By Emeka Obasi
Moving the nation’s capital to Abuja sounded rhetorically so alluring that necessary checks were not carried out. What was sold to compatriots was that Lagos was too close to the border and Abuja represented the centre of unity and country. Cursed, that is Abuja.
President Shehu Shagari took the Independence celebrations to Abuja in 1982. In 1983, he chose to spend Yuletide in the Federal Capital Territory. That was when the military decided to truncate the Second Republic.
Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was given the role of Head of State. Brigadier Ibrahim Bako was killed in the coup by Presidential guards led by Capt. Augustine Anyogo. Shagari was placed under House arrest. Vice President Alex Ekwueme was taken to Kirikiri prison.
Buhari refused to stay in Abuja. He preferred Dodan Barracks, Lagos. Today, President Buhari is the Chief Tenant of Aso Villa, Abuja and the blood which began to flow on December 31, 1983 is pouring all over Nigeria like rainfall.
Buhari’s successor as military president, General Ibrahim Babangida formally moved the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja on December 12, 1991. And in that infamous city, he walked away after annulling the June 12, 1993 elections which would have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola and changed the course of Nigerian History.
Before June 12, there was October 1, 1986. Second in command, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe walked away after Babangida, Domkat Bali and Sani Abacha tried to toss him like rubber football in the power equation. IBB had taken the Independence celebrations to Abuja. Ukiwe stayed put in Lagos.
Under Babangida, minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mamman Jiya Vatsa was executed for treasonable felony. Babangida and Vatsa were school mates, squad mates and best of friends. The President was the Minister’s Best Man. The friendship ended in red blood.
Babangida imposed Chief Ernest Shonekan as Interim President to pacify the Yoruba and spite Abiola. The Abeokuta man was legally sacked on November 10, 1994 by a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Dolapo Funlola Akinsanya, daughter Professor Sanya Onabamiro, a renowned Zoologist.
Shonekan did not quit until he was toppled by Gen. Sani Abacha, the man who announced the December 1983 coup that brought Buhari. To add to the curse called Abuja, Abacha who assumed power in Lagos but relocated to Abuja was found dead inside Aso Villa in 1998.
Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar came. He joined the Army same day as Babangida and Abacha. Abiola united the trio in ignominy. Babangida deceived Abiola, Abacha detained Abiola. Abdusalami sat over the demise of Abiola because he was in power when Abiola died mysteriously in Abuja.
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Those who were tasked with the job of finding a new capital for Nigeria in 1976 were men of honour, led by Justice Akinola Aguda. Among them were Professor Onyekwere Ogan, Dr. Tai Solarin, Col.Pedro Martin and Prof. Ajato Gondonu. They thought of Abuja as the Centre of Unity.
Abuja turned out to be the Center of Disunity. It began with what was labeled ‘Abuja Marriage’. Many homes were destroyed because in the haste that followed relocation in 1991, there was acute accommodation shortage.
What emerged was workers pairing in the few available spaces. A married man could find himself sharing flat with a single lady. A married woman would put up in the same flat with a bachelor, sharing the same conveniences. It did not take long for marriages to breakdown. Abuja became a huge curse.
Moving to Abuja turned politicians to mobile contractors with hotels as offices and homes at the same time. It became fashionable to spend months in the Federal Capital waiting for undocumented contracts that were awarded in hotel rooms by government functionaries.
To cap it all, governors became shuttle executives. Some of them spent more time in Abuja than they did in their respective states. The business of administration was left in the hands of cronies who acted as tin gods while the Masters were away.
And what exactly were the governors doing in Abuja? They went to collect Allocation from the Federal pot. Once revenue was ready the states would be deserted. The few who stayed behind only waited because honey must land from Abuja.
In others words, many state governors went to sleep. Going to Abuja guaranteed steady cash. Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) suffered. Thinking out of the box was seen as something for those who did not want to enjoy the national cake that Abuja baked.
In the First Republic when there was no oil, Dr. Michael Okpara turned the Eastern Region to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Western Region excelled because Chief Obafemi Awolowo combined Industrialisation with Free Education.In the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello used groundnut pyramids to move the economy. None of them journeyed to Lagos, cap in hand to collect Allocation.
Curse and decay followed Abuja. Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo lost his wife as President. Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua died in power. Under Jonathan some Niger Delta militants bombed Abuja during the 2010 Independence celebrations and now under Buhari insurgents are two hours away from capturing Abuja.
Lagos was peaceful and remains peaceful. Lagos is safer than Abuja and it should not be written that Abuja was sacked by bandits. I do not see why Abuja should remain the capital of the nation when all we get is bad news. I dare say let’s come back to our Lagos.