Abuja: Capital of Nigeria or Northern Nigeria?

by Bode Eluyera


I hope that you have not lost focus, the point I am trying to make is that when Lagos was the capital, northern military Head of State invested only a drop or a fraction of what was needed in infrastructure and housing. The north led federal government had not invested a single kobo in electricity generation in Lagos for the past 15 years before OBJ took over. This explains the reason why Lagos was congested and always in perpetual darkness. The only way for the federal government to rectify this congestion problem then was through heavy investments in infrastructures, power, housing e.t.c. However, they purposely didn’t do it because they had made up their mind to relocate the capital to the north; consequently the money was saved for Abuja.


Perhaps this may sound a little bit convincing, at a first glance. But taking a closer look, I am asking the following questions. Should the fact that Lagos is far from the north justify spending billions of dollars that belong to the south to build a new capital from the scratch that will be closer to Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, Maiduguri, Sokoto, e.t.c.? To avoid repetition, I want to implore everybody reading this article to please go back and read my observations again most especially those relating to the location of capitals at the edge. I want to remind you again that practically all the above mentioned countries have their capitals both by the sea/ocean and right at the edge.

How many countries in the world choose their capitals on the basis that it must be in the center so that they may be “equally accessible” to all its citizens? The former Soviet Union ( and the Russian Federation), the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, many African countries are made up of diversified nationalities like Nigeria. Why didn’t all these countries whose capitals are all located at the edge and close to the sea/ocean build new capitals in the center so that they could be equally accessible to all its citizens? The reasons are simply because:

(1) Building a new capital even for rich countries is an expensive expenditure which is not justified;

(2) Capitals of many countries emerged historically and naturally due to many economic factors and the role these cities had played in the past and still continue to play in trade and commerce today.

(3) You don’t use mathematics or geometry (except in Nigeria) to calculate or determine the center or equilibrium point where the capital should be located.


Undoubtedly, this was the main reason why the capital was moved from Lagos, but other excuses were just used as cover up. However, mere saying that the capital was moved to Abuja because Lagos is a Yoruba territory is not enough. We need to ask more questions and carry out further analysis. The official reason given by the military was that Nigeria needed a new capital that would not be located on the territory of any of the 3 major tribes. At a first glance, this reason may sound reasonable and convincing. But, one may want to enquire further. In that case, why wasn’t the new capital built in other locations that also do not belong to any of the 3 major tribes? After all, there are more than enough cities in the South that met this/these requirement(s). So, why was the new capital located in Abuja which happens to be in the north? Why should the new capital be built in the north a region whose contribution to the economy in terms of mineral and human resources (intellectually) is practically zero? You will surely agree with me that it is not out of place to ask this/these question(s), more so, for our objective analysis.

So, what was the “main and hidden” motive of the north for shifting the capital to Abuja? What do you think? The main reason was because of the civil war! To be more precise, the main reason was to guarantee the security of a northern military or civilian Head of State. I will expatiate on this.

The civil war showed and proved how really vulnerable a northern military Head of State was. If the Yorubas had maintained a “neutral position” in the civil war, it was obvious that the north was no match at all for the Biafra‘s military machine. If Awolowo had not drawn the Yorubas into the war, the outcome would have been a foregone conclusion. There was no way the north could had defeated the Biafrans. Gowon released Awolowo from prison after the failed Nzeogwu (R.I.P) coup not out of sympathy but for his own personal protection. It was a pragmatic and well calculated move. Gowon knew very well that keeping Nigeria together lied entirely in the hands of the Yorubas. He needed not only the moral support of the Yorubas but their military support especially, at any cost, in case of an outbreak of war which was already on the horizon. Therefore, based on this analysis, it would have been unwise of Gowon or should I say even impossible for Gowon to wage war against the Biafran army while the leader of the Yorubas, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, was in captivity.

The location of Nigeria‘s capital in Lagos, a Yoruba territory, created a problem for the northern military officers. What Gowon and the north in general feared most was the Yorubas declaring Oduduwa Republic simultaneously with the Biafrans or sabotage from them. Unfortunately, Awolowo fell into Gowon’s “psychology trap.” He wrongly felt that he owed Gowon a “big favour” for releasing him from prison. He had forgotten that his imprisonment in the first place was illegal. Moreover, Gowon was only doing the right thing by releasing him. Thus, Awolowo joined the “one Nigeria” bandwagon of Gowon and the North!

To be completely honest and objective, in my opinion, another reason why Awolowo decided to join Gowon to fight against the Biafrans could also be:

(1) His wrong interpretation of Nzeogwu’s failed coup. Awolowo could had wrongfully interpreted (he might had been purposely misinformed or misled) the coup to be an Ndigbo coup to capture the whole of Nigeria. The unfortunate outcome was a strong reason for this. It would be recalled that the coup plotters assassinated all the Premiers except the Premier of the Eastern region. This created a serious suspicion and doubt as regards to the genuine intention of the coup plotters led by Nzeogwu who though was born in Kaduna and spoke Hausa fluently but nevertheless was an Igbo man. The north, at least saw him this way.

(2) Awolowo’s personal political ambition. It was no secret that Papa Awo nurtured a presidential ambition and was determined to achieve his political ambition at any cost. He considered Pa Zik his main opponent for the seat then. Most likely, Papa Awo naively thought that if he supported Gowon in the so called “One Nigeria” war against the Biafrans, the north would appreciate it and thank him by voting overwhelmingly for him whenever Presidential election would be organised by the military. Afterall, the military can not be in power forever, he might have reasoned. Unfortunately, Papa Awo miscalculated. He naively thought that he knew the north very well or could trust them. If he had known better.

If we are to go by the second argument, then, it might be possible to assume that Awo was playing his own game too and did not fall into any Gowon’s trap. We will never know why Awo decided to join Gowon. Only history can judge him if he sacrificed the interest of the Yorubas in order to achieve his own political ambition which unfortunately did not materialise. Perhaps, Papa Awo meant good for the Yorubas.

While reflecting on the tragic events that took place in between 1967 and 1970, I want to point out that in my opinion, the fact that Lagos was the capital and a Yoruba territory created a big dilemma for the Yorubas too. Why? Because in order for the Biafrans to win the war, they either had to capture Lagos or/and kill Gowon in Lagos which invariably mean that they had to launch an attack on Lagos. There was no other way out. In that case, the Yorubas would be left with no other choice than to pick up arms and defend their territorial integrity. There was no other way out. Even, if they were neutral to the war, they could not sit down, fold their arms and watch the Biafran soldiers run over Lagos. More so, they could never read what Ojukwu really had in mind after entering Lagos. Would he retreat back voluntarily or capture it. What if Lagos fell to Ojukwu and he decided to match further into Yoruba territory, capture the whole of their land and annex it to Biafra Repuplic? Thus, in my opinion, irrespective of Awo’s or the Yoruba’s neutral position to the war, they would had still being drawn into it against their will. And this was exactly what happened when Ojukwu turned his army towards Lagos.

As I have said before, if the Yorubas had declared Oduduwa Republic together with Ojukwu, that would had been the end of the war. There would not had been any dilemma before them.

Why? Because if the north had rejected or opposed the two declarations, Gowon would definitely had been assassinated right in Lagos and they would had to fight two wars on two fronts simultaneously which was practically impossible to win. The access the Yorubas and Ndigbo have to the sea is of strategic advantage. What this means is that ammunitions and other military supplies could easyly be shipped in in very large quantities. With this advantage alone and the north being land-locked, it was practically impossible for them to win the war. Unfortunately, Papa Awo made a different choice for the Yorubas. His authority was so strong in Yorubaland even till his demise that it was practically impossible to oppose him or his decision. Therefore, going by this reasoning, it may not be fair for Ndigbo to hold the Yorubas as a nation responsible for their calamities in the tragic war. Decisions were taken on our behalf by our Leader.

The civil war opened the eyes of the north. Suddenly, they realised how vulnerable they were in the hands of the Yorubas who constituted one of the 3 major tribes in Nigeria. On one hand, they were glad that they were in control of power, on the other hand, they suddenly realised that they were very vulnerable, “security wise,” with the capital located not in the north. They thought to themselves, what would had happened if the Yorubas had declared Oduduwa Republic together with Ojukwu, or if tomorrow, the Yorubas like the Biafrans suddenly decided to declare Oduduwa Republic? How could they (the Hausas) resist them (the Yorubas) with the capital located in Lagos? Based on this analysis, Lagos, henceforth, became “completely unacceptable” to them as a capital irrespective of other economic and commercial advantages Lagos had. Right at that moment, the decision to relocate the capital to the north was born.

