Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The failure of public space in Nigeria

I reminded myself of the work of Richard Sennett yesterday and began to apply his thinking of the importance of public space to Nigeria. The lack of a sense of pride in being a citizen of Nigeria or a citizen of one of its cities is reflected, supported and exacerbated by the lack of public space that enables a celebration of being Nigerian. In Abuja, the only central square/plaza that is the equivalent of Trafalgar Square in London or the Trocadero in Paris is Eagles Square. Costing 4 billion naira to build, Eagles Square is a parade ground used for ceremonious pompery. It consists of a football pitch size expanse of concrete surrounded by small spectator stands. It is not a place to go and sit or take photos (you would most probably get arrested). It is not a place where being-Nigerian can be celebrated in the most casual way.

In the complete absence of squares, piazza, plazas for casual civic use (reading the newspaper, meeting friends, playing chess), Nigeria refuses its citizens any opportunity to receive an offer of belonging from the State. No wonder that so few people act to transform the country, and why complicity and collusion with the corrupt practices of yesterday's military dictatorships continue into the present..


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