13th October, 2010
As part of activities to mark the countryâ€™s 50th independence anniversary, the LagosÂ State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, Thursday evening commissioned the Freedom Park onÂ Broad Street in Central Lagos.
The celebrations, which were rounded off at the Marina waterfront with fireworks in theÂ early hours of Friday, began at the site of the former Broad Street Prisons Â Â in whichÂ the colonial masters had incarcerated Nigerians who opposed their rule. It has since beenÂ redeveloped into a tourism and recreation centre.
Addressing the audience before the commissioning of the Park, Governor Fashola saidÂ Freedom Park is symbolic of what Lagos and Nigeria had sought to achieve in the last 50Â years, adding that it represents the liberation of the human spirit from all that seek toÂ confine it.
â€œTaking into account our history and aspirations, this Park represents a journey towardsÂ a greater goal, the triumph of humanity over all forms of tyranny, both political andÂ social, and the ultimate liberation of the human spirit from all that seek to confineÂ it,â€ the Governor said.
According to him: â€œThe Park is also a testimony that points to our administrationâ€™sÂ commitment and belief in freedom as the essential purpose of governance; freedom fromÂ need, freedom from poverty and its many spin-offs, and freedom from insecurity.â€
Fashola said in the pursuit of such freedom, metropolitan regeneration and redevelopmentÂ have become the critical components of the efforts of his administration towards theÂ renewal of Lagos and the renewal of social traditions as well as traditions ofÂ infrastructural nature.
â€œAs we plan to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our Independence, the historic natureÂ of this prison to our national development and the illustrious Nigerians who had been itsÂ inmates, commended for a special dedication today, the Anniversary eve, our honour andÂ tribute to those who lost their freedom so that you and I can live in a free country,â€Â Governor Fashola said.
Naming those illustrious Nigerians who were inmates of the Prison to include, HerbertÂ Macaulay, Chief Cbafemi Awolowo, Chief Michael Imodu, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, among others,Â the Governor said the redevelopment intentionally preserved the 52 cells blocks whichÂ served as confinement for the inmates, â€œto give us a sense of the feeling of confinementÂ and restraint experienced by our fathers who served time here.â€
â€œThis is why we now named it Freedom Park because it was a road to our freedom and weÂ intend to keep it as a favoured destination to tourists and all those who seek freedom asÂ a memorial in honour of all those eminent and illustrious nationalists who protestedÂ against and successfully ended colonial rule and dominion in Nigeria,â€ he said.
Noting that the prison site was, before the redevelopment, not only an abandoned site butÂ also overgrown with weeds as well as being used as a refuse dump, Fashola commended theÂ initiator of the project, Architect Theo Lawson, who, according to him wrote a proposalÂ for the redevelopment which he presented before the State Executive Council.
â€œI believe that it is men and women like Theo Lawson that will prosper this state andÂ this country,â€ the Governor said, pointing out that the redeveloped site would henceforthÂ be a new destination on the Lagos social and tourist calendar.
Giving a short history of the Prison earlier, the Commissioner for Physical Planning andÂ Urban Development, Town Planner Francisco Abosede, said with the forced ceding of LagosÂ to the British Government in 1861 by Oba Dosumu, the colonial masters established theÂ first constabulary in 1863 which was the precursor of the Nigeria Police Force of today,Â adding that this signaled the incarceration of all who opposed colonial rule.
The Commissioner said the redevelopment of the site preserved in their original forms theÂ cells which served as confinement for the inmates of the prison, the chains use toÂ restrain their movements and the gallows where condemned prisoners were hanged, amongÂ other historic features.
He said Lagos, under the leadership of Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was determined toÂ preserve the stateâ€™s historic past adding, â€œit is a testimony of the focused leadershipÂ of Governor Fashola whose inspiration is turning Lagos into a world tourism centreâ€.
The Commissioner thanked all those who contributed to the realisation of the projectÂ including the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu 1, the Nigerian Controller ofÂ Prisons and Architect Theo Lawson who initiated the project adding that their names wouldÂ always feature in the annals of the preservation of the stateâ€™s historic past andÂ traditions,
Highlights of the occasion included presentations by artistes such as Lagbaja and others,Â a fashion show, drama presentation and other entertainment.
The celebrations moved to the Marina waterfront just before midnight where the GovernorÂ and other dignitaries watched the display of fireworks which began at exactly 12 midnightÂ to herald the 50th Independence of Nigeria. The fireworks, which lit the entire LagosÂ Island skyline, lasted for several minutes.
Present at the occasion were the First Lady and wife of the State Governor, Dame AbimbolaÂ Fashola, the Deputy Governor, Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan, the Secretary to the StateÂ Government, Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya, prominent Lagosians, including the ObaÂ of Lagos, Oba Babatunde Akiolu 1 and his white cap chiefs, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas,Â Chief Razak Okoya, Senator P.E.B. Fashinro, captains of industries, members of theÂ Diplomatic Corps and other top government functionaries.