There is no doubt that development and the needed leadership that should have transformed Lagos into a functional city comparable to some of the best cities in the world took flight with the forced exit of the civilian administration in 1983. Soon after, this city was left in the hands of military administrators who had no vision to respond to the dynamics of an emerging mega city that would soon become one of the fastest growing cities globally. With this, Lagos lost sixteen solid years of development.
Imagine if successive military administrations had responded to the housing problem the way Lateef Jakande did with the Low Cost Housing Scheme? The story would have been remarkably different today and to think that those houses were built when there was not so much petrol-dollar compared to the billions earned by successive military rulers. It was not until 1999 that residents began to heave a sign of relief. This city has never looked back since then.
The state government in the last nine years has demonstrated that though these problems are massive, they are surmountable. The systemic decay and painlessness of sixteen years will take several years to undo but if this momentum is sustained, Lagos may yet see the glorious years. But the point must be made that if current drive to make Lagos comparable to some of the best cities must succeed, Lagosians should be carried along. They must know that no matter how painful some of these decisions may be, they would ultimately be for their own good.
Will the resident for example, see the demolition of a house that blocked a drainage path a punitive measure or will they see it as an effort to sanitize the city and make life worth living again for them? Why would residents litter the environment willfully for example knowing that government spends a lot of resources on the environment? The reason could be that they do not have a sense of belonging as Lagosians. The task before the state administration is the need to re-orientate the residents that this city belongs to them.
What would make an average Parisian love his or her city, or a New Yorker or a Berliner? They will even wear shirts claiming boldly- I Love New York, I am a Parisian for Life- these are indications that the residents of those world acclaimed cities have a certain emotional attachment to them. This should also be so in Lagos. Why can’t we have memorabilia with the inscriptions like I Love Lagos, I am Lagosian for Life or Proud Lagosian for example?
Some Lagosians have the tendency to be destructive. This will be a problem as government builds a new Lagos. The state is taking shape but requires all hands to be on deck including the Federal government who must recognize the special status of Lagos as crucial to the Vision 2020 dream because this city is Nigeria’s window to the world. The state must also engage the civil society; NGOs working in Lagos for this new I Love Lagos Revolution. We must stop those negative habits that have put Lagos on the notorious map of being one of the most dirtiest and hostile cities in the world.