For centuries Minna was just like any other Gbagyi settlement in the middle of Nigeria until the British colonial government decided to build the Kano to Baro railway in 1905. Minna was to be one the stops, a decision that changed its fortunes forever.
It’s first role was as labour camp run by the colonial administration for the purpose of building the rail tracks. Drawn from different parts of the country, these labourers formed the nucleus of the first Nigerian urban residents of Minna, and their descendants still live in the older quarters of the city till today .
With the completion of the rail line, the first steam engine used in Nigeria was built in the British city Leeds and sent over. It’s relic, a Hunslet 0-6-0ST, lies at the Minna train station, a tourist attraction.
It’s status as a quiet, provincial railway town changed in 1976, when it was made the capital of the newly created Niger State. Then began its next evolution as the city of civil servants, an administrative centre that served not only as the state capital but also the headquarters of xx local government area.
However, Minna was to benefit from the emergence of two homeboys, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, as military rulers in 1985 and 1998. Under the eight-year rule of Babangida, who seized power in a coup and proclaimed military president in 1985, the city got its biggest facelift as the streets weŕe dualised and decorated with street lights even in parts of the city yet to be inhabited. The city also got an international airport even though it’s economy couldn’t sustain domestic flights, with the main patrons being Babangida and friends who often came in private jets.
Abubakar, who succeeded dictator General Sani Abacha in 1998, had a short tenure of 11 months. Yet Minna benefited from his influence as more social amenities were deployed to the city, to which both former rulers retired.
In the subsequent years under successive civilian administrations, Minna has maintained a steady urban expansion. The city has grown from its oldest quarters such as Limawa, Kongila,Angwar Daji, and Abayi to newer areas such as Tungagoro,Chanchaga,Sango, Kafin-Tella, Kpagunku, Soje, Barikin Sale, Tunga and Bosso, among others.
The city has achieved a reputation as one of the most cosmopolitan and tolerant cities in central and northern Nigeria, where sectarian clashes are not uncommon. In the city of Minna churches and mosques coexist, and the beautiful Central Mosque in the city centre is rivalled by church buildings on Bosso Road.