Saturday, June 15, 2019

Lagos: Mega city or mega slum?

Lagos: Mega city or mega slum?
September 12
16:00 2018

Each time it rains cats and dogs in Lagos, the mediocrity and patchiness of those who have ever been in leadership of Lagos come to the fore. At whatever time it rains heavily, it reveals how clueless the administrations of Bola Ahamed Tinubu, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode are. I make bold to say that Lagos inconveniently sits on a time bomb that is ticking so fast as Usain Bolt.

Last year, rains wreaked havoc in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve centre and one of Africa’s most packed and heavily populated cities. Residents on both—highland and mainland—woke up in many parts of the city to find their streets and homes flooded and their property, including cars and other valuable inundated and submerged. Between last year and this year, I doubt if anything has been done in Lagos to forestall and obviate a repeat of what we did experience last year in what Lagos-based politicians boastly call—megacity.

Between last week and this week, it has rained consistently for a few days and the experience of Lagosians has been very close to hell on earth. Two days ago, it took me many hours (that I was supposed to be using for productive ventures) to move from Ojodu-Berger to Ikeja, what it was not supposed to gulp more than fifteen minutes! Each time it rains for either some hours or a few days in Lagos, Lagosians helplessly waste many productive hours trying to plot a route through the angry traffic-jam, which characteristically dances to hip-hop music, wearing a three-piece suit. Nothing reveals the shapelessness of Lagos like rainfalls! And since the advent of democracy 19 years ago, the drainage problem that has been disgracing Lagos is yet to be solved.

I remember during the reign of Babatunde Raji Fashola in Lagos, some parts of Ikeja alone were demolished and rebuilt more than once, but each time it rained, the cluelessness of that administration would effortlessly come to the fore. And for eight years that BRF held sway in Lagos, he passed on the baton of the same problem to the next generation just as BAT also handed it down to him. Will Governor Akinwumi Ambode too pass the baton of drainage problem to the one who is coming after him?

Each time it rains heavily in Lagos, every part of the city looks like a slum. The gulf separating the Island and mainland is removed and the difference between Banana Island and Ajegunle is forcefully washed away by flooding. Also, order gives way to disorderliness each time it rains torrentially.

On the 10th of September 2018, on my way home, at the Allen roundabout, a mobile police was seen driving against the flow of traffic. It was a show of shame. When those who are supposed to be upholding the rule of law are the ones breaking it, where then lies the hope of the common man? Of course, no one could talk, because he was holding a gun. And who wants to be shot by an indisciplined and unknown mobile policeman? In a nation like Nigeria—where individuals are stronger than institutions, when you see lawlessness in high-places, you better look the other way if you do not want your children to become fatherless, overnight!

Over the years, Lagos has not kept up with its infrastructure needs and in recent times, under the leadership of Governor Akinwumi Ambode, it has become extremely dirty! Also, the growth and expansion of the city have been largely free-for-all and unregulated. This has resulted in inadequate and poor housing, the development of slum areas and inadequate water supply and waste disposal, amongst other problems.

Am I telling those in leadership of Lagos to do what has not been done elsewhere? No! Ambode and his team do not need to re-invent the wheel, solving waste discarding and drainage problems. These are twin devils revealing the unseriousness and cluelessness of those paddling the canoe of Lagos, especially in the mentioned critical areas.

Lagos can learn from Tokyo, Japan. In September 1991, a devastating typhoon/cyclone hit Tokyo. Thirty thousand homes were destroyed and 52 people died. So the Japanese started thinking. They started building the world’s largest storm drainage system. The drainage took 13 years to build: 1993-2006!

Lagos is like Mumbai. Both those in leadership in Lagos and Mumbai do not think like the Japanese. In July 2005, the Mumbai floods happened. 1094 people died. 12 years after, a similar event happened and nothing was on ground to avert it. Ours happens every year and there is nothing on ground. We do not have thinkers in leadership. Like Mumbai, like Lagos.

Unless Lagos-dwellers wake up and demand what they need, there will be more loss of precious lives, valuables and more floods, each year it rains torrentially. There is no problem that does not have a solution, but in a nation where politicians profit from problems facing our people and those suffering are praising their oppressors, we would continue as we are for a very long time. What we do have now is not a mega city, it is a mega slum.


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