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EAGLE SQUARE

Eagle Square: Abuja’s melting pot

Eagle Square is a big “market of its own.” During various programmes held there, especially political and religious functions, it provides some sort of seasonal employment for different businessmen and women.

Ndubuisi Orji

Eagle Square, Abuja, is renowned as the biggest gathering spot for politicians in the country. But unknown to many, there are actually many sides to Eagle Square. Beyond being Nigeria’s political melting pot, the arena has its economic, social, religious and security sides.

Located near the Federal Secretariat in the Central Area of Abuja and a stone’s throw from the Three Arms Zone, which houses the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, Eagle Square gained prominence in 1999 when it hosted the second military-to-civilian transition. Simply put, the Fourth Republic kicked off at the square.

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After that historic event, where the then Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, handed power to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999, bringing an end to 16 years of military intervention in the polity, Eagle Square has hosted several political, religious, economic and social events.

Since the inception of the present democratic dispensation, several major political decisions that have had far-reaching implications for the country have been taken there. From political parties’ conventions to nominations of presidential candidates, to various national celebrations, Eagle Square has seen it all. It serves more or less as a coronation ground for Nigeria’s Presidents and political party leaders. It was at the square that former Presidents Obasanjo and the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, as well as President Muhammadu Buhari, began their tenure after taking their oath of office.

Obasanjo and former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in at Aso Rock, following the death of Yar’Adua, also ended their presidencies at Eagle Square, after handing over to their successors.

Therefore, for politicians in the country, it is not just a public square, it is a place where political dreams are realised, as well as a place where ambitions are buried. Former Rivers State governor, Peter Odili, for instance, will not forget Eagle Square in a hurry, for it was within the precincts of that arena that his dream to be Nigeria’s President was buried, during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary in 2007.

Apart from the main bowl, where major events are staged, the square has a large open space, which serves as a parking lot for civil servants who work at the Federal Secretariat nearby. Within the parking lot, there is a food arena that houses more than 20 food vendors, serving various local dishes, and a small fruit market. The food arena and the fruit mart service the workers at the secretariat and its environs.

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While residents of several states across the country rely on stadia and in some instances school fields for major political events, social and religious activities, Eagle Square is the major venue for outdoor events in Abuja.

A civil servant, Tunde Samuel, who works in one of the ministries at the Federal Secretariat, told Abuja Metro that Eagle Square provides a lot of succour to people who have something to do within the secretariat.

“For somebody like me, who works at the Federal Secretariat, without Eagle Square, where will you get lunch to eat, except you bring your meals from home? Apart from these food vendors, the closest eateries around are at the Federal Capital Development Authority,” Samuel said, pointing at the food arena.

He added that “the place is a market of its own. Churches hold programmes there. Political parties hold their programmes there too. PDP did their convention there. APC held their own there too. I am sure they all paid to use the place. Eagle Square is a market of its own.”

Eagle Square is a big “market of its own.” During various programmes held there, especially political and religious functions, it provides some sort of seasonal employment for different businessmen and women. Abuja Metro gathered that, during such events, all sorts of traders besiege the area to hawk their wares.

It was gathered that the traders, some of whom come from outside Abuja, usually go back home with smiles, because of the boom they normally experience.

A trader who gave his name as Nnamdi confirmed to Abuja Metro that, ordinarily, people are not allowed to trade along the entrance to the Eagle Square. However, he explained that when there is a big event, “traders are allowed to come here in large numbers to do their business without any form of harassment.”

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Due to its strategic location, and the number of persons that converge there for events, especially political events, Eagle Square also has its security challenges. It was around the Square that terrorists announced their presence in the centre of Abuja on October 1, 2010.

The 2010 Independence Day celebration, which had President Jonathan and other top government functionaries in attendance, was brought to an abrupt end when two bombs went off around the square in the course of the celebrations.

After that incident, the security agencies resorted to restricting vehicular movement around all the roads leading to Eagle Square during major political events. This disrupts other activities around the area, while the political events last.

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Tokunbo David
Tokunbo David

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