By Tony Monye
Quite like the introductory anecdote of the ill-starred eagle, Lagos, at various intervals, views itself as a chicken when in fact it is supposed to be like the king of all feathery fellows. It’s the tale of my dear Lagos – a country that views itself more from the booth of a state.
It is a plain fact that looking through a particular mirror for some sustained period of time only increases the likelihood of suffering the fates allied with our views. Beliefs and views enjoy cyclicality in association; and, he who doesn’t suffer belief in a specific view suffers great, only of it. I am a bit soaked in wonderment, bothering if Lagos does grasp this, especially given views’ extensive impact on plans, policies, vision and actions etc. Views define many spectacles and phenomena, shaping and strengthening them also. Oftentimes, the state lousily swings between contrasting philosophies and actions, resulting in unsteadiness in character and stirring up questions and fears, possibly about its intentions and path and, its assumed competitive amphitheatre. Lagos wavers between two poles, ‘enjoying’ and displaying duality in personality – between the short-winged, inelegant chicken and the broad-feathered imperial eagle. More often, the state exhibits manners more readily clasped in the world of the chickens but at other times, the Centre of Excellence (as Lagos is fittingly dubbed – hereafter as CoE) stunningly spreads its wings, presenting itself as the eagle, enamoured in its fullest glory.
As the short-winged unsophisticated fowl, Lagos seeks and straightforwardly finds un-alluring and disturbing comfort residing amongst ‘beautiful’ chickens. The CoE cuddles the preference of being seen dancing, singing, playing and hobnobbing with so many states that are more or less like the chickens [in total (e)valuation], especially in the context of key economic metrics, potential etc and even in composition. Lagos still thinks Abeokuta, honks about like Asaba, Port Harcourt or even Yenagoa when in deed the CoE should quickly shift aside these much smaller but growing cities. Ill-advisedly, Lagos instinctively plays tone-deaf to the challenging and quixotic loud calls coming from capitals like London, Berlin, Paris and Tokyo etc. Such backward-gazing, in defiance of the venerable accepted growth logics, creates a photo of Lagos attempting to smartly drive forward but strongly and cheekily staring at its rear-view mirror. Sadly and worryingly, Lagos is still to grasp that its unexplored night economy is theoretically larger than the day transactions of most of the states in the Nigerian federation. As the striking eagle, Lagos is incredibly huge. Its economic and demographic figures are amazingly staggering and numbing and, without difficulty, provoking intense feeling of jealousy, within the country and from other parts of the continent. Under the torchlight of appraisal, none of the other states in Nigeria are like Lagos. Not even Kano, Rivers and Delta. Or Abuja. Lagos compares beyond them all, for the state represents the country in its best miniature form. Continentally, the feeling still walks up the same alley. Nairobi daydreams Lagos; Accra hallucinates about Lagos, Kampala is delirious about Lagos and even Johannesburg arguably fantasizes about Lagos.
Obviously, Lagos is unique. The ebullience, the energy and the sparkle of living in Lagos are, perhaps, not found in any part of the globe. Most well-travelled Lagosians appreciate this and foreigners who have visited the state easily admitted it. Lagos is the dreamt destination of most non-Lagosian Nigerians and many West Africans, leading to the rapid, undisturbed growth in the city’s population, year in and year out. The CoE presents boundless opportunities to all and many, needing no special acumen to see. Viewed in the shape of a human, Lagos reveals and revels itself either in the form of a man that’s so close to his prime or she is that lass that’s about to bloom, with countless (most) eligible suitors waiting in the annexes.
As the awkward chicken, Lagos oftentimes invents, sustains and retains programmes that are so significantly of less value to its residents. For instance, the recently scrubbed environmental sanitation day was unbelievably with us for over three decades. With the three-hours movement restriction in place every last Saturday of the month, the exercise abundantly succeeded in impoverishing the residents of the state. If we assume a hypothetical figure of 1million active adult men and women that were, against their will, forced to remain indoors for the duration of the exercise, it meant a loss of 3million man-hours. But you know the figure is by far much larger, don’t you? Not a problem. Let’s advance. And, if we further assume the returns of five Naira per hour (N5/hr), it meant that for each environmental sanitation exercise, readily unfilled opportunities for raking in N15million were lost. This figure has both tax and wealth implications. One wonders why the Thursday exercise for traders is still being sustained! Is it really about cleanliness in the market environment or who exactly does it reward? Adjacent to wealth-making, cancellation of the Thursday exercise presents easy prospect for job creation, as professional cleaning companies can be hired. And, yet, as an unpolished fowl, instead of quickly welcoming its anticipated more rewarding, megacity multi-culturalistic future, Lagos behaves like the rain-beaten mother-hen that attempts to shelter only but a few of her residents. Driven by its leaders, Lagos strives and thrives on pettiness, erecting structures and nourishing ideas that only help in splitting residents of the state, as indigenes (omo oniles) and non-indigenes possibly in tribute to its mono-ethnic past. Naturally, yours sincerely was less than amazed when a former Governor of the state, without shame, ‘deported’ some notional ‘illegal immigrants’ to their respective states of origin on some very frivolous charges.
One wonders if these ‘illegal immigrants’ ever sought for and got entry permissions in the form of visas around the statue of the Three Wise Men (Lagos Port of Entry)! Besides, the various governments’ slogans have remained disappointingly and grossly tribal, in spite of the greater wisdom, which should disclose, and revel in more inclusiveness. The challenge isn’t because it’s tribal. No, it’s some goodish distance away. Slogans, generally, have their target audiences. Local slogans will appeal to only those with the understanding, thereby, neglecting the larger majority of residents. No one is harping on ignoring Lagos’ tribal beginning or ethnic past but it’s more rewarding to nippily embrace the state as a growing cosmopolitan centre. Adopting multiculturalism as Lagos’ dominant paradigm (in dictating and shaping thoughts, policies, plans and visions) can only be for the good of the city in the shape of larger vision, broader plans and policies etc. A message only to the minority is certain to hurt the sensibilities of the majority whilst depriving itself of their patronage. The government should not be in some haste to forget that variety is not just about spicing life, it is un-debatably another source of growth – the growth of the state. In assessment, endlessly suffering the belief that Lagos is a tribal enclave circa bears very little berries.
––To be concluded next week.
–Tony Monye, Managing Partner
Rham Durham Consulting Ltd