My contribution to relocation of Nigeria’s capital to Abuja hasn’t been recognised – 90-year-old Lawal
I wrote an article and said that Nigeria’s capital should be moved upward. I published that long before the Akinola Aguda panel made that recommendation but no recognition has been given to me up till today.
I predicted the coming of Abuja long before the Akinola Aguda panel made the recommendation in 1976.
Question: Are you also a geographer or how did you know that Abuja is equidistant from the farthest parts of the country?
I am not a geographer but I have travelled to some countries and they don’t situate their capital cities by the coast. It is only in Africa that capitals are close to the sea. That is not safe. The capital can be easily attacked if it is by the seaside and the whole nation will be in trouble because that is where headquarters of corporations and important institutions are usually sited.
I published the article in the Sunday Times of May 3, 1970. I argued that the capital should be moved from Lagos, which is a coastal area, to the interior for security reasons. I did not mention Abuja precisely but I said the capital should be relocated to the interior, which is safer and which people can spend the same number of hours to get there from the farthest places. I also gave economic reasons for it, to help bring about development to other parts. I knew that Lagos would no longer be suitable as the nation’s capital from between 10 and 20 years from that time.
Did you envisage any attack on Lagos then?
I said in the article that Lagos, like other African capital cities along the coast, would not survive even a five-minute attack from the modern deadly weapons in case of an attack from the sea. We must think like that. We should also note that none of the developed countries has its capital situated along the coast.
In fact, we ought to have changed the capital from Lagos immediately after the independence in 1960. Lagos would still remain the commercial capital but the administrative seat would be somewhere in the interior and development would be faster. My recommendation was picked by the panel that was later set up by the government but no reference was made to me. That shouldn’t be. I desire some recognition.
Question: How do you want to be recognised?
I am not asking government to give me money or contract. I am an old man but honour should be given to whom honour is due. I made the first recorded campaign for the relocation of the nation’s capital to the interior. I did not mention Abuja, I can’t lie; the records are there. The committee set up by the government on the relocation of the nation’s capital, either by omission or deliberately, failed to make mention of my contribution despite that I initiated the campaign for the relocation. I want the government to correct this, it won’t cost them anything.
In 2015, the Nigerian Medical Association, Oyo State branch wrote to the National Honours Award Committee and nominated me to be honoured. I still have a copy of the letter and I am still hopeful that I will get the deserved recognition in my lifetime. They nominated me because of the prediction of relocation of the nation’s capital and also for my voluntary service in the army to keep Nigeria united, as well as my philanthropic gestures. Nothing has come out of it since then.
I wrote a letter to the Presidency when former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to power in 1999 concerning my prediction. The Presidency replied me to acknowledge the receipt of the letter but no recognition followed that.
Apart from my prediction on the relocation of the nation’s capital, I also published an article after I performed Hajj in 1971 that the Federal Welfare Mission should at least triple its number of doctors and increase the number of nurses. There were just five medical doctors to attend to 35,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia that year and this was grossly inadequate. Doctors were overworked and they also became sick. So, when I came back I published an article in the Daily Sketch of August 17, 1971, arguing that the number of medical workers accompanying pilgrims should increase and that the state Pilgrim Board should be created.