Rehabilitating the National Museum
The move by the authorities of Lagos State to collaborate with the Federal Government to re-design and modernise the National Museum at Onikan, Lagos, is worthwhile and should be encouraged. Museums, the world over, house the heritage and history of people. The National Museum as a preservation of Nigeria’s history and experiences should get this proposed refurbishment and even much more.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode announced the decision during a courtesy visit by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who made a request to the governor to that effect, with the aim of making the museum an international tourist centre and a standard historical monument.
According to the governor, upgrading the museum fits into the overall objective of the Lagos State Government to collaborate with the Federal Government in the development of infrastructure and improvement of security to boost tourism in the state. He said giving a facelift to the infrastructure left by the Federal Government in Lagos will benefit Lagosians as the nation’s economic nerve-centre and boost the economy of the state. Ambode appropriately added that the modernization of the museum will be fast-tracked to showcase the history of the nation and its artifacts, as part of the activities lined up for the 50th-anniversary celebration of the creation of Lagos State next year.
That the issue of revamping the National Museum at Onikan has come up decades after that facility was abandoned is indeed heartwarming. It is one monument the abandonment of which demonstrates the unfortunate spectacle of a people who have no regard for their history, experiences and culture. So disconnected from their past and so rootless have Nigerians become that even history, as a subject, is hardly taught in primary and secondary schools. The Nigerian children now know nothing about the nation’s past, the country’s founding fathers and the historical evolution of their fatherland.
The National Museum, founded in 1957 by the English archaeologist, Kenneth Murray, has a notable collection of Nigerian art as well as archaeological and ethnographic exhibits. Notable among the collections are a terra-cotta human head dating c.900-200 BC and part of the Nok culture. The Nok culture, which flourished in Northern Nigeria around 1000 BC and vanished under unknown circumstances around 300 AD, is thought to be the ancestral tree that branched into creating the Hausas, Gwari, Birom, Kanuri, Nupe and Junkun peoples. In addition to exhibits of the nation’s wars, failures and triumphs, all of Nigeria’s peoples have one form of their heritage or the other in the museum and it is a monument to the nation’s rich diverse cultures.
The National Museum is, however, just one of the only monuments of great significance that ought to be important landmarks in Lagos. Also in that category are the National Arts Theatre in Iganmu and the National Stadium, Surulere. Each of these monuments defines Lagos in its own way and a 50-year celebration of Lagos State that excludes them should not be fathomed. They are; however, both in serious state of decay at the moment.
The Lagos State Government should come up with a plan to rehabilitate these important national monuments and the Federal Government must give its maximum support.
Granted that these institutions belong to the Federal Government, the truth is that their location in Lagos confers some inalienable advantage on the state which must be acknowledged to the people’s benefit. The National Theatre and the National Museum in their current decrepit condition is blight on Nigeria. As for the Museum, Nigeria has much more to offer given the ethnic diversity of the country and that facility should be so enriched. A standard museum ought to serve as centre for the collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical and scientific nature, which are available for public viewing through exhibitions.
Around the world, there is the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, which is one of the most famous museums in the world. The Uffizi Gallery is the most visited museum in Italy and one of the most important in the world. There are also the Museum Island in Berlin and the British Museum in London. These institutions have a wide collection of artifacts from around the world and host millions of visitors on annual basis. They burnish the image of their cities as well as the countries where they are located. The National Museum in Lagos should do no less.