A Monument and A Statue

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National Arts Theatre and Queen Amina statue (August 2014)

National Theatre and Queen Amina  (original statue  by Ben Ekanem 1977) -photo from Wikipedia

National Arts Theatre and Queen Amina (original statue
by Ben Ekanem)
-photo from Wikipedia

“The labours of our heroes shall never go in vain.” – Nigerian national anthem

Monumental figures and heroic sculptures add a fascinating aspect to any city.  Firstly, they represent time-honored stories but also, someone, at some point in time, recognized that that story needed to be visible to the public. As tearing a page from a history book and left by the side of the road, statues challenge the onlooker to puzzle together person, deed, event and era.

Then, there is the back story as to how the statue came into the public space. Deemed important to reinforce past heroic accomplishments for future generations, someone found funds to commission an artist or to buy the monument. Consider the planning and decisions that are made on a governmental levels before space is allocated and the sculpture is erected.  But all in all, the worth of statues in public places far exceeds none as statues are visible reminders that ordinary men and women do extraordinary things and that these deeds influenced thought and changed society.

In Nigeria, monuments, landmarks and heroic statues can be seen though they may go unnoticed. However, two iconic landmarks, the National Arts Theatre and the equestrian statue of Queen Amina are highly visible along one of the main arteries to Lagos Island. They have shared this vantage point over the last thirty-seven years. There have been years of neglect but suffice to say, these treasured landmarks have stood in commemoration of personages and events that emphasized the ideals of this nation.

Varna palace of Sports and Culture, Bulgaria. photo credit

Varna Palace of Sports and Culture, Bulgaria. photo credit

Construction to build the National Art Theatre began in 1973 under General Yakubu Gowon’s regime. Completed in 1975 and fashioned after the Palace of Culture and Sports in Varna, Bulgaria, the Theatre is the work of Technoexportsroy, a  Bulgarian company. The Theatre was opened formally by the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasango, in September 30, 1976, just in time for FESTAC 77.

Over three decades, the National Arts Theatre was the place to see a host of multifarious performances including talks by world leaders such as President Jimmy Carter, but its most noteworthy and memorable event was for the 2nd Black African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.

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The Queen Amina statue, a work by one of Nigeria’s most prominent sculptors, Ben Ekanem was erected sometime after 1977. This emblematic heroic sculpture in the extensive gardens of the National Art Theatre could not be missed as it greeted arriving guests at the main entrance.  With the magnificent backdrop of the Theatre, the powerful female symbol riding her muscular steed represented anticipation of Nigeria’s great future.

The statue symbolizes valor and Ekanem depicts Queen Amina’s (in Hausa, Aminatu) agility and superiority as a female Muslim warrior who ruled  north central Nigeria around the 16th century. Unfortunately Ekanem’s notable statue has disappeared and was replaced in March 2014 by an unsigned, unremarkable equestrian statue of Queen Amina.

-erected from 1977

-erected from 1977

-erected March 2014

-erected March 2014

 

Nigeria by Rail

In 1892, Lord Knutsford, the secretary of state for the colonies, considered ‘that the time had come when steps should be taken to determine whether construction of railways should be undertaken in West Africa, where the influence of the British Government was no longer confined to the settlements on the coast, but was being extended over the adjacent territories…” (Papers relating to the Construction of Railways in Sierra Leone, Lagos, and the Gold Coast, London, Dec 1904. p. 23).

The construction of the Lagos railway began in March 1896. The “standard Colonial Gauge’ of 42 inches and a speed limit of 15 miles per hour was considered suitable for curves and gradients. The terminus of the railway line began at Iddo , not Lagos Island, because at Iddo the water channel was better suited to navigate for ocean steamers. In September 1895, two road bridges were constructed—Carter-Denton Road bridges—to connect Lagos and Iddo island with the mainland. The bridges were actually foot passages for horsemen, pedestrians, and vehicles. Construction of the Lagos railway connected Otta (20 miles) to Lagos by September 1897, Abeokuta (60 miles) in 1899, Ibadan (125 miles) in December 1900. ( “Genesis of the Nigerian Railway I” by Tekena N. Tamuno, Nigerian Magazine.  Dec 1964.)

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Carter Bridge 1896 (Nigerian Magazine 1964)

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Carter Bridge 2014 (Iddo Island looking to far left of picture)

During the inaugural ceremonies at Iddo and Ibadan between March 4 and 7, 1901, the Governor of Lagos, Sir William MacGregor, stressed the importance of railway extension beyond Ibadan. He urged such extension partly as an instrument for the political ‘union’ of Lagos and Northern Nigeria, partly for strategical reasons in view of parallel railway development in French Conakry (now Guinea-Conakry) and Dahomey (now Republic of Benin), and partly for the commercial development of Lagos and Northern Nigeria. With these objectives in mind MacGregor on the same occasion, called upon all Yoruba to ‘push on the railway stage by stage, and never rest satisfied till your iron horse drinks of the waters of Tchad (Lake Chad).’ (“Genesis of the Nigerian Railway I” by Tekena N. Tamuno, Nigerian Magazine. Dec 1964.)

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Opening of Ibadan-Iwo line in October 23, 1906 (Nigerian Magazine 1964)

In June 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan and Chairman Dr. Bamanga Tukur commissioned two Diesel Multiple Units and six 68-seater passenger coaches, all air-conditioned, acquired by the Nigeria Railway Corporation from China, as part of infrastructure meant to further enhance the revitalization of the railway system.

