MUHAMMAD SABIU writes that Kaduna occupies a prime place among cities of historical significance in the country, noting that colonial buildings and other landmarks in the city still play administrative roles for which they were constructed till today.
KADUNA today is a cosmopolitan city, but it hardly existed a century ago. From a humble beginning and deriving its name from the crocodile-infested river that runs through it, it has grown to become the political and administrative headquarters of the then Northern region even before independence. Kaduna (plural for kada, meaning crocodile) has a colonial history which has afforded it the honour and opportunity of hosting some historical sites hardly replicated, not only in other parts of the north but also in the country as a whole.
Among these historical sites is the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House which was built around 1920. There is also the Lugard footbridge, which was brought to Kaduna by Lugard himself. The Premier’s House (Arewa House) which was the official residence of the premier of the Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, as well as the Lugard Hall which was the House of Chiefs and House of Assembly complex where Northern Traditional chiefs and emirs converged to hold their meetings, are other significant landmarks symbolising the colonial history of Kaduna.
More historical edifices include the Jama›atul Nasri- Islam headquarters built by the regional government to forge the unity of Muslims in the region. There is the State House built by the late Sardauna to serve as office and residence of the premier of the Northern region, as well as the headquarters of the Northern People›s Congress (NPC).
Today, a visit to these edifices shows that unlike such colonial heritages spread all over the country which had fallen into a state of disrepair, these structures are still being used by the Kaduna State government and other organizations which had taken them over. For instance, the Kashim Ibrahim Government House is the official residence of the state governor. The Lugard Hall is now the legislative arm of the state House of Assembly, while the Premier House (Arewa House) is now under the care of the Ahmadu Bello University as its Centre for Historical Research, while the headquarters of the defunct NPC is now a national museum.
Sir Kashim Ibrahim House
The Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the seat of the Kaduna State government, has been built since the era of British occupation of the Northern region. Over the years, the official residence of the governor had undergone different stages of renovations. The edifice was named after the late Sir Kashim Ibrahim, a politician and close associate of Sir Ahmadu Bello. He was at various times Minister of Education, Survey and Social Services and later became the Governor of Northern Nigeria in 1962. Sir Kashim Ibrahim House had so far being occupied by more than 20 governors, including military administrators.
Some of the former occupants were General Hassan Katsina, Brigadier General Abba Kyari, Group Captain Usman Jibril, Group Captain Umar Mohammed, Alhaji Abdukadir Balarabe Musa, Abba Musa Rimi, Lawal Kaita, among others. The new complex was initiated by former governor and later vice president, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, and lately, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
NPC secretariat now a museum
While the headquarters of the first republic parties comprising Action Group, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens, among others had gone through a series of metamorphoses, the NPC headquarters had followed suit as it is one of the historical edifices still adorning Kaduna environment today, but not as a political headquarters anymore. The party’s headquarters which used to be the hub of political activities then is today a National Museum. Located at Ungwan Sarki within the Kaduna metropolis, it is one of the landmarks of the nation’s historical past in the city.
The museum has antiquities from various parts of the country among which is an animal bone with Arabic inscription which dates back to the early days of the introduction of Islam in the country. Incidentally, according to the museum’s records, the bone has its origin in Ogun State, south-western Nigeria. Some other antiquities include, a Sango staff, equally from the south-west. There is also the Nok terracotta, from southern Kaduna State and a Benin bronze art traced to the ancient Benin Kingdom. There are also several swords from parts of the north, as well as the Ikenga from south-eastern Nigeria, among several others.
Lord Lugard Footbridge is over 130 years old. Built in 1880 by Lugard at Zungeru, Niger State when he was Governor of the defunct Northern Protectorate, he later moved the movable bridge to Kaduna in 1920 when he relocated the headquarters of the protectorate from Zungeru. The bridge is today located across a tributary of the Kaduna River at General Hassan Katsina Park (Gamji Gate).
The Lugard Hall complex is also named after Lord Lugard who later became the Governor-General of Nigeria. The complex is believed to be a replica of the British Houses of Commons and Lords. The complex has two structures – the Lugard Memorial Council Chamber and the House of Assembly. The Lugard Memorial Council Chamber which was known as the Northern House of Chiefs is about 66 years old. The late Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar III laid the foundation stone for the construction of the chamber in 1947.
When it was completed, it served and still serves as a meeting place for northern traditional rulers. The foundation stone for the House of Assembly structure at Lugard Hall was laid on May 18, 1959, by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto. The structure has three wings of seven blocks and the main chamber has a sitting capacity of between 250 and 300, and a members’ lounge which has capacity to seat 200 persons while the gallery for the public can accommodate 400 people. It served as the Northern House of Parliament and currently serves as the Kaduna State House of Assembly. An additional block was constructed in 1991 which currently serves as a printing press.
This was once the official residence of the Premier of the Northern region. Located in Unguwar Sarki it was built during the colonial era. It has a residential quarter, as well as the official administrative building. At the back of the building is an area where the premier goes to play a game called fives. After the assassination of the premier, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria took over the management of the edifice and turned it into a centre for historical research of international repute. Today, students, scholars, come from all over the country and beyond to conduct one research or the other. The centre is being run by a Director usually appointed by the university. Arewa House also accommodates a small museum where some important documents, regalia and personal belongings of the Sardauna are preserved.
The State House, Kawo, Kaduna, a massive structure by any standard was intended to be the official residence and office of the Premier of the Northern region. According to available records, the late premier used the office briefly to receive guests before he was killed in the January 1966 coup. He has not officially packed into the State House as of then. Today, the Secretary to the State Government is the major occupant of the building.
Though Kaduna is more than a hundred years old and has been playing the role of an administrative headquarters since 1917, it has all the trappings of a modern city, more so a political and business headquarters. It is still a growing city. In a country where maintenance culture is an aberration, it is remarkable that Kaduna has preserved its historical and colonial heritage, but whether it would be able to keep them intact for another 100 years is a question that is hanging in the air.