Northern military officers needed a new capital which would not only make them not to be vulnerable security wise to any of the two major tribes, but which would also give them a complete protection, most especially, a base to launch attacks and mobilise in case of another civil war. This is the secret behind the emergence of Abuja as Nigeria‘s new capital. The bitter truth is that the relocation has in any way made the President of Nigeria safer or strengthened Nigeria‘s security.


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abm1900@mail.ru August 21, 2007 - 4:48 pm

Nigeria itself is a fake country. The idea of a "One Nigeria" is an illusion. There has never been "One Nigeria," there is no "One Nigeria" now and I am sorry to say that there will never be "One Nigeria." The concept of "One Nigeria" itself is a fraud. Nigeria is a country that emerged out of "forced" and "unequal" marriage between the North and the South. We should forget about "One Nigeria," because it is not possible. Left to me, I strongly believe that the best thing is to let the North go and even take Abuja with them. We can use Abuja as a "trade off" to get our independence from the north. If they leave, I believe 75% of our problems will be solved. That's the ideal solution. In addition, I strongly believe that if the whole of the South remains as one country, in case of the break up of Nigeria, we will be much stronger together than if we are to go our seperate ways. We have a lot in common. Moreover, we compliment one another. The South West and South East have human resources which if put to the wright use and together with the oil resources in the South South could multiply the oil resources many folds. We don't have to be emotional when it comes to analysing our past and mapping out a new future for ourselves. If you are driving and don't have or look at the "rear mirror," I am afraid to say that most likely, you will have accident and consequently not get to your destination. Therefore, I believe that we must continue to analyse past historical events and decisions at least, in order to avoid falling into the same pit twice. Nigeria and Nigerians are paying a very high price today for the wrong decision to build a new capital from "scratch." Moreover, the struggle is about "Justice." Is it fair to build a new capital in Abuja with the oil resources of the South South while the bonafide owners of the resources wallow in abject poverty? So, the issue is about justice. We are in mess today because of many wrong decisions that were taken in the past and are still been taken today. As I have already said, it is absolutely unacceptable to me to build the so called "One Nigeria" at the expense of others. This has nothing to do with tribalism. All what I wrote is my personal and objective analysis of events. I realise that the problem most Africans face is the inability to make good analysis and/or "emotional" commentaries of events like "but no one gets anywhere by looking into the rear mirror of their vehicles, we are where we are, let us make the best use of it." With this kind of thinking, we won't get anywhere as a nation. It's just a matter of "fairness" and "principle." Personally, I am ready to fight for this no matter how long it takes. WE ARE GOING TO START A CAMPAIGN FOR THE RELOCATION OF THE CAPITAL FROM ABUJA BECAUSE IT WAS NOT ONLY A WRONG DECISION, IT WAS ALSO A "FRAUDULENT" DECISION THAT HAS COST THE COUNTRY/SOUTH BILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND IF THE PROJECT IS NOT STOPPED NOW WILL COST THE COUNTRY MORE.

If that is not attainable, then we should fight for Federalism. Federalism is the only compromise possible. Nobody is calling for another civil war. At the same time, it is unacceptable to build the so called "One Nigeria" at the expense of others, which is exactly what the North has been doing since independence. Nigeria has never been "

Mike August 20, 2007 - 9:03 pm

an excellent analysis of possible motives ..but no one get anywhere by looking into the rear mirror of their vehicles. We are where we are, let us make the best use of it. The new Nigeria will not be North dis, Yoruba that..your era of tribalist is a dying breed…from your ashes a new Nigeria shall arise. Nigeria where all genders, tribes, and creed can excel irrespective of where they come from. It is already taking place before your own eyes.

tunde adekeye August 20, 2007 - 8:49 am

Good thinking, thought provoking. I'm no pacifist but don't you think essays like this could fan the embers of war?….. It's not as if any of us is afraid of the resultant armed struggle if we all decide to go our separate ways…but would it solve anything? Wouldn't the struggle for the Niger Delta be the death of all of us???

julius August 19, 2007 - 12:49 pm

Except if you decided to be blinded by foolish patriotism, almost all Nigerians were well aware that the movement of the capital from Lagos to Abuja was just to satify the northern rulers not for the benefit of Nigeria as a whole. Nigeria is a great country but certainly Nigeria would be better off as 3 independent countries.


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