LAