The administration of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT must not continue with its traditional approach to development because such notions are no longer fashionable in modern day society. For the past 16 years or so, the focus of each successive regime is to demolish illegal structures and create unnecessary controversies, contradictions and conflicts under the guise of restoring the Abuja master plan.
So much attention has been put in that aspect, thereby creating a monster image of the FCT in the past. But the narrative needs to change for the sake of development and transformation. The new FCT minister, Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike must strive to change the narrative so that Nigerians can have a new understanding and narrative about the FCT.
We have had many ministers of the FCT such as Arch Bunu Ibrahim, Mallam Nasir Elrufai, Ibrahim Modibo, Senators Adamu Aleiro, Bala Mohamed and the immediate past Mohamed Bello. Each came with his particular policy to add value to the administration of the FCT except Mohamed Bello who was the longest serving FCT minister who did 8 years with nothing to show. Others did 4 years with many achievements is different areas of endeavour but Bello who served between 2015- 2023 performed below the performance of an area council chairman.
The new administration of the FCT under Wike, the immediate past governor of Rivers state has shown that its ready to change the traditional narrative about the new capital city. He has come with practical ideas that if properly implemented, will restore the controversial status and image of the FCT and the capital city. He was appointed just few months ago by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and since then, the FCT has not been the same. Since then, all the sleeping spirits around Abuja, good and bad have woken up by the minister and each is anxiously waiting and looking for which direction the government will follow, especially on the implementation of the much talked about Abuja Master plan.
The new FCT created around 1976 was to be developed in accordance with a well laid down master plan after the old capital of Lagos became too congested.
Lagos being an international commercial centre was expanding at a very fast speed and therefore the urgent need to find a new and possibly permanent location. The idea was first mooted by the General Yakubu Gowon military administration. The new territory was to be strictly developed according to the well structured plan as a way of diligently avoiding the mistakes of Lagos so that there will be no need to begin to think of another FCT. Lagos, as an old trade city, was becoming uncontrolled in both physical and administrative way and therefore the need to start a new place since the old capital.city cannot be expanded due to rising population and increase in commercial activities.
The multidimensional master plan was to built structures, lay basic infrastructure and develop the carved and marked territorial areas carefully according to such the well designed document. It was put together by a combination of relevant and related professional experts. But after the ouster of General Gowon whose government initiated the beautiful Abuja idea, his successor General Murtala Mohamed did not live long to continue the implementation of the plan. The new military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo continued without any interest in the master plan,probably because, being a trasition military junta, it was more concerned about handing over power to the civilians.
When the second republic government of Shehu Shagari took over, it still stayed put in.Lagos without giving any significant attention to the proposed new FCT until the government was removed after 4 years and 3 months through a coup on December 31st,1983 by General Muhamadu Buhari and his men.That commenced the gradual abandonment of the well thought- out beautiful Abuja master plan. First, the military did not only suspend all elected political structures at all levels of governance, but àlso suspended the beautiful idea of a new capital city.
The new military government of Buhari was not bothered about relocating to Abuja because the visibility of military barracks gave the administration a satisfactory sense of security which was their main concern and not the physical development of the city.
The Abuja idea was therefore abandoned by his administration which also was later removed in a coup by his Chief of army staff, General Ibrahim Babangida after about two years in power.
Babangida also did not pay serious attention to developing the new capital city but stayed put in Lagos until he was shakened by the Gideon Orka coup of 1991. Out of fear, IBB who was also reluctant in implementing the new capital city, moved overnight and committed huge resources to the development of the empty Abuja land spaces marked for the new nation’s capital. That was the beginning of significant and serious attention towards the present day new Abuja city, the nation’s unity capital of Nigeria. IBB began massive development of structures concentrated around Garki, Wuse, Asokoro and Maitama districts, but of course, without recourse to any master plan.
No bloody civilian dared remind him of a socalled master plan that was out in place to advance the course of the proposed new capital city. That was the beginning of the impunity of negating the Abuja master plan which the country and its people are suffering till today and which has made it so difficult, if not impossible to fully correct,restore and return it to its original plan. IBB and his men single handedly selected the present State house location, popularly known as the Asorock Villa situated behind the asorock and embarked on the building of several military barracks and other formations surrounding his official residence as Head of state to ensure his security. Being a vacant territory, the thought of the IBB regime was to develop the city majorly in line with the government’s security plan and architecture.
