Tafawa Balewa Square:The untold story

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By Kunle Odufuwa
The decision by the Lagos State Government to acquire a 24% share in the proposed concession of the Tafawa Balewa Square for thirty years is very uncalled for. Rather, the Lagos state government should press for the return of the edifice to Lagos state if history and the interest of Lagos state and its citizens is to be respected and protected.
The site known as Tafawa Balewa square today was given to the Colonial administration by Oba Dosunmu in 1857 for horse racing hence it was called Race Course. It became a central point for the hosting of important events apart from horse racing for years to come.
It hosted such important events as Nigeria’s Independence celebration in 1960 and its subsequent attainment of a Republican status in 1963 by the country.It was later renamed the Tafawa Balewa square in honour of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. The square hosted such important events for so long before it was taken over by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and developed into its present status resting its ownership in the hands of the federal government .
The most important thing to do when the capital was moved to Abuja was to return it to the Lagos state government to hold it in trust for the people of the state but the reverse was the case. One remembers how successive PDP governments deprived the Lagos state government of the use of the square all for no other reason apart from political. The state was forced to look elsewhere to host its events because the federal government would not grant it permit to use what rightly belongs to the state.
It is equally worthy of note that the nucleus of the game of football was the present site of the Twenty five story building then known as Toronto ground.
Today the building is in total decay in the hands of the federal government.
It is equally worthy of note that the Colonial administration entered into a 99 year lease agreement with the Onikoyi Chieftaincy family in 1898 during the reign of Chief Aluko Onikoyi,the then Chief Onikoyi of Lagos and an Idejo white cap chief.At the end of the leasehold in 1999, the federal government refused to return the land to either the Onikoyi family or the Lagos state government despite the fact that the federal government was dragged to court by the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and won but the federal government under the PDP refused to honour the ruling.
Why then should the Lagos state government be angling for a 24% stake in a property that is supposed to be owned by the state government?
Today federal property in such important towns such as Lokoja, Calabar, Kaduna, Port- Harcourt etc. are all under the control of the various state governments controlling the towns. Why then should Lagos be an exception.
Lagos asking for a 24% equity in the proposed concessioning of Tafawa Balewa square is like renting its property from its tenant.
The only way to stop the federal government determining the use of the square by the Lagos state government is for the federal government to return it to Lagos which is the rightful and natural owner of the land irrespective of whichever party is in power at the centre.
The federal government refused to give Lagos a special status but delights in holding on to what belongs to the state.
What was wrong in returning the old federal secretariat Ikoyi to the Lagos state government after the relocation of the federal seat of power to Abuja?
Instead of proposing to take a 24% share in Tafawa Balewa square, the Lagos state government supported by all Lagosians should launch a powerful campaign for the return of Tafawa Balewa square to Lagos state. There is nothing wrong in doing the same in respect of the Trade Fair Complex.
In how many states does the federal government still control its Colonial structures?
For how long would Lagos be subjected to disproportional treatment? It is time to accord the state its fair share and stop treating it with disdain. The time to act is now
If the federal government under Buhari could return the old Presidential building to the Lagos state government, why not do the same thing in respect of Tafawa Balewa square and other such property in the state.
Yes, Buhari should be able to do it in the spirit of his administration’s set goal of ensuring equity and fairplay in the discharge of its duties.
Let Governor Sanwoolu reverse his intended decision of acquiring 24% to that of returning the property to where it rightly belongs and that is to the state government and its people.
The Governor cannot do it alone he needs the support of us all to achieve the set goal.
Enough of the cheating of Lagos state. Ireje Eko toge.–
Mr Kunle Odufuwa ,was a special adviser on community development to former Governor Babatunde Fashola

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