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The look of Tafawa Balewa Square, 56 years after

Nigeria’s Independence Day on October 1, is always nostalgic as the young and the old, male and female ponder on the significance of the day…

Nigeria’s Independence Day on October 1, is always nostalgic as the young and the old, male and female ponder on the significance of the day and reflect at memories and how the country has fared. Despite the palpable expression of dissatisfaction by many Nigerians about the state of the nation, a lot more celebrate the sovereignty the country has earned.
The much-celebrated independence was achieved with the lowering of the Union Jack and replacement with the green, white and green flag of the new nation seconds into October 1, 1960. This glamorous and memorable event took place inside at the grounds of Tafawa Balewa Square, (TBS), Lagos. It was called Race Course.
This single edifice surrounded by a 26-storey Independence building, memorials for fallen soldiers and victims of World War I and II as well as Nigeria’s Civil War, the old National Assembly building which has been converted to its Lagos Liaison Office,  among other facilities remain a towering monument and symbol of the country’s liberation.
The TBS which has been concessioned to BHS International Limited by the federal government has now been turned to a foremost tourism and events centre playing host to various events.
All the activities take place inside the main bowl and it has so far been the most lucrative part generating the biggest revenue for the concessionaires. It is also the arena used for the inauguration of governors of Lagos State. A visit to the square on Independence Day showed a beehive of activities right from the main entrance of the pavilion used as terminal by yellow commercial buses and tricycle operators shuttling between Victoria Island and Eko Hotels axis while next to it is a terminal for BRT buses. There is also another taxi park at the entrance of the square while a new modern bus terminal is being built outside the facility to accommodate the buses.
Inside the main bowl, some event planners and workmen were seen mounting tents in preparation for a crusade. Madam Jane who sells gospel CDs and albums said the Liberation City event takes place on the eve of every Independence Day celebration. However the concessionaires have decided to change the narrative this year. According to the company, it was designed to draw attention of Nigerians to the significance of TBS and how it has been able to preserve parts of the facilities which are under its purview.
A security man working inside the TBS said the square which was initially known as the Race Course used by the colonialists for horse racing was a very important part of Nigeria’s history and failure to mention it undermines any account of Nigeria’s history and struggle for independence. While BHS strives to preserve the TBS monument, the Independence Day building which used to be the tallest storey building in Nigeria with its imposing size remains a source of concern to Nigerians. The building located on the popular Broad Street is also known as the Ministry of Defence Complex which was completed in 1960 when Nigeria attained independence.
It is standing on 23 floors and at an estimated height of 103 metres. The building was once occupied by many prominent Military leaders in Nigeria but now it is a shadow of old self with many blaming the rot and the near crumbling of the edifice on the relocation of Nigeria’s Federal Capital to Lagos in December 1991. It is presently not under the purview of the concessionaries and unoccupied. Right from the security gate, the environment is dirty and unkempt. From the ground floor, a visitor could observe the magnitude of decay that has bedeviled a Nigeria’s towering monument which, according to observers, has exposed the country’s indifference in managing her assets.
It was believed that an inferno which gutted the place during the regime of former military leader Ibrahim Babangida in 1993 was the beginning of the decline and decay. Many contracts were said to have been awarded for its renovation but what happened thereafter remained cloudy.
Also an attempt to convert the place to a World Trade and International Business Centre did not materialize.
A security staff of BHS International who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said it was a shame to the country for the place to be left to rot.
The Head, Corporate Communications of BHS International, Mr. Ekam Abraham how said the concessionaires are poised to develop the TBS and preserve the monument. He said already plans are in place to build a four-star hotel which would comprise a presidential suite, 24 suites, 48 double and 281 rooms with a swimming pool among others.
Even at that, the Tafawa Balewa Square needs to be preserved better to uphold the memory  Nigeria’s glorious past.

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