- Office of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister long razed, lay waste
It could be said that this wasted edifice acutely symbolises the nature of Nigeria’s national ethos, values, politics and governance. It also speaks volumes about our sense of history, monuments and collective national legacies. There are also questions of national pride and patriotism at play here.
And the questions that would naturally resonate from the ruins of once number one seat of power in the land but now abandoned, if not forgotten is: does Nigeria as a nation have some cherished sets of national props, identities, legacies and monuments? Or put plainly, is the country possessed of an organic body, soul, springs and founts from which her citizenry derive some nourishing patriotic essence?
These questions become germane following from a story that the office of the first post- independent leader of Nigeria lay disgracefully in ruins somewhere in the heart of Lagos. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of Nigeria from October 1, 1960 to January 15, 1966 worked from the Cabinet Office located at Nos. 1 – 6, Strachan Street, Onikan, Lagos.
Around its precincts were: the Parliament Building and the sprawling Tafawa Balewa Square (formerly Race Course), the old Ministry of Works and Housing complex, the National Museum, the Onikan Love Garden, the official residences facing the Marina, the National Arcade, the 25-storey Defence Building, the equally high-rise Western House and the Federal Prisons nearby. Also in the same vicinity are King’s College, the courts, the Post and Telecommunications (P&T) and the Police Headquarters at the Moloney, Obalende end of the layout.
These formed the hub of old British colonial administration and bureaucracy inherited by Nigeria’s officials from October, 1960.Today, it is bad enough that this entire physical infrastructure and history of Nigeria’s civil evolution has been obliterated or left to decay, the very seat of the colonial and immediate post-colonial governments lay in utter ruins.
According to a report in Sunday Telegraph (August 6, 2017), “…the three-storey building which once served as cabinet office is now overtaken by giant weeds and dangerous reptiles.
“A colony of trees is now seen growing wild through the blown off roof of the dilapidated building…”
The report noted further that one dawn in 2008, residents woke up to find a billowing fire gutting the old cabinet office where Prime Minister Balewa once held court. Since then, the building had been abandoned and left to the wiles of stragglers, miscreants and reptiles. A thick bush and a semi-burnt crumbling roof complete the horrific picture of ruination.
This may well represent the true picture of the state of Federal Government buildings, facilities and infrastructure across the country. Apart from structures like the TBS which had been concessioned to private managers, most of the other national monuments like the Defence Building, the Works and Housing yard, among others, have been left unused and decrepit.
The National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, the expansive Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi and numerous other Federal Government offices across the country have been lying waste for years. With the relocation of the seat of power from Lagos to Abuja in 1992, many government property at this former seat of power were virtually jettisoned.
It is particularly tragic that the first seat of power in the land was in the first place abandoned, vandalised and left to such vagaries as fire. Today, what ought to be a national monument, a major tourists highpoint of Lagos and a symbol of pride for the country is a sorry sight and a place of shame.
That Nigeria seemed to have lost her sense of self-worth and history may have been responsible for the banishment of the study of history from her secondary school curriculum for years. We admonish that no country that brutishly severs the umbilical cord of her past can properly connect with the future.
The Federal Government must move to reclaim Nigeria’s national monuments and legacies.