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Nyesom Wike ‘thanks’ Murtala Mohammed

Those of us born before 1976 have a fair idea of how Abuja came to be our federal capital. We’ve all heard how General Murtala…

Those of us born before 1976 have a fair idea of how Abuja came to be our federal capital. We’ve all heard how General Murtala Mohammed, our inimitable and no-nonsense Head of State, donned his thinking cap and decided that our nation’s capital being on the edge of the Atlantic, exposed the country to serious security threats.

We all read about how he set up a committee under Justice Akinola Aguda and charged it with finding the most suitable location to site our federal capital. Later known as the Aguda Panel, it chose Abuja because it is the most centrally located place in the country, housing the very centre of the nation on Katampe Hill. 

We were taught that on the 3rd of February 1976, exactly 10 days before he was killed, that indefatigable, extremely patriotic General promulgated a decree known as Decree No. 6, which established our new Federal Capital in the middle of the country; far from all potential external hazards.

And today, 48 years after, we also know that if it wasn’t for this far-sighted, visionary and patriotic general, a politician named Nyesom Wike will never have a job as the minister of our Federal Capital Territory, because there won’t be an FCT for him to administer. 

The former Federal Capital was a state with its governors, whether civilian or military. Lagos State was therefore never there for grabs by a political appointee.

Yet, this same minister, a direct beneficiary of Murtala’s great vision, felt that the only way to thank him was to efface him from the FCT. 

He therefore, in broad daylight, decided to rename the only memorial to the founder of the FCT after a hero of his choice. When he gleefully announced the renaming of Murtala Mohammed Expressway to Wole Soyinka Way. I honestly wondered what Wike was trying to prove. 

I mean, it’s not for lack of other roads with which to honour the playwright, poet and novelist that he chose Murtala Mohammed Expressway. Indeed at the same zone where he eclipsed Murtala and lit Wole Soyinka, three other streets were named the same day. One was christened Bola Ahmed Tinubu, after you-know-who, and another was named after Niger Republic’s ex-President Muhammadu Issoufou, for reasons best known to the minister. 

Yet, any or more of these two could have been named after Wole Soyinka, leaving Murtala Mohammed Expressway alone, to honour a true hero. 

To my horror, President Bola Tinubu was so impressed by what the minister did that he actually praised him for this direct affront to the memory of an outstanding leader and statesman. 

Hear him: “Your recommendation to name this road as Wole Soyinka is well received. He is our foremost playwright, novelist and Nobel Prize winner, who has brought Nigeria a pride (?) of international acclaim.’

“This gesture is a testament to the undying legacy of Wole Soyinka and his contribution to the Nigerian and global culture. We all accept your recommendation on behalf of the people and Federal Republic of Nigeria.’ 

Really PBAT? Well, let me say here, Your Excellency, that you didn’t speak for me when you applauded Minister Wike for doing his best to erase the only monument to the man who established the FCT.

In other parts of the world, the FCT will actually be named after Murtala Mohammed, especially since it only came into being after his death. 

Washington DC was named after United States’ first president, George Washington, and it’s not even clear whether he was the one who established it. What is known is that when he lived, the US capital was New York. 

But here we are in beloved Naija, trying hard to downgrade the honour due to a fallen hero. 

It is an obvious case of ingratitude for Nyesom Wike to do away with the memory of the man whose good deeds landed him a job at this stage in his life.

And it is worth noting that Professor Wole Soyinka is yet to thank both Wike and PBAT for this controversial honour. He probably doesn’t think it was right either. According to some news outlets, a street already exists in Gwarimpa that was named after him 14 years ago. 

Why name two streets, in the same city, after the same man and while he’s alive too? 

Yes, it’s now fashionable to immortalise the living, but surely duplicating these honours, and at the expense of others more deserving, cannot be a commendable thing at all.

I’m surprised that no-one is splitting hairs over this name change. I’d really expected that since this unjust act was committed last week, many Nigerians will ask the simple question: Why?. 

I had expected General Murtala’s family or his foundation to protest what Minister Wike did because it was very wrong. 

I had hoped that Kano State government and the state’s lawmakers at the National Assembly, would also say a wrong had been committed against their heroic son, but again, another silence. 

Why does it not matter that Murtala Mohammed is being effaced from the FCT? Though he accomplished a lot in the six months he was our head of state, the creation of the FCT was surely one of his most outstanding achievements. 

I’m hereby advising our lawmakers at the National Assembly, to enact a law renaming Abuja Murtala City. Nothing less will be suitable as the honour he deserves, nothing less can right the wrong committed against his memory and great legacies by the current minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike.


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