Lagos: the survival of the determined
Lagos is a city where near anarchy prevails rather than government. Lagosins respond to the chaos by relying on their own ingenuity to get by
It’s rush-hour near the stadium in Lagos where Nigeria has just lost a football match. Streams of young men run through the street to let off steam as crowds dive into the tangle of battered yellow minibuses. A dozen passengers pack into one bus, and the driver grinds into gear, lurching at full throttle to gain a six-inch lead over his competitor. The side-view mirror has to be pulled in for the bus to squeeze through. Girls balancing bags of water on their heads edge their way through the traffic to vend ...view middle of the document...
But to look upon Lagos simply as the archetypal urban nightmare is to miss the point. Lagos, as the economic, cultural and, until 1991, political powerhouse of mighty Nigeria, is, for all its faults, also a magnet pulling some 300,000 people every year. The streets aren’t all paved with concrete, let alone gold, but Lagos appears as an El Dorado in the poverty-stricken countryside where work can be found and dreams of the good life can come true. In reality, most find it a daily struggle to make ends meet, yet an iron-clad conviction that those dreams will materialize one day gives Lagos a vibrant beat. If you ask Lagosins about the glue that holds their city together they
On the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, a typical traffic jam—locally known as a “go-slow”.
A town is like an animal. A town has a nervous system and a head and shoulders and feet. A town is a thing separate from all other towns, so that there are no two towns alike. And a town has a whole emotion.
John Steinbeck, American writer (1902-1968)
The State of Lagos spans 3,577 km2 which includes the metropolitan area of about 1,183 km2, of which only 728 km2 is dry land. A new governor and legislator were scheduled to take control from the military administration on May 29, 1999. The area is divided into 20 local government districts (whose leaders will also be elected) which have suffered from severe underfunding. Population The most recent census (1991) reported a population of 5.6 million. However, it is widely discredited because many of the city’s inhabitants returned to their villages of origin during the census. Experts generally estimate that the population ranges between 10 and 13 million, composed
speak of endurance. For some, it is a capacity to withstand suffering. This helps to explain the much talked-about boom in evangelism. “People are seeking spiritual solutions to their economic problems,” says Pastor Ebenezer Babajide, who opened his Jesus Generation Gospel Church last year in the annex of a nursery school. But there is a drive that goes beyond simply the will to survive. “In Nigeria, there is a spirit to aggressively pursue the good life,which you won’t find elsewhere on the continent,” says Felix Morka, executive director of the non-governmental Social and Economic Rights Action Centre. The oil boom beginning in the 1970s raised expectations for a better life which people managed to hang on to, even after the economy took a nose-dive in the 1980s and the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies made life more difficult. “It’s as if people are struggling to reverse the economic downturn as individuals,” says Morka. “Everyone wants capital to start their own business. This industriousness is very Nigerian but the struggle is even more fierce and stark in Lagos where there is such a concentration of pressures, resources and population.” Wheelbarrows rented out as beds Instead of exploding under pressure, Lagosins have pumped that much...