Architecture of Independence
Scottish independence. Should there be an independent Scotland, or should Scotland remain an integral part of the United Kingdom? As the clock ticks closer to the proposed referendum on 18 September 2014, the debate rages on. Although the mid-twentieth century independence of West African nations took place under completely different circumstances, this article uses the present independence debate to re-ignite a discussion on Nigeria’s decolonization years, the attainment of independence and the architecture which emerged as a consequence.
The Governor General of Nigeria Sir James Robertson, and the new Nigerian Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on Oct 1, 1960
The clamour for independence and self-rule in West Africa gradually began after World War II. This achieved its highpoint in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to attain independence and transit from colonial rule to self-governance. One feature which perhaps, became widely synonymous with the country’s drive for independence was the Pan-Africanist movement and the frontline role of Kwame Nkrumah, who later became Ghana’s pioneering president. However, a less referenced but equally important tribute to Ghana’s independence, were the architectural monuments which were constructed to commemorate the event. Chief among these is the Accra independence arch.
Independence Arch, Accra, 1957
As with Ghana, self-governance calls had pervaded different levels of Nigerian society before the October 1 1960 independence date. The most prominent perhaps were those propagated through African edited newspapers like the West African Pilot, and which echoed the voices of native elites and politicians. Nigeria’s formal decolonization process however appears to have started with the 1945 promulgation of Richard’s constitution. Not only had this constitution granted greater levels of native participation in the legislative house, it equally paved way for the much sought after regional system of governance. Nigeria was therefore reorganized along political and administrative lines into a Western region with headquarters at Ibadan, a Northern region with headquarters at Kaduna, and, an Eastern region with headquarters at Enugu, while Lagos remained the Federal Headquarters. With this new organizational structure came the formation of regional houses of Assembly and the election of its representative members.
Design for Eastern Nigeria parliamentary complex, 1960
Of equal importance were the new parliamentary complexes being built to usher in the emerging era of self-governance, beginning from October 1 1960. The new buildings may therefore be described as some of Nigeria‘s most prominent symbols of transition to self-rule, and were indeed the ‘architecture of independence’.