Nevertheless, IBB did excellently well by providing most of the present road infrastructure and buildings within the city which are the most visible in Abuja today. In essence, the Aso rock villa, military barracks, and other major structures in Abuja today are all illegally erected structures put in place by IBB. When President Obasanjo returned to power as an elected President, he announced plans to continue the implementation of the Abuja master plan but did not carry on with the relocation, resettlement and compensation of the indigenous population and allow space for development. At that time, the total projected budget was five hundred billion naira( #500 billion) which would have addressed the laying of a strong foundation and immediate review of the entire master plan from the distortions of the IBB, Abacha up to Abdulsalami era. Obasanjo tried in his second term to correct the master plan, but was more concerned about the demolition of illegal structures instead of a wholistic approach. Up till this material moment, areas in Garki, Asokoro, Maitama, Mabushi, etc arenyetnto be resettled or relocated. If Obasanjo had given adequate attention to reviewing the plan to accomodating some aspects and settling the issues of relocation, resettlement and compensation, the distortion would not have been this much.
The Yar’Adua/ Jonathan era was so concerned about the people that they couldn’t continue with demolition as a way of correcting the masterplan. The two gentle leaders believe that better and more humane approach be given the whole issue so as to reduce the human suffering especially that we are in a democracy. Many people took that for granted and recklessly continued with deliberate violations of the master plan. Land speculations, abuse of land use, building without approvals and erecting structures outside specificied regulations became the order of the day . When Buhari returned as elected President, the situation became worst as his government seems not aware of the document called the Abuja master plan. He departed woefully from the norms by appointing an FCT minister who served for an exceptional 8 years without saying a word on the master plan. Mohamed Bello became the worst FCT minister in history, who was more of a confused traffic warden allowing vehicular movements and drivers to control themselves by themselves. He was more concern about traditions and completion of some few ongoing projects not minding whether they were illegally started or done in line with the master plan.
The coming on board of the new FCT Minster, Barr Nyesom Wike is beginning of wisdom to all those living and doing bussinessnin Abuja. His coming is a bell sound that has sent shock waves to residents for good. Under Buhari residents almost forgot that there was something called the Abuja master plan. Each person has his or her own pocket master plan. The regulatory agencies were not encouraged to do their jobs because of lack of political will to correct the mistakes. When Wike announced plans to remove all illegal structures that were not built according to the master plan, those who know are wondering how he can pull down the asorock villa, the many huge military barracks and formations,etc and other obvious illegalities that have gulped trillions of naira to be put in place. Many have expected the minister to talk about reviewing the master plan which will consist of not only demolition of some obvious despicable misdemeanors, but also accommodating some breaches to avoid excessive economic loses especially in times like this.
Wike’s capacity to make a difference as FCT minister is not in doubt at all. He is an action man anyday anytime. He has the capacity to return normalcy and add value to the concept of the master plan. His coming on bosrd has reminded residentsband governments at all levels that there is something called the master plan in place which must be obeyed. But he can do well and better by taking his time to study the original master plan, observe and identify areas of breaches, the extent of distortions and what can be done to correct, improve, accomodate,strengthen, remove, and put in place a realistic balance between what was expected and where we have found ourselves today. Alot of mistakes have been done, some deliberately and some ignorantly. Adequate sensitization and awareness be created about the issues to.avoid misrepresentations and political propaganda on the matter. This will go along way to help the people understand his direction as a minister in charge of the FCT. The arduous work in the new FCT is not just about demolition of illegal structures, but also of accomodating what can no longer be changed and accepting to move forward with contemporary realities in mind. Wike must be supported to bring his beautiful ideas to bear on developing the territory that is deserving of serious governance attention. He must also be conscious of doing things with the ambit of the law and following due process to avoid unnecessary litigations.
The public must also be wary of existing laws concerning development and not accuse the minister unnecessarily too. Wike must take time to personally monitor happenings in every department of the FCT especially Education, Health, Agriculture, environment, land administration,commerce, development control,etc.