriotism. We will use the occasion to remember other iconic figures who through their simple contribution as active members of our community, made Nigeria worthy of nationhood,” he added.