In 1973, three years after the end of Nigeria’s civil war, the Federal Military Government acquired a large tract of land comprised of a sprawling old settlement known as Oluwole Village in the Iganmu (central Lagos) for the purpose of building Nigeria’s National Arts Theatre. The theatre was to be a key edifice to grace the African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) that Nigeria hosted in 1977. The festival was one of several socio – cultural events lined up to show case a resurgent and unified Nigeria poised to tackle the challenges of reconstruction and development after a three – year civil war that claimed the lives of over one million people. The grandiosity of the theatre only masked the brutality and injustice meted out to the local landowners.
Without adequate notice or consultation, the Federal Military Government forcibly evicted the Oluwole villagers from their ancestral homes. Following largely uncoordinated protests by the residents, the federal authorities retrospectively paid paltry sums as compensation to some of the evictees for their demolished homes. Other evictees that insisted on resettlement were allocated vacant plots of land in Ijora – Badia, located less than one kilometre away, measuring on average, 30 feet by 50 feet. Otherwise, the evictees were abandoned to their fate, to find their own means and resources to build new houses for t heir families. Many built sheds made mostly of stilts and corrugated iron sheets of various shapes and sizes a seach family could afford.
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