(Legacy, a Historical and Environmental Interest Group in Nigeria organizes train trips from Ebuta Metta Station to  Abeokuta, and Ibadan.)

Music “Love Train” by Sounds of Blackness

100 DAYS OF CAPTIVITY

IMG_1195Women for Peace and Justice – Lagos, do not give into time squandered and insist : #BRING BACK OUR GIRLS!

We cannot forget! We must not forget! Our humanity and our respect for human rights of girls and boys, of men and women, rest on recovering all kidnapped victims. Justice must never be complacent or silenced.  If we are complacent, we are complicit.

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RETURNED!

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The wall of missing girls around the Falomo Roundabout under the Falomo Bridge in Lagos stands!   Women For Peace and Justice Bring Back Our Girls Lagos replaces placards of 200+ girls that are still missing. The wall is a symbol of commitment to BRING BACK OUR GIRLS.

IN THE MEANTIME…this week more disturbing news from Northern Nigeria.

June 24/25: Kaduna. Gunmen rampage through villages in Southern Kaduna region, Kaduna State. Over 100 persons, mostly children and women, were  buried in mass grave.

June 25: Abuja. An explosion Wednesday afternoon rocked a parking lot at a crowded plaza in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, killing 21 people and injuring 52 others, authorities said.

June 24: Kano,  Boko Haram abducted 60 females, including children as young as 3 years of age, and killed 30 men last week in a raid of a village in northeastern Nigeria.

June 21: Kano, A bomb blast Monday killed eight people and injured at least 12 others at a medical school.

June 21 Northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram  raids  two villages where 10 people were killed Saturday.

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GONE!

The wall of missing girls around the Falomo Roundabout under the Falomo Bridge in Lagos had become significant in the crusade for the search for our missing girls. On May 8th at the roundabout, Women For Peace and Justice Bring Back our Girls Lagos after obtaining the required permission, had carefully placed placards with the profiles and names of 176 Chibok girls that had been verified by CAN (Christian Associations in Nigeria). The placards were evidence that 200+ girls were missing and were a symbol of our commitment to bring back our girls, the shared pain of the Chibok parents and the love of our nation.

Yesterday afternoon on returning from our weekly speak out Saturday, we found that our wall of missing girls was gone without a trace. On inquiring about the whereabouts of the placards, we learnt that the police around 3 am Saturday morning removed the placards. No one could tell us why and no one could tell us how and clearly no one had done anything to prevent it. As the very little known facts were presented to us, a chilling reality emerged In a cruel way, the Chibok girls’ night of horror exactly 2 months ago on 14 April had repeated itself in Lagos in a less violent yet equally shocking way. The 200+ girls had again been abducted. The nightmare was repeating itself.

We are still trying to make sense of it. What is the symbolism of this cowardly act executed in the middle of the night? Could anyone deliberately want the girls to disappear and be erased from our memories forever? Who could possibly be threatened by 176 wooden placards at a roundabout in Lagos?

When we mounted the placards several weeks ago, Lagosians from all walks of life had joined in the rally with allies from the international community including the United Nations charging the way. The busy round-about with the girls’ profiles had served as a daily reminder for all of us not to accept these acts as a way of life in Nigeria and demand that the girls be brought back safe and alive.

We should all be proud of our ability to unite to bringbackourgirls. The rallies and events should be seen as vibrant signs of a society that cares and an African democracy that allows freedom of speech. Abducting girls – whether they be living human beings or represented by wooden placards – in the middle of the night are both heinous acts but for different reasons. One directly violates the young girls from Chibok while the other violates our right to express ourselves. We remain more dedicated than ever to the efforts to #BringBackOurGirls and bring back the right for Nigerian citizens to express themselves freely as could be expected in a democratic society.

We are not going away and nor will our right to speak out and continue to do so till the girls are back – safe and alive!

Women for Peace and Justice,  Lagos

 

 

#Bring Back Our Girls – 180 names

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Jinkai Yama…Lyndia Simon…Deborah Abari…Ester Josha…Naomi Bitrus…Awa Bitrus…Glory Yaga…Maryamu Yakubu…Talata Daniel…Mairama Abubakar…Naomi Luka…Helen Musa…Mary Paul…Hauwa Peter…Rebecca Joseph…Ihyi Abdu…Sicker Abdul…180 names called out over a bullhorn at the UNICEF office in Ikoyi.

Iya yi to,

Iya yi to o, President.

Koba wa la ra mu!

(Suffering is too much, Suffering is too much, Mr. President. We had enough.)

With each foot step, each name gathers weight. A first name, a last name. We  meet each girl. She is a person with a name; her name. She is present. We march solemnly.

“We no go gree o.

We no go gree, until you Bring Back Our Girls!

We no go tire o!”

Rahila Yahanna…Christina Bitrus…Yana Pogu…Naomi Adamu…Halima Gamba…

                                              BRING BACK OUR GIRLS

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Five days in May:

May 5th… Abuja, Lagos march

May 7th…US to send troops to search for kidnapped girls.

May 7th…Boko Haram raids Gamboru Ngala, Borno State, 200 massacred, 11 girls kidnapped

May 8th…Boko Haram bombs bridge in Gamboru Ngala, Borno State, that linking Nigeria and Cameroon – 30 killed

May 8th…France, China, Britain joins search for kidnapped girls.

May 9th…Rumors that girls are bargained for a prisoner trade.

May 9th…Kaduna, Ibadan, Imo, Lagos, and Borno State march