Point of Interest

Race Course

Nigeria / Africa

The Tafawa Balewa Square is a 14.5-hectare ceremonial ground, originally called ‘Race Course’.  The race course, as it is still known locally, was built in 1972 but is really more a ceremonial ground more than a race track. It used to be a sports field that hosted horse racing but included a section for football and a ground to play cricket.  The land was provided to colonial authorities by Oba Dosunmu (c 1823-1885) in 1859, who thereafter built up the surrounding areas.  The course was later demolished by the government of Yakubu Gowon (born 1934) to make way for Tafawa Balewa Square.  In its heydays the course hosted the Empire Day parades.  The horse racing track was about seven to eight furlongs or a mile.  In 1960 the course was redeveloped to celebrate Nigeria’s Independence and the lowering of the Union Jack.  The entrance to the square has gigantic sculptures of four white horses hovering above the gate and seven red eagles, which are symbols from the national emblem signifying Strength and Dignity.  Other monuments in the square include the Remembrance Arcade 1 (with memorials to World War I, World War II and Nigerian civil war victims).  The 26-storey Independence House, built in 1963, was for a long time the tallest building in Nigeria.

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