Sunday, June 5, 2011

Architectural Heritage As Tourism Potential.Zanzibar and Lokoja Compared!

There is a small semi-autonomous city in Tanzania called Zanzibar! It is part of a group of islands, and used to be called the Spice Islands due to it's colonial past. It is this past, that Zanzibar now uses as a joker for drawing tourists! 

The whole Island, is an archeological/architectural museum.Many of the buildings on the island, are many centuries old! But strangely enough, they are never renovated, but are the way they were more than two hundred years ago!

Due to the foresight of the leaders of Tanzania, a law was passed to make it illegal to alter,change, or remove any component of a building on the island! The effect of this, is that Zanzibar seems to be locked in  a time bubble! 

One would think the locals would complain, but the contrary is the reality on ground! They love it! Tourists flock to the island to stay in hotels that are four hundred years old, and eat in a restaurant that was  once the villa of a notorious pirate!     

That is Zanzibar, in a nutshell. 

There is a quaint confluence town in Nigeria called Lokoja. Many do not know that Lokoja was the first administrative capital of Nigeria. Lord Lugard lived there, and the colonialists left a treasure trove of architectural masterpieces behind.

Today, Lokoja is the capital of Kogi state. It is less than three hundred kilometres from Abuja, the current capital.

About fifteen years ago, I went to Lokoja for the first time, to document some of the historical treasures there. That was the era of film, and negatives, and as I write, I must confess that the passage of time has degraded my work.

I am sure someone is wondering why I am not doing the same thing now! It is nearly impossible to do now! A succession of failed leadership at the federal, and state level, have conspired to wreck all the treasures left behind by the colonialists! 

There were many beautiful buildings, including the ones that Lord Luggard, and Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the first Anglican Bishop in Africa resided in when they were alive. Most of them, sadly, are lost forever!

Also in Lokoja could be found the first primary school in Northern Nigeria, and the first prison in Nigeria, and a host of monuments. They have all been destroyed. In the case of the primary school, Bishop George Bako, in a rash of misinformed judgment pulled down one of the primary school buildings, because he was building a cathedral. In another instant, the official residence of the Kogi state Commissioner of police, a beautiful example of period colonial architecture was pulled down in hours, to make way for a "modern befitting edifice!

The pillaging of the architectural heritage of Lokoja, has reached a tipping point, and cannot be reversed. It is sad because, these buildings, and other monuments could have been the nucleus around which the tourism industry of Lokoja could have revolved!

The sad thing, is that the useless structures they are putting instead of these treasures, are architectural eyesores that would not even last fifty years! 

If you think Kogi state is an exception, then you are mistaken. The same is happening all over Nigeria. We have blind, sleep-walking people dictating the affairs of state, and no one gives a hoot what happens to some old building somewhere! All they are concerned with, is the land upon which these structures stand, that is of more value to them. 

In Lagos for example, the period architecture from the Brazilian era on the Islands, and other parts of the state, are all gone! They have all been replaced with sky scrappers, and other offensive structures!

I believe the reason why our governments do not care about tourism, is because tourist dollars do not all end in the national treasury, they actually end up in the pockets of the people, and that changes their lives! 

Until governments show enough care for these treasures, we are in danger of loosing them, and also loosing a vital link to our past. 

Many of these same leaders go to Europe to look at old cities,and stay in historical buildings. But it looks like they have told themselves, that we have nothing worth preserving! That, is truly tragic!


No comments:

Post a Comment