By Eric Teniola
NIGERIA is not the first country to move its capital, but Nigeria must be one of the few countries that has abandoned its old capital.
Parana was the former capital of Argentina before it was moved to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro was former capital of Brazil before it was moved to Brasilia,Salvador da Bahia was former capital before it was moved to Rio de Janeiro, Jauja was former capital of Peru before it was moved to Lima, Coro was former capital of Venezuela before it was moved to Caracas, Caparra was former capital of Puerto Rico before it was moved San Juan, Old Road Town was former capital of Saints Kitts before it was moved to Basseterre, Granada was former capital of Nicaragua before it was moved to Managua, Cartago was former of Costa Rica before it was to move to San Jose, James Town was former capital of Barbados before it was moved to Bridge Town, Russell was former capital of New Zealand before it was moved to Auckland, Levuka was former capital of Fiji before it was moved to Suva, Krakow was former capital of Poland before it was moved to Warsaw. Kragujevac was former capital of Serbia before it was moved to Belgrade, Kharkiv was former capital of Ukraine before it was moved to Kiev, Dares Salaam was former capital of Tanzania before it was moved to Dodoma in 1996, Nanking was former capital of the Republic of China before it was moved to Beijing, Kandy was former capital of Sri Lanka before it was moved to Colombo, Karachi was former capital of Pakistan before it was moved to Islamabad, Mandalay was former capital of Myanmar (Burma) before it was moved Rangoon, Calcutta was former capital of India before it was moved to New Delhi, Diriyah was former capital of Saudi Arabia before it was moved to Riyadh, Gondar was capital of Ethiopia before it moved to Addis Abba, Zomba was capital of Malawi before it was moved to Lilongwe, Aneho was former capital of Togo before it was moved to Lome,Bolama was former capital of Guinea-Bissau before it moved to Bissau and Al-Askarwas former capital of Egypt in centuries ago before it was moved to Cairo.
There are numerous examples of old capitals but none was abandoned by the central government, except of course, Nigeria.
On August 7, 1975, the then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (1938-1976) inaugurated a five man panel on the creation of more states in the country. The committee was headed by Justice Ayo Gabriel Irikefe (1922-1996). It was the panel that increased the number of states in Nigeria from twelve (12) to nineteen (19). Justice Irikefe later became the ninth Chief Justice of the Federation between (1985-1987).
Two days later on August 9, 1975, General MurtalaMohammed inaugurated another committee on the new Federal Capital for the country. The committee was headed by the former Chief Justice of Botswana, late Justice Timothy Akinola Aguda (1923-2001).
Dr.Aguda,who later became the Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, was from Akure in Ondo state. Other members of the committee were Dr. Tai Solarin,Col, Monsignor Pedro Martins, AlhajiMohammed Musa Isma,Chief Owen Feibai, Dr.AjutoGandonu and Professor O.K. Ogan.
After the submission of the committee’s report, the Federal Government then enacted Decree 6 of 1976 which gave birth to Abuja as the new Federal Capital. In the 72-page report of Aguda’scommittee, it was recommended that Lagos has become “over congested” and as a result the Federal Capital should be moved out of the city for Administrative purposes. The committee recommended further that the movement to Abuja should be gradual and should be in seven phases. Drawing a lesson from the Tanzanian experience it was the contention of the Aguda committee that Abuja should be functional by the year 2025. It should be noted that the committee’s report was accepted by the Federal Government.
It was not until 1979 that Mr. John Jatau Kadiya was appointed the first Minister for Abuja. At that time the appointment was made just to facilitate the creation of Abuja out of Nassarawa, Niger and Kogi states. Former President Usman Aliyu Shagari replaced Kadiya with Irro AbubakarDan Musa in 1982 and later named Aliru Dantorro as Minister in 1983. The post became not too important at that time because Abuja was not considered a priority. Following the complete movement of the Federal capital to Abuja in December 12, 1991 by General Ibrahim Babangida (72), Lagos has been abandoned since then. Not a single block has been erected by any Head of State in Lagos. The city right now is like a car park.
The last biggest project so far executed by the Federal Government in Lagos, was the Third Mainland Bridge of 11.8kilometre built by General Babangida which is the longest bridge connecting the Lagos Island to the Mainland. The Eko Bridge which is the shortest of the three bridges, the other two being the Third Mainland and Carter bridges. It spans a distance of 430 metres and its landward extension of 1350 metres was constructed in phases between 1965 and 1975 during the tenure General Yakubu Gowon. The first Carter Bridge named after Governor Gilbert Thomas Carter (1848 -1927)was constructed by the British Government in 1901. After Independence, the Bridge was dismantled and redesigned and rebuilt in the late 1970s. The Alaka-Ijora flyover of the Carter Bridge was completed in 1973.
Since December 12, 1991, when General Babangida finally moved the capital to Abuja, we have had six presidential tenures.None has thought it fit to develop Lagos. The Interim Government of Chief Earnest Shonekan (26 August 1993 to 17 November 1993), General Sanni Abacha from 17 November 1993 to 8 June 1998, General AbdusalamAbubakar (9 June 1998 to 29 May 1999), President Olusegun Obasanjo (29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007), President Musa Yar’adua (29May 2007 – 5 May 2010) and President Goodluck Jonathan from 6 May 2010 till date.
It is to be hoped that Lagos with 5.8 million voters will receive the concern of the coming President of Nigeria. For Lagos is beyond the capability of any state government however prudent it could be.