Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (C) leaves a rally w
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (C) leaves a rally w

Nigeria?s Foreign Minister said over 25 African heads of state and top government officials are in the capital, Abuja, to participate in the country?s 50th independence celebrations Friday.

Aliyu Idi Hong told VOA Nigeria has always risen above its internal challenges and will continue to be a giant in Africa, as well as on the world stage.

?We are going to have a parade this morning when Nigerians, the armed forces, the civil society and so many agencies of government, will come and parade. And from all indications, it is going to continue for the next week. For active discussions towards taking stock (since) this is the time that one looks at, one, what is the achievement, two, what is (are) the lessons that have (been) learned, and what needs to be done. So, it will be a moment for reflection.?

Nigeria?s government has planned a week-long celebration to mark its golden jubilee anniversary after gaining independence from Britain on 1st October, 1960.

Critics say, despite its enormous potential, Nigeria continues to struggle with endemic corruption, instability and high unemployment among young people.

But, Hong said the country continues to make strides by improving the standard of living among its people since independence.

?In certain quarters, you do hear people saying that there is nothing to celebrate. But, anybody who has been to Nigeria and is being fair to governance in Nigeria will tell you that there are more than a 100 reasons why there is need for us to gather and celebrate this day. One, to say that Nigeria in 50 years still remains a united nation, very stable nation and also, with all the challenges and difficult scenarios and complexity, I think, realistically, one should say (it) is worth celebrating because the complexity of this country is second to none in the whole world.?

Critics say Nigeria?s infrastructure is in poor shape, citing at least four oil refineries that do not function properly because of corruption and poor maintenance. They also say the country?s vast oil revenues do not reach ordinary Nigerians.

Marking the anniversary, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement, ?Nigeria and the United States share a close partnership, which is reflected in the U.S-Nigeria Binational Commission that we launched this year. Through the commission, our countries have deepened our cooperation on many issues, including good governance and transparency, energy, regional security, and advancing peace and development in the Niger Delta.  Working together, we can achieve even greater progress.?

Secretary Clinton goes on to say, ?Next year?s elections represent an opportunity to strengthen Nigeria?s democratic roots, while renewing (its) commitment to good governance and constitutional rule.  As your partner and friend, the United States will support Nigerians in holding free, fair and credible elections in a peaceful environment.?