20 November 2017

Nigeria: A Legacy That Diminishes Lugard

In the memory of Lord Lugard is a street perched in a corner in the nation's capital, Abuja. But the federal government's attempt to immortalise the founder of modern Nigeria, falls way short of expectations.

The amalgamation of the two territories that became the entity known as Nigeria in 1914, by Frederick John Dealtry Lugard (Lord Lugard), remains an historical development firmly rooted in the consciousness of Nigerians.

For that individual accomplishment, the British colonial administrator, soldier and explorer, who in 1922, authored The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, is ascribed as the founder of the modern Nigeria.

More than 100 years since the Southern and Northern Protectorates were amalgamated, the country of diverse ethnic nationalities has transformed into the biggest nation for the Black race, with a population of about 170 million people.

Not only did Lugard envision a nation that will flourish into an economic success story in Africa, his experiment also laid the foundation for his mistress, later wife, Flora Louise Shaw, (Lady Lugard) to name the new country as Nigeria, out of the initial mouthful, 'Niger Area' label.

Lugard remains a colossus in Nigeria, who brought the ethnic nationalities under one umbrella, even though the union is not without hiccups, defined by a lopsided regional composition and failure to adequately address the suspicion of the minority groups.

The historical and political essence of the first Governor-General of Nigeria and his wife were celebrated four years ago, when they were honoured among the 100 outstanding contributors to Nigeria's statehood during the nation's Centenary Honours Awards.

The list, drawn by former President Goodluck Jonathan, had Lugard and Flora Shaw as number two and three respectively, after the Queen, on the list of contributors to the making of Nigeria.

Although in existence are some landmarks in recognition of Lugard's role towards the creation of Nigeria, the street named after him in Abuja, the Nigeria's capital, Lord Lugard Street--ironically does not dignify the towering profile projected about him in our history books.

The fact Lugard's memory is sustained in some parts of the country through several landmarks dedicated to his remembrance.

For instance, in Lokoja, the Lord Lugard Rest House that was built in 1900, on top of Mount Patti, served as his relaxation point. It is one of the major tourist sites in the confluence town, which is the gateway to Northern and Southern parts of the country.

Legends claim that it was while on Mount Patti, that Flora Shaw, then a journalist, spontaneously imagined the name 'Nigeria' after seeing the two great rivers, Niger and Benue converge at an intersection. Till this day on Mount Patti, are the statues of Lugard and his wife, watching over the confluence town and its surroundings.

There is also the Lugard House in Kaduna, where he served as the Governor of the Northern Region from 1912-14 in addition to the Lugard Avenue in Lagos, which became the colonial seat of power after the amalgamation and remained capital city for 77 years until the capital relocated to Abuja in 1991.

But literally, Lugard will be wincing in his grave, in objection to the avenue named after him in Abuja and clearly disproportionate to his contributions towards the emergence of the Nigerian state.

The Lord Lugard Street is set away from the consciousness of majority of FCT dwellers, leading to the frightening apathy even among the city inhabitants about its existence, while those familiar with the street, feel it does not correspond to Lugard's status in the nation's political glossary.

"I have been living in Abuja for three years, and yet, I have not come across any monument or a major road, designated in honour of Lugard in the city. Government must know how to accord due recognition to our past heroes. The unity of the country was founded in 1914 and was established by Lord Lugard through the amalgamation," Paul Inalegwu stated.

His views echoed the general apathy about the existence of any Lugard landmark in Abuja, in remembrance of the former British colonial administrator.

The Lord Lugard Street is a tarred road that runs laterally linking R.B Dikko Road and Jesse Jackson Street in Area 11, Garki, Abuja, which some people also at times prefer to regard as Asokoro extension.

The street is less than two kilometres in length and is a narrow track of road that is about 10 metres or even less in width.

But apart from obviously stunting the status of Lugard, this street is devoid of any real commercial activities and is deserted most of the time.

It's more of a residential layout that only bursts to live in the evening, when different revellers converge on the nearby Mahatma Gandhi Street, around the Nigeria Police Headquarters, for a bite of cheap, hot and spicy street foods.

One can walk the road from RB Dikko Road to Jesse Jackson Street back and forth without finding activities of interest.

Yet, on this short stretch are notable private and public concerns, including the umbrella body of itinerant Fulani herdsmen, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the Annex office of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Family Care Multi-clinics, Gloriana Apartment, Embassy of Slovakia and Sassy Bar and Grill Event Centre, where the residents can unwind and socialise at any time of the day.

There can also be found in the community some places of worship, such as the Deeper Life Bible Church by the junction of Mahatma Gandhi Close, and two mosques, with the most prominent located by the Azman Oil and Gas Filling Station.

The government agency that is saddled with street naming in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC).

But it is either that officials of AMMC did not rate Lugard as a historical icon or they simply applied other political parametres in downgrading him by dedicating a narrow street path in his memory.

One official of the agency, who pleaded not to be quoted, told THISDAY that the agency would conduct a reassessment on the Lugard Street and make the necessary correction if it is determined that the street is indeed disproportionate to the contributions of Lugard to Nigeria's political history and national unity.

The merit in this thinking can be evaluated given that virtually all the country's national icons and former leaders have major roads and structures named after them in the nation's capital.

Unlike Lugard, whose legacy was limited to an alley that impact little human engagement, the latter day political and military leaders have in their memories boulevards, dual carriage ways and four-way, 10-lane expressways designed to international specifications and fitted with pedestrian bridges and several interchange passages.

Nigeria's first president at independence, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and military leader, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, who inspired the creation of Abuja are exceptions.

They both have some of the longest roads in Abuja named after them, while the International Airport is also named after Azikiwe.

The architects of independence, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria; Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of Western Nigeria; and Sir Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister have major roads in their names. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs building is also a monument dedicated to Balewa.

Ex-presidents Shehu Shagari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar'Adua and Jonathan all have strategic roads to their names in choice parts of FCT. In addition, the Federal Secretariat Complex is named after Shagari while government is also fitting a trumpet interchange carved into rock outcrops to connect Shagari Road to Asokoro bound traffic.

All the other past head of states including Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, current president Muhammadu Buhari and presumed winner of June 12, 1993 election, MKO Abiola, all have major and busy roads in the city named after them.

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