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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eko Ile

I've lived away from Nigeria for the last set of years but if anyone asked me where I saw as home, 'Lagos' would be the answer. And I'll say it without batting an eyelid. I'm half Egba, half Ijebu(100% Ogun).  I was born in Lagos. Schooled in Lagos and lived there for a SIGNIFICANT amount of time.

Lagos is a funny place and that reflects the ironies in the sleeping giant, Nigeria. If I remember right, geographically it's the smallest state in the country. But then population wise, it's No 1(or No 2, behind Kano if you choose to follow the much maligned National Census of 2006). People who live in Lagos LOVE Lagos. Those who don't, can't stand the place. I mean, it's the economic beehive of Nigeria. If you want to make it on the Music Scene, you can't be viewed as a success until your CD's highly in demand in Traffic or the Alaba marketers are willing to take a punt on it. As a Business man, if you're not in with the Polo or Boat Club boys, Thisday and City People won't view you as having 'arrived'. Lagos is like the New York of Africa. I remember hearing Jay Z(Jay Zed if you prefer) and Alicia Keys's 'Empire State of Mind' for the first time and hearing the words "Concrete Jungles where dreams are made of/ There's nothing you can't do" and Lagos coming to mind.

Those who don't live in Lagos and subsequently dislike the place see it as an embodiment of all that is wrong with Nigeria. It's a filthy place they say.  And the Traffic? You can spend 6 hours (That's a flight to London) on a journey that ideally should last about an hour long. Not to forget the area boys who pop up at your window every now and then demanding your gadgets and wallet. And then those 'Owambe' parties that constantly pose parking problems. They do have valid points. My Father once got attacked twice within 40 minutes while in Traffic. If these weren't serious issues, organizations like LAWMA( Lagos Waste Management Authority) and LASTMA( Lagos State Traffic Management Authority) wouldn't exist.

Most Nigerians I know have some bond with Lagos. In 2007, when Babatunde Fashola got elected as Governor he naturally became the most relevant state governor in our eyes. To start with, the Lagos Gubernatorial elections had been one of the more keenly contested ones. Fashola wasn't exactly the most popular man around but he had the backing of the outgoing Governor, Bola Tinubu and a reputation as a silent achiever whilst serving in Tinubu's government as Chief of Staff. Musiliu Obanikoro had risen to power under the Alliance for Democracy (Tinubu and his allies too) umbrella. However, he decamped to the People's Democratic Party seeing the opposition as a more viable platform. Not to forget Jimi Agbaje, the Lagos Pharmacist who had some memorable Campaign tunes to go with his grassroots motivated brand. Fashola with Tinubu's backing conquered every hurdle in his path. Fashola lived up to expectations and made a name for himself early. Articulate and Intelligent( Something we Lawyers seem to have in abundance), he always gave a good impression when presented with the chance. Then he built on his electoral promises by acknowledging Lagos's status as a mega city and fulfilling some promises left behind by Tinubu which brought to existence the Bus Rapid Transit system which I'll simply describe as Lagos's take on those red buses that populate the streets of London. In Lagos, we've got them in red and blue. Fashola became the rock and roll Governor- Relatively young and understanding of the challenges citizens faced and genuinely concerned about bringing some change. He's someone we all want to see do well and thus far, he's been by far the standout Governor of the Yar' Adua/Goodluck years. He's so revered that even before he won his 2nd term ticket, he was already being spoken of as a potential Presidential candidate come 2015 (I'm pretty sure I expressed that on here). The odds of that are quite slim but time would surely tell.

Bringing me to my inspiration for this write up. Chibundu Onuzo called attention to the 'I See Lagos' project that the Fashola government put in place which gives Lagosians an idea of the plans they have to restore Lagos to the standard that made that luminary Fela Anikulapo Kuti sing "Ko ma sii mo re fo ri le o/A f'Eko ile".

Seeing Lagos progress fills me with Pride. As the economic hub of the nation, it suggests that all hope is not lost in fulfilling our ultimate desire that Nigeria would rise again. If Fashola can succeed in one of the most demanding and difficult jobs in Nigeria, expecting to see more effective political office holders in the future is surely not out of place. I shall take pleasure in returning home one day, raising my children in the same way my parents raised me there and telling them "Since I made it here, you can make it anywhere" whilst taking a chill pill and savoring the bliss Lagos would offer. (In case, you're wondering, No, the Fashola govt. isn't paying me to write this.

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