Lagos: Megacity or Megaslum?, By Ademola Adeoye
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…we would continue as we are for a very long time. What we have now is not a megacity; it is a megaslum!
Each time it rains cats and dogs in Lagos, the mediocrity and patchiness of those who have ever been in the leadership of Lagos State comes to the fore. At whatever time it rains heavily, it reveals how clueless the administrations of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode have been. I make bold to say that Lagos inconveniently sits on a time bomb that is ticking as 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 the island and mainland woke up in many parts of the city to find their streets and homes flooded and their property, including cars and other valuables, inundated and submerged. Between last year and this year, I doubt if anything has been done in Lagos to forestall and obviate the repeat of what we experienced last year in what politicians boastfully describe as a megacity.
Between last week and this week, it has rained consistently for a number of days and the experiences of Lagosians have been one that is close to hell on earth. Two days ago, it took me several hours (that I was supposed to be using for productive ventures) to move from Ojodu-Berger to Ikeja, a journey ordinarily not supposed to take more than fifteen minutes! Each time it rains for either some hours or a few days in Lagos, the dwellers of the State helplessly waste many productive hours trying to plot a route through nasty traffic snarls. Nothing reveals the shapelessness of Lagos like rainfalls! And since the fourth return of the nation to democracy some nineteen years ago, the drainage problem that has been disgracing Lagos is yet to be resolved.
I remember, during the reign of Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) in Lagos, Some parts of Ikeja were demolished and rebuilt more than once, yet each time it rained, the cluelessness of that administration in solving the urban problems would effortlessly come to the fore. And after the eight years that BRF held sway in Lagos, he passed on the baton of the same problem to the next administration, just as the Tinubu administration had also handed it down to him. Will Governor Akinwumi Ambode also 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 islands and mainland of Lagos disappears and the difference between Banana Island and Ajegunle gives way and is forcefully washed away by flooding. Also order gives way to disorderliness each time it rains torrentially.
On September 10, 2018, on my way home, at the Allen roundabout, a mobile policeman 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 unknown mobile policeman? In a nation like Nigeria, where individuals loom larger than institutions, when you see lawlessness in high-places, you had 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 has been largely free-for-all and unregulated. This has resulted in inadequate and poor housing, the expansion of slums, inadequate water supply and poor waste disposal, amongst other problems.
Am I telling those in the leadership of Lagos State to do what has not been done elsewhere? No! Ambode and his team do not need to re-invent the wheel in solving waste management and drainage problems in the State. These are twin devils, revealing the unseriousness and cluelessness of those paddling the canoe of State, especially in the mentioned two 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. And they started the building of the world’s largest storm drainage system. The drainage took 13 years to accomplish, between 1993 and 2006!
Lagos is like Mumbai. Those in leadership in both 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 again and nothing was on ground to avert it. Ours happens every year and there is nothing on ground to forestall the recurrences. 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 still praising their oppressors, we would continue as we are for a very long time. What we have now is not a megacity; it is a megaslum!
Ademola Adeoye is a public affairs analyst.