LONDON CHRONICLES (14): NEW YEAR

The depths of winter. Everywhere was cold. Rainfall was incessant but mainly showers. None of the tropical storms from back home. Materials covered in Term 1 were relatively familiar and he had done his best and scaled easily without too much reading. It was also a lonely winter. He could have travelled home but he underestimated the length of the break and he was stuck in this strange but increasingly familiar land. He decided to visit some monuments. The British had preserved too many monuments. They realized the value of history and had ensured history would remain with them.

Being a ‘Christian’ state, it seemed they had imbibed too many Old Testament injunctions about ancient landmarks, memorials and altars and had zealously protected their monument and landmarks. In his early days, he had heard about the discovery of an ancient Roman Shrine on the proposed premises of a new Bloomberg Building and had heard that Bloomberg would preserve the shrine while putting up a building above it. The British Museum was also a repository of archaeological findings with the museum touting its role as a preserver and exhibitionist of ancient material which may have been destroyed or not sighted again if those items had been left in the countries of origin. The argument had merit especially considering the numerous artworks that had been destroyed in the name of Christianity and Islam which had been brought in by ancestors of the British (Christianity in this case). The irony of it all was that descendants of idol worshippers now export Christianity back to the descendants of missionaries!

The other challenge with ancient landmarks in Nigeria is the greed and philistinism of the Nigerian wealthy. It seemed the rich in Nigeria were not satisfied with wealth. They had to oppress with the wealth. Too many public goods had been acquired by private hands in Nigeria with no sale taking place. He was happy when a former minister of the FCT had decided to restore the original plan of the city and demolished some of the buildings of the “High and Mighty” in the land who had acquired those properties illegally and deprived the masses some amenities available in the western countries. To make matters worse, there are no iconic buildings in Nigeria asides the national theatre. He is not even sure what the Presidential Villa looks like talk less whether it has distinct architecture.

He visited Stonehenge and Bath, and was impressed with the preservation, the extent modern technology had been deployed to make the monuments very accessible and navigable. Instead of going about with a guide, pre-recorded audio guides were available either free or at minimal cost to provide information for tourists. The guides were also individualized so each tourist can go at an individual pace instead of crowd sourced. There were also informative notes at each site and the mass of people who visited both places in winter was quite impressive making him wonder how those places would be in the tourist season of summer. As usual, such visits left him sad considering how Nigerian monuments languish or are destroyed. He promised himself a visit to more monuments in the UK as this visit left him yearning for more.

Eugene Gant

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