While Lagos government’s goal to make the Atlantic city a post-industrialised mega city, seems to be tied to the idealistic notion of bringing the future to Africa, the venture has come at quite the cost of human and material sacrifice. And though it’s true that sacrifices have to be made for such lofty heights to be reached, the floods experienced at Lekki after rain fell for a consecutive five days in Lagos leaves us itching our head, trying to understand if the end even justifies the means of the city’s high-minded administrators.
All the Lagos state government has done to improve its infrastructures and quality of living only seems to widen the gap between the social classes. In the last few weeks, the Lagos state government aided the forceful overrun of Otodo Gbame by estate developers who want to reclaim the ancestral land for luxury condo flats. The developers did not only do this violently, it also marked another one of many questionable actions taken by the state government under the altruistic ideal of a better developed Lagos as the dream for all. The comparative reality however gleans a myopic vision of a dream city set the backdrop of decaying infrastructure and alarming levels of overpopulation.
Despite the indefinite ban of roadside hawking, there’s still incessant traffic on Lagos roads, a far cry from what was promised when street hawkers were cited as one of the major causes of gridlocked roads. Where another state government may have considered providing alternative transportation means for its commuters, Lagos chose the lowest hanging fruit to blame: its own people. This the typical Lagos city reaction to problems that require multi-faceted solutions, with the government seemingly more concerned with short-term theatrics over providing long-term value for its people.
Over the past few days, pictures of flooded Lekki streets have become eponymous with Lagos. Though the irregularity of rainfall and global warming are viable causes, land reclamation by estate developers in cities close to the Atlantic ocean often leads to a rise in water levels. Clearly, while the government eagerly sated investor hunger, very little attention was paid to making the effect of their construction work bearable on the environment .
But this merely adds to the list of ways Lagos has failed to ease the weight of living for its people. Free flowing water in our pipelines have become pipe-dreams that no one is even too concerned about because most citizens are resigned to the fact that it’s not on the government’s agenda. Even sustainable electricity that appears to be on the government’s agenda has failed to be implemented regime after regime. Now our drainage system was put to the test and it failed us. It begs the question of whether we can trust a state that simply ignores decaying post-colonial city infrastructure with an imagined post-industrialised Lagos that requires constant policy implementation and maintenance.
Tax payers deserve to be treated better given their contribution to the state’s purse which is expected to fund a part of the proposed Lagos Metro Rail Transit project that will cost N456 billion according to the Managing Director of The Infrastructure Bank Plc. Sadly, these constructions are given more priority that the people in the state and all we have to show for the “development” is a more endangered middle class. Fewer people can access these infrastructures with the increase in cost of living as we saw people get sent packing from the homes they grew up in because the estate was in demand and they couldn’t afford it anymore.
The flood at Lekki is a sharp reminder to Lagos state that being a mega-city comes with a lot of challenges that they have to learn to manage properly. The citizens are just as important as the infrastructures they are building to disillusion investors, if not more so. More attention needs to be paid to meeting the immediate needs to improve the standard of living of Lagos citizens beyond impressive graffiti on walls and good looking streets.
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You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu