Tafawa Balewa Square
If you got the chance to stand in the exact spot history was made, would you take it? I bet you would. You would at least want to see where history took place. I did, and I tell you it was something. I have always wondered how our independence day played out in 1960. I read books and saw movies, but I still thought of where it held, the energy that filled the air, what type of celebrations and parties were held, the speeches made etc.
I got to stand on the steps of greatness and history and while I was there, I closed my eyes for a minute and I saw it all. School kids lined up, (I like to assume Kings College boys were there, as they are within walking distance), Nigerians cheering loudly as Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa delivered his speech, the National Anthem being played for the first time, Princess Alexandra watching the last moments of Nigeria being colonized and all the other events that may have taken place. The things your mind can play out if you just use a little imagination. I also couldn’t resist making my own little speech at the very spot where I believe the independence speech was made.
If like me, you’ve wondered about everything that happened the day Nigeria got her Independence, Tafawa Balewa Square is the place to be. Located in the heart of Church Mission Street, TBS as it is fondly called stands as an imposing monument with the capacity of accommodating 50,000 people (huge right?). More importantly, it is a place that represents our independence that was fought for so long ago.
Most people know it as a center for hosting concerts, official functions, and exhibitions amongst other things , but believe me it is so much more. National day celebrations, Presidential speeches done in Lagos, and rallies are held here because of its significance. It is no wonder that buildings such as the former National House of Assembly, the National Defense liaison office, the 26 storey Independence house and the Remembrance Arcade are all around it.
So what exactly is Tafawa Balewa Square? It was originally a horse racing track until 1972, when it was converted to what it is now. It is named after the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. It was at this very place that he delivered his Independence Day speech on the 1st of Oct 1960, and where our Independence Day celebrations took place so many years ago.
On each side of the gates, you find 4 huge horses and 7 eagles which are found on the coat of arms. They represent strength and dignity. (There are two sets of gates, depending on how you choose to enter the square).
If you are lucky enough to go in through the front, you are welcomed by 3 Eyo statues. They represent the masquerades that are seen during the Eyo festival otherwise known as the Adamu Orisha play. Anyone else remember the Eyo festival folk song? Think it went like this..
‘Eyo O , Eh , Eyo O Eyo Baba ta wa, to fi golu sere, awa O le fo wo, oni golu Sere’
Behind where I assume the podium usually stands during events, you can see the coat of arms firmly placed, just in case you are not already familiar with it. The seats there are reserved for dignitaries and VIPs. The princess, governor generals, delegates and our government probably sat there in 1960.