Nigeria @ 61: A Journey Through Nigeria’s Historical Structures
Cities began to emerge as the trade between Britain, the early Portuguese and the territory now called Nigeria expanded rapidly, cutting across every part of the North and South. Cityscapes and landscapes were among the earliest photography subjects.
Gidan Makama – If you understand the walls, you can break through the culture of the great Kano emirate. The entire fifteen million people in Kano reduced to metonyms will most likely be walls and kofas (gates). Before the 15th century, Gidan Makama served as the temporary palace of the then Emir of Kano before the current Gidan Rumfa palace was built. The building, which now serves as a museum, became the colonial office of British officers after Britain conquered Kano in 1903.
Anglican Cathedral of Lagos – A complete photo essay on Lagos must have the beautiful Anglican cathedral. The Norman Gothic-style building is unarguably one of the most photographed structures in Lagos, Nigeria. Tucked in between the skyscrapers of Lagos marina, the startlingly well-designed cathedral had its foundation laid by King Edward VIII in 1925.
Lord Luggard building – After serving in India, Lord Luggard was offered an opportunity to return to Africa. His task was straightforward; unite the widely diverse Southern and Northern Nigeria into one vast state. He was re-posted quickly to Zungeru Northern Nigeria to begin his assignment. Then he came up with an idea to move the British colonial government headquarters from Zungeru to a new place, Kaduna. A building with an imitation of the British House of Commons and Lord was constructed in 1915 to suit this purpose. Kaduna served as the capital of Northern Nigeria from 1954 to 1967.
Freedom Park – A former colonial prison now turned into a park and concert venue. In 1861, after Lagos became a colony of the British empire, a prison was built for tax offenders and unlawful citizens. The initial structure was built with grass thatch and mud which easily became a target for anti-colonialist, several fire outbreaks were recorded. A very costly approach was taken, and thick bricks were imported from England to rebuild the prison. Till the present day, the sturdy building stands conspicuously on broad streets, welcoming tourists.
Shitta Bey – A majority of the early enslaved people that were repatriated from the transatlantic slave trade were craftsmen and builders. This is evident in the buildings you find around Lagos Island. In 1891, Mohammed Shitta, a returnee from Sierra Leone, financed the construction of what is known as one of the oldest mosques in Nigeria. It was designed by Joao Baptista Da Costa, a Brazilian returnee.
Benin King place of exile – The great old Benin kingdom and empire larger than the then city of Lisbon had their first contact with European visitors who were Portuguese. The word Benin, a loose translation in Portuguese. The first British ship reached Benin in 1553 and as of then, Benin natives were not allowed to be sold as slaves. Slave trade wasn’t popular among the Benin people.
As the British empire continued to spread around, the Benin king became wary and wanted to maintain his power over his people and trade. In 1897, in a revengeful attack of the British soldiers killed during the Benin-Ugine massacre, the Brits came back with a full war force. After eight days, King Oba Ovonramwen was caught, treasures looted, and he was exiled to Calabar together with his two wives and children. The house he lived in till he died in 1914 was a four-storey building which was quite not a common scene and was among the few unique buildings in Essien town in Calabar.
Ebutte Metta Train – With the new train system introduced recently between Ibadan and Lagos, railway stations are getting a new look. There are structures around the popular Lagos Ebutte meta station that gives you a glimpse of the colonial railway system in Nigeria. Among such buildings is the Jaekel house, a two-storey colonial building sitting beautifully in an enclosed fence. Built in 1898 and renamed after the superintendent of the railway system in 1970, Francis Jaekel, the building was a former residential place for railway managers.