Columns

January 16, 2024

The Villa makes it easy to get lost (2), by Eric Teniola

Who else but Professor Benjamin Nwabueze (2), by Eric Teniola

From last week continues the speech by  Gen Murtala Mohammed on why Lagos lost its federal capital status to Abuja and government’s decision to maintain special defence and security arrangements in Lagos, which will henceforth be designated a ‘special area’.

“These arrangements will be carefully worked out and written into the new Constitution. Kaduna and Port Harcourt are to be accorded similar status and designated ‘special areas’ under the new Constitution”. 

I want to believe that General Murtala Mohammed meant well by that declaration. But if we are to go by the words of the General, which he made 10 days before he was assassinated, the central government has failed Lagos. The central government also failed Kaduna and Port Harcourt. The 1979 Constitution forgot Lagos. In short the central government defaulted on its 1976 pledge to Lagos. 

 Since General Babangida moved the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja on December 12, 1991, Lagos has been abandoned by the central government. It should not be so. Although Lagos is constantly flattered as the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, the expected facilities to be provided in Lagos are beyond the capability of the Lagos State government. 

Fortunately we have a former of governor of Lagos State who is now the President of Nigeria. He too, has been one of those who had complained about the neglect of Lagos in the past. The expectation is that this anomaly will be corrected by him so that Lagos will get its dues. 

For example, Tanzania moved its capital to Dodoma, yet it had not abandoned Dar es Salam in constructing infrastructure; same with Cote d’Ivoire that moved its capital to Yamoussoukro. Till today Cote d’Ivoire is still developing Abidjan. Brazil moved its capital to Brasilia, but till today the Brazilian government had not abandoned its responsibilities to Rio de Janeiro. 

In 1959, Pakistan made the strategic decision to relocate its capital from the southern metropolis of Karachi to the northern city of Islamabad. Although construction did not commence until 1961, the establishment of this new capital was seen as an emblem of the diverse Pakistani populace, detached from Karachi’s bustling commercial activities, yet accessible from all corners of the nation. 

Russia’s historical oscillation between Moscow and St. Petersburg as its capital cities is noteworthy. St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703, held the capital status from 1712 to 1918 when the government ultimately reverted to Moscow. This transition was officially authorised by the Fourth All-Russian Congress of the Soviets on March 16, 1918, amid the volatile backdrop of the Russian Revolution. The congress based its decision on the evolving dynamics in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and deemed Moscow a more suitable temporary capital for the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. 

The neglect of Lagos by the central government is most disastrous. I have read the report of Dr. Akinola Aguda’s Panel; there is no part in that report that recommended that Lagos should be abandoned. The panel recommended “gradual movement”, envisaging total movement to last at least 100 years. If we have to observe, the central government made the first part of its movement in 1980 under President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari and by 1991, it has completely moved to Abuja, that is a space of 11 years. That speed of movement ruined Nigeria’s economy, coupled with our adoption of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP. Abuja was given a hasty development at the detriment of other parts of the country. 

On April 22, 1990, Major Gideon Gwaza Orkar (October 4, 1952 – July 27, 1990) launched a major unsuccessful coup attempt in Lagos. General Babangida survived but he lost his able ADC, Colonel U.K. Bello in the coup. 

Lt Col Usman K Bello was an indigene of Niger State. Gwari by tribe, he started his Officer Cadet training with the 9th Regular Combatant Course in January 1971 at the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna. He was commissioned to the rank of Second Lieutenant in June 1973 and posted to the Recce Regiment. He attended several courses in the Nigerian Army School of Infantry and some Armour officers’ courses in Britain and the United States.

He was ADC to Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar Adua GCON (March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) when the latter was Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters. 

He was also the Brigade Major 24 Armoured Brigade before he proceeded to the Command and Staff College, CSC, for his Senior Division Course. At CSC he did very well and came first in order of merit.

To be concluded