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Is Tafawa Balewa Square The Forgotten Race Course Of Independence?

Erstwhile Military leader Gen. Muhammadu Buhari emerged President of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, which ultimately implied he will take centre-stage at this year’s independence day celebration to be held not in Tafawa Balewa Square nor Eagle Square but at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Independence Day celebrations are here again. In less than 24 hours Nigeria will be celebrating her 55th birthday bash, this time under a new leadership.

However the glitz, glam and spectacle associated with the celebrations have been watered down and truncated over the years following a bomb blast that rocked the Abuja venue of the event in 2010. The implication of this was that 4 years in a row the event failed to hold in Eagle square under the leadership of former President Good luck Jonathan and this year is no different.The event which is now held at the Aso Rock Villa under maximum security regardless of the location takes most Nigerians down memory lane.

As Nigeria celebrates the 55th anniversary of her independence from Colonial powers, Britain, this piece will look at an almost forgotten monument that once served as venue of our independence day celebrations when Nigeria still had her capital in the centre of excellence. A monument named after Nigeria’s first and only indigenous Prime Minister, Late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Situated in the centre of Lagos Island’s commercial district, Tafawa Balewa Square was where Nigeria celebrated its independence on 1 October 1960 only that it was just a mere race course then.

The Tafawa Balewa Square, (TBS) is a 14.5-hectare (35.8-acre) ceremonial ground (originally called “Race Course”)

TBS was constructed in 1972 over the site of a defunct rack for horse racing. It is bounded by Awolowo road, Cable Street, Force road and Catholic Mission Street.

The entrance to the square has gigantic sculptures of four white horses hovering above the gate and seven eagles, which are symbols from the national emblem signifying Strength and Dignity respectively. Other monuments in the square include the Remembrance Arcade (with memorials to World War 1, World War II and Nigerian civil war victims) and the 26-storey Independence House, built in 1963 which was for a long time, the tallest building in Nigeria. The entrance of TBS alone is a striking feature that will elicit awe into visitors. Indeed the square is historic in all ramification.

A short walk from the square you’ll find the National Museum, featuring the Benin City brasses, traditional ivory carvings, royal crowns and the Nok Terracottas – some of the world’s most ancient artwork. The museum also contains a non-profit crafts centre and parades the ill-fated black Mercedes benz Limousine where former admirable Head of state, General Muritala Ramat Mohammed was slain on his way to Dodan Barracks a day before Valentine in 1976.

TBS boasts of its multifunctional and flexible areas and of its capability to host different kinds of events. Thousands of visitors, organizer and exhibitor gather at the exhibition center to take the advantage of functional and flexible spaces builT for them. The participants are matching their footsteps with growing needs of the industry which makes Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos one of the most suitable space providers for every event.

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The monument located on the Lagos Island which is one of the most famous venues of the country may still secretly be the Nation’s topmost event centre having successfully hosted:

Nigeria’s Independence ceremony- October 1,1960.
• All National celebrations prior to 1990.
• Inauguration Ceremony of Lagos State Governor.
• Coronation Ceremony of Oba of Lagos
• Major trade fairs and exhibitions.
• Major Concerts and Carnivals.
• Large Social, and political gatherings.
• Religious gatherings such as: Experience etc.

Tafawa Balewa Square is now being operated by BHS International Ltd; a tourism and infrastructural development specialist in Nigeria.

The company won the concession for Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, in 2008 with the vision to transform the complex into a world class city centre.

The Complex Today Comprises:
• 375 Offices and enclosed let- tables spaces.
• 36,000 Square Meter Arena with a sitting capacity of 58,000.
• Multi-Purpose Hall with a sitting capacity of 600-800.
• Outdoor and Indoor Advertising window.
• A large human traffic everyday.

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Business in the complex now comprise Banks, Law Offices, Travel Agencies, Clinics and Medical Laboratories, Estate surveyors and property firms, Media and Communication outfits, Botanical Gardens, Insurance Brokers, Securities and stock Broken firms Nursery/primary Schools, Sports Shops, and a host of other businesses and support services.

The complex is fully insured, with public liability insurance in place.

It is our belief that BHS would turn Tafawa Balewa Square to a city centre and destination of choice, sustain and promote it as a National monument; probably it will then redeem its lost glory.

Happy 55th Anniversary, Nigeria!

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