Lagos is the former capital of Nigeria. Many uninformed foreigners still considered Lagos to be the capital of Nigeria. To this category of people, Abuja is relatively unknown. I have encountered many people and young students in Europe who expressed surprise that Lagos was no longer the capital of Nigeria.
It came to my mind recently to send an open letter to the governor of Lagos State and the Oba of Lagos. Among the rest of us, I am very convinced that these two important men are true Lagosians. In the letter which I’d not written, I would have asked them more than 21 questions. The most significant question would have been: Is this the Lagos of your dreams? An adept mind can quickly add, is this the Nigeria of our dreams?
In the letter, I would have pointed out to them many of the things that are wrong with Lagos and give them a few tips of how to work out the solutions. Have our politicians and leaders started listening to great ideas yet? In the content of the letter, I would have told them that the reason why Europeans preferred East African countries or even Gambia for their holidays is because they read and also think that Lagos is among the most dangerous cities in the world. This much is written in many Travel Guides to Africa that I have read myself. Sometimes in the bookshops, I read so much about Nigeria that I feared the shopkeepers could ask me to pay for the reading or buy a copy of those travel books.
Who comes to Lagos or not may not be important to the Oba or to the governor. But I am sure that the economic fortune of Gambia is enhanced by the number of visitors she receives annually from abroad. With important towns like Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe and Lagos Island itself, I can imagine what Lagos state stands to gain supposing it chooses to be a tourist attraction center. There are several tourist hotspots wasting away in Lagos. The problem of security of lives is important to visitors from outside.
Apart from foreign workers who have no choice but to adapt to our system, it is difficult to imagine why other foreigners may come to Lagos. I found the answer to that puzzle recently. One more reason why some foreigners actually come to Lagos is to verify what they have read or heard about Lagos. They are curious and are in search of the real situation-the truth. I actually felt Lagos in the air when the sounds of Lagos came on recently on a radio programme here in Stockholm. Instantly, I visualized market and traffic scenes at Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Palmgroove, Onipanu, CMS, Bariga, Okokomaiko, Mile 2, Iyana Iba and Ojuelegba among other busy places in Lagos.
Some reporters from Sweden came to Lagos to see things for themselves and to interview a number of people. I think this is called investigative journalism. One man who was interviewed thanked God for saving his life in the several okada accidents that he had been involved in the last 5 years. He talked about many who have died and others who are still lying in the hospitals as a result of okada and other types of road accidents. Is anyone taking records of the souls that are lost daily in Lagos due to reckless driving with rickety molues, danfo buses, kabukabus and okadas as our undignified means of transportation?
In the radio report which as mentioned earlier is a corroboration of what I have read in travel books about Africa, Lagos was confirmed as the most dangerous city in the world. Visiting Lagos was part of the experiments that the reporters had to do. They must have been to other places before in their life time. Now, I may not be in a position to give a non-bias response to this assertion. I lived in Lagos all of my life time in Nigeria. I refused to study outside Lagos and I almost succeeded in serving in Lagos but I landed in nearby Ibadan for my youth service in 1995/96.
Trying not to be bias, in my own view, Lagos is indeed a dangerous city but I don’t know if it is the most dangerous in the world. People who have travelled round the world to seek the truth, like these reporters from Sweden, may probably have a fair opinion. Afterall, what will reporters from Sweden benefit if they described Lagos as the most dangerous city even though we don’t have gun shops like New York? We have cult activities but they are yet to be described as massacres.
Indeed we don’t have gun shops, but has anyone read the descriptions of the guns and weapons that are used daily by armed robbers across Lagos? Some of the guns can be used under water! To what end will a common armed robber acquire such a sophisticated weapon? Are there treasuries or gold to be carted away from under the Lagos lagoon or bar beach?
In a recent article published in the Guardian Luke Onyekakeyah had written that “Lagos is the most disorderly city in the world” (LASG: Ban one way traffic in Lagos, The Guardian June 19 2007). That statement may be correct because in that article Luke who has visited more than 30 cities worldwide wrote extensively on the comparisons between Lagos and other cities in Africa and elsewhere.
I have not visited 30 cities yet but I have never in my life seen where people run to catch a danfo kind of bus and run to get off it. Once, a Ghanaian friend told me he landed in Lagos and was terrified to find out that there was a war going on in Nigeria. He was wrong, there was no war for real but he didn’t wait too long before he returned to his home country. Apparently, those were the days that Ghanaians have to visit some Nordic embassies in Lagos to get visas. This guy should not come to Lagos again; he could die of shock this time. Things have gone from bad to worse since that time.
In how many ways do we want to qualify dangerous before we can determine if truly Lagos is the most dangerous city in the world or not. Indeed, apart from deadly armed robberies which is present all over the country, Lagos transport is an accident on its own.
My dear Swedish reporters were dazed that Lagos has more than 11 million people when the entire Sweden, as big as it is, has only about 9 million people. The population of Lagos has outstripped the available dilapidating facilities even at the time that Lagos was still the capital of Nigeria. Urban town planners were definitely out of the picture as most parts of Lagos degenerated into absolute jungles.
In the name and spirit of patriotism, some of us will try to defend Lagos but we must not forget that we need to tell the truth so that policy makers can begin to see the need to do things the right way and take steps that will improve not just our international image, but the quality of the type of lives that we lead.
Lagos is a nice place to live. I love Lagos and it is a city that I am proud of. But it would not be asking too much if we can make it a more organised and safer place.When I finally write my letter, it will be nice to see what the new governor of Lagos and the Oba can do about the embarrassing status of their common domain, our dearest Lagos.
May the Glory of Nigeria come, soon!