By Niyi Anibaba
I say without any equivocation that this young man who is there now – Akinwunmi Ambode – has raised the stake of performance (in Lagos State) especially in infrastructure.- Olabode George, chieftain of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
About the time strident critics in Nigeria had begun to come to terms with the reality of Lagos as standing out of the pack in an environment of ill-performing states, posting distressing infrastructure-deficit indices, a global body has turned out a report suggesting the contrary. So on the one hand, we have the rare acclaim of a known censurer of the Ambode government; and on the hand we are being offered the partial picture of what is on the ground.
According to the 2018 Global Liveability Index released by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) World Bank, ‘’Lagos is the third worst city to live in.’’ It examined 140 cities and placed Nigeria’s economic and commercial hub at 138, Syria and Bangladesh being the only two lower.
Vienna, the Austrian capital, was ranked the most liveable city in the world. Melbourne in Australia came in second place after a seven-year at number one. Japan’s Osaka came in at third position.
The ranking was based on five parameters: Political and Social Stability, Education, Culture, Environment, Infrastructure and Access to Health. For Infrastructure among the other factors, ‘’the quality of road network, quality of public transport, international links, availability of good quality housing, quality of energy provision, quality of water provision and quality of telecommunications were considered.’’
Interestingly, by the reckoning of a widely-travelled and respected Nigerian financial expert Mr. Bismarck Rewane, these are areas where Ambode’s Lagos has fared excellently. Not known for flippant comments on political and economic matters because of his integrity, Rewane has become a favourite of newsmen on hot-button issues. So when the EIU report came up, he spoke what many have regarded as the objective view.
He criticised the world body for its judgment that Lagos is the planet’s third worst city to choose to live in. It’s an unfair and harsh verdict, Rewane told an interviewer on a leading TV News station operating from Lagos last week. He declared solemnly: ‘’First and foremost, I think the report is subjective and it is based on warped criteria. Certainly, in a survey that says that number 86 is Johannesburg when you talk about crime, terrorism, insurgency and Lagos is 138 out of 140, it’s unfortunate. I feel safer in Lagos than in Johannesburg…I must come out strongly that the EIU …is a bit subjective and does not reflect the truth. Lagos is definitely not the third worst city to live in in the world. I stand by that and I am ready to join issues with the Economic Intelligence Unit whom I respect anyway…’’
His stand tallies with those of most dispassionate observers who have taken keen interest in developments in this state growing by leaps and bounds every day. Adjudged the fastest growing and the fifth largest economy in Africa, Lagos is heading for the 20 million population mark, earning it the mega polis epithet. That poses inherent security and infrastructure challenges characteristic of such climes.
But that is precisely where to dig deep to find out if the Lagos authorities are aware the world is watching them to know if they are tackling the issues appropriately and in accordance with global best practices. The world has become a small space, any corner of which you can access from the comfort of your room. What happens in your backyard or bedroom is in the world domain, not even public domain. So the world can’t but notice the mammoth activity of urban renewal in Lagos. The entire state has become a veritable construction site, where new roads are either being built or existing ones are experiencing a face-lift via expansion and modernisation. And to secure lives, residential and office apartments which have failed safety are being pulled down to make way for befitting centres of commerce and habitation.
The transport sector is similarly being driven to the next level, with the phasing out of the ubiquitous molue. The more appealing luxurious Lagbus fleet are taking over on newly created corridors not only to add aesthetic beauty to the city landscape, but also to deepen the security of commuters.
There is now an unprecedented move by the Ambode government to trash the notorious slums in the state into the dustbin of the past. He has come under attack for attempting what his predecessors dared not to undertake: displacing the huge ghettoes and rickety markets to create for modern and affordable settlements and business centres.
But, as ex-Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings told complaining compatriots when he was rebuilding Ghana after years of decay, ‘’it is a bitter pill that must be taken for lasting relief’’. Time is proving him right, because Ghana has enjoyed a sane and equable political and economic history since his days. It was a challenge the current generation of Ghanaians would have been battling with if Rawlings hadn’t confronted it then.
I think when reports of the nature under review are coming up, their authors must also consider on-going projects of renewal in societies being assessed. That way, they would avoid producing halfway verdicts of the type being criticised by well-meaning Nigerians. The critics are not those in government or so-called sponsored commentators. They are those who believe the EIU has not been fair to an administration whose members are having sleepless nights in order to make Lagos safe and turn it into a tourism haven as well as the investors’ dream destination.
*Anibaba, a journalist wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos State