Capital Cities and National Unity: The Case of Nigeria
Capital cities are supposed to make statements. They are supposed to represent the best face of the country, in both symbolic and concrete terms. Yet, some capital cities beg questions. Nigeria formally shifted its capital from Lagos in the coastal south to Abuja in the middle-belt region in December 1991, signalling the end of a one-and-a-half decade-old attempt to move the capital from the "graveyard of reputations" (Lagos) with the attendant claims and counter claims to ownership by rival ethnic groups. Power relations can be forged and sustained or disrupted through the strategic re-placement of particular places and spaces such as capital cities. The new Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was dubbed a "no-man's-land" to signify the attempt to alter national spatial relations among the many ethnic formations in Nigeria. However, given that this shift was imbricated in the long-drawn inter-ethnic, inter-regional and inter-faith struggles in Nigeria for primacy and the struggle over citizenship and national unity, the ascendant spatial relations in the city are conditioned by the preceding and prevailing political order. Abuja has reproduced the problems that led to the shift and reconditioned these struggles while failing to be a neutral and successful arbiter in the struggles as Nigeria faces profound uncertainties about its future. By conceiving capital city as text and as key space of material power, this paper considers the dynamics of the lineaments of the political struggle in Nigeria.
Keywords: Capital City, National Unity, Citizenship, Spatial Relations, Nigeria
Mr. Wale Adebanwi
Doctoral Student, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge