‘‘OUR focus, as we build our future, should therefore be on galvanising ourselves to turn our challenges into opportunities, and utilise these to improve the lives of our people.’’ This was the clarion call of President Edgar Lungu when he addressed the nation last night on the eve of the 52nd Independence anniversary celebrations, and urged every Zambian to reflect on our national identity, achievements and tasks ahead. President Lungu reminded Zambians that the objective of the founding fathers and mothers of this country was not only to achieve political Independence but a better life for every man, woman and child of our motherland. This is what makes this particular Independence anniversary special: the need for Zambians to bury their differences and focus on the task ahead – that of building a better life for all. We need unity of purpose to achieve that goal. We acknowledge that the August 11 elections left behind a fractured nation divided along political, regional and partisan lines. The situation was so bad it demanded the best out of Zambians to ignore the temptations and stick together as we edged to the brink of national disintegration. But the spirit of Zambia triumphed. We were tested to the limit by our own human deficiencies and constitutional limitations but we survived. We crossed the river to the other side and we are now marching on ahead to achieve another political and economic milestone. As we reflect on the bitter struggle that gained our hard-won Independence, we realise our forefathers envisaged not only a country of racial equality but one where equity, justice and fair play would be the norm, where economic prosperity would be the price of liberation and One Zambia One Nation the defining slogan of our unity moulded in the soil of our land and the blood of the heroes and heroines of our freedom. Indeed as President Lungu put it, today we celebrate and honour their heroism and patriotism because of their great sacrifices and agape love for their country. As heirs to their heritage, we owe them respect, daily remembrance and ever-lasting recognition. The theme of this year’s Independence anniversary festivities, ‘‘Consolidating our independence and national unity for a smart Zambia’’ is challenging. For us to consolidate our unity and freedom, means going out of our way to engender unity of purpose and political co-operation among those holding different and divergent opinions. We beseech the top leadership of our two majority political parties to lead by example. They must humble themselves before God and the country by finding a common solution to the uncomfortable political situation we find ourselves in. They must accept to bury the hatchet and find a solution to the tension between them. It is not the first time that an election result has resulted in what at first appeared to be a hung presidential election. Now that President Lungu and the Patriotic Front have settled into office, the UPND and its leadership must let go and allow Zambians, the final arbiters in the dispute, make the decision. The 2021 election is not so far away. UPND has a good chance to perform very well. But first they must show leadership by biting the bullet and accept President Lungu as the man in charge. That way Zambians will recognise UPND as the government-in-waiting. This is the spirit our liberators etched on our faces as exhibited by the Freedom Statue. They did not just break the fetters of colonialism. They taught us to break the irons of disunity and selfish ambition. As we today chart forward a new economic recovery plan, as President Lungu said yesterday, we must remain united and embrace a transformational culture ‘‘rooted in innovation, entrepreneurship and smart technologies’’ to achieve a better life for all. This is what freedom and Independence mean.