For close observers of Lagos, Lagos hasgrown beyond what it used be in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s, 90’s or even from the year 2000; not only in terms of population but in land mass as well. Any wonder, the United Nations observed that by the year 2015, Lagos would be the world’s third largest mega-city – a city as fast-paced as New York, Tokyo, Mumbai, Berlin, Dubai and such large cities that don’t sleep because night and day simply roll into each other like the eclipse of the sun or moon.
One need not look far to understand why Lagos is on such a fast lane. First, it was Nigeria’s capital territory until 1991 when former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida moved the seat of power to Abuja. Lagos, even with the transfer of Nigeria’s administrative seat never lost its status as Nigeria’s commercial capital hence major corporate entities in Nigeria still have a presence in Lagos given its closeness to the ports amongst other reasons. The result is that every day, persons from all parts of Nigeria flock to Lagos in search of better economic fortunes. Of these persons, many are first timers who have come to stay for good.
With such deluge, one can only imagine the pressure on available resources, on infrastructure, housing, hospitals, roads, transportation, and schools as well as upon those who manage and govern Lagos. Imagine the huge number of persons in search of any type of accommodation at any one time, on the job market, trying to get from one end of Lagos to another, seeking medical attention or even trying to get their children into schools. The pressures are real.
Lagos no longer consists of only those areas people used to know as Lagos. The reason is simple. With more and more people flocking into Lagos in such huge torrents, Lagos began to lose its capacity to withstand the population explosion. People began to flock to areas, which before now where non-existent in their mental maps. They became explorers and discoverers of new territories, and by that survivalist instinct, the expansion of Lagos beyond the territories known as Lagos became only a matter of time, which is absolutely normal for a city experiencing such continual explosion of human traffic.
Today, you hear of places like Ajangbadi, Ikotun-Egbe, Okota, Ago, Egbeda, Alimosho, Idimu, Abule-Osun, Abule-Egba, Iyana-Ipaja, Meiran and such far-flung places, which before now didn’t exist at least not in the consciousness of Lagos residents.
With this explosion in population and exponential growth and development, Lagos now has two types of residents – those who live in the hinterlands or outside the city centre, and those who live in the city centre.
Obi is one of such residents who reside in the hinterland of Lagos. Like many of his compatriots, he is like an umbilical cord still tied to the city centre. Every day, he has to travel from his hinterland abode to the city centre to eke a living. Every day, he has to wake like the cock in other to make it early enough to work, otherwise getting to his work place punctually will be a mere wish. He has to endure getting sweaty struggling to get into one of the BRT buses and getting to work fatigued and tired because he didn’t get enough sleep.
In the hinterland, I am told accommodation is quite affordable, but that’s understandable as no one who can avoid the hinterland would want to live there even if they have to live in a big house at little or no cost.
But aside affordable housing, residents of the hinterland live in pitiable conditions. There are no motorable roads, and where there are, they are deplorable, which often is the cause of long traffic jams and gridlocks. It is usually not strange for people to be stuck in crawling traffic for as much as five hours every day sometimes getting home in the dead of night and still have to be strong enough to go through the pain again and again.
Transportation is simply hellish. The Lagos State Government provided some BRT buses, but these are far too few to ferry the thousands who daily need to get from point A to B. Most times, it is a painful struggle to get on these buses.
Obi laments that for him to get to work early; he has to leave home as early as 5am regardless of when he got home the previous day. He constantly complains of fatigue and body ache resulting from inadequate sleep and rest. It is really bad. Residents of Lagos hinterland enjoy little or no amenities; they provide everything for themselves – water, power, security, etc. For hinterland residents whose workplaces are in the city centre, they are awed by what they see, and wonder if this is Lagos or some place overseas.
Tunde is the other Lagos resident. He lives in Victoria Island and has never been to places like Ajangbadi or Ikotun-Egbe. So, when you tell him you live in such a place, he wonders whether that’s in Lagos or some far-flung place outside of Lagos. For him, Ikeja, Maryland, Surulere, Ajah, Lekki and Ikoyi are all that exists in his mental map of Lagos. In these places, the roads are relatively well paved with pedestrian sidewalks; there are street lights as well as traffic light to control the flow of traffic.
Even though Tunde has to get to work early, he doesn’t have to wake like a cock because he doesn’t have transportation worries. He owns a car and his office is close by.
Unlike his counterpart in the Lagos hinterland, he has access to choice eateries, Malls like Shoprite and the Palms. He can take a nerve relaxing stroll at weekends. At least the taps are flowing with water and if he has to provide power or security for himself, it is because that’s the challenge of living in a country called Nigeria.
The worries and pains of these two Lagos residents are different. They are two sides of a coin where one side is the head and the other the tail. Of course we know who the head is.
Now let’s go back to Obi who keeps wondering why there is a great gulf between his own Lagos and Tunde’s like that between hell and heaven. In fact, he has gone from wondering to asking anyone who cares to listen why there are two worlds for residents in the state and who fulfill their financial obligations to the state regardless of whether they reside in the hinterland or in the centre. Obi believes government collects taxes from them and deploys same for the development of the “big peoples” quarters while ignoring the fact that life is hellish for them.
I believe we may never achieve a classless or egalitarian society, but the Lagos state government should do more to bridge this gap and provide better living conditions for those in the hinterlands. The Lagos hinterlands should be made live-able, habitable and comfortable. Making the lives of hinterland residents worth living should be of utmost importance and foremost priority.
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Toks Ero blogs at www.toksero.org
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