Saturday, October 27, 2007

Abuja Millennium Tower and State Phillistinism

Just when you think you have seen or heard it all, the Nigerian authorities decide on a project that in all its stupidity and myopia reflects that kind of profligate frittering of the nation’s wealth by the bureaucrats. Although there had been rumors, but the recent announcement that the Federal Executive Council has voted to build the so-called Millennium Towers and Culture Center, Abuja, a 53 Billion Naira (roughly $450 Million) project is shocking beyond belief. Of course it would be nice—in some foolish sense—to see the contrast between the primordially massive Zuma and Aso Rocks hedging Abuja and the shimmering glass-clothed tower signifying that state our national progress. But, frankly, one cannot help but shudder at the indecent amount of money the Nigerian state is willing to spend on ONE structure commemorating an already old millennium. Some important critiques of this project, looking into the design, and the urban landscape into which this structure is to be fitted, but also the lack of public debate on the design and contract award, have been written by competent observers such as Nnimmo Bassey, but what makes the whole project insane is that it is being done in the name of culture. What, whose, which culture is this complex of glass towers meant to celebrate or serve as its icon?
A much more serious concern is the fact that in its original masterplan (and the subsequent incarnations), the designers of Abuja did not imagine arts and culture as important. No national ethnographic museum, no modern/contemporary museum, no music hall, no theatre, in short no purpose-built structures to house any of Nigeria’s rich material and visual cultures past and present. Of course it was state priority to build the national mosque and church. Then someone one day thought: “ahaa, people are building millennium towers in parts of Europe and the US, so why cannot the giant of Africa that has ambled through the 20th century, its engines lubricated by the oil from the delta, have its own tower?” Or it might have been that state officials, confronted by the spate of religious crisis in parts of northern Nigeria wondered: “why don’t we find a very expensive wedge to separate the charged, awkward space between the mosque and the church and dedicate it to the millennium and culture? I digress… But to imagine that the Federal Executive Council is building this half a billion dollar tower says much of the philistinism that infests the Aso Rock and its environs. As it has been described the Millennium Tower will have “space for a museum,” one “big” 2000-capacity state of the art auditorium, and a couple more smaller conference halls, and a library. What could anyone seriously mean by “a museum?” Did no body tell Abuja bureaucrats that with the money they plan to plunk into this Tower, they could build at least four quality, well-designed, homes for art, ethnographica, music and theatre, that is if, as I suspect, the so-called Millennium Tower is not another opportunity for large-scale theft of money that belongs to the citizens of Nigeria. It all sucks big time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You made a very good point there.Ur Govt has a history of miss directing State Funds.Many projects have being started but after time,seem difficult to finish.My favourite example is the Adjakuta Steel Com.
Lets see if they can finish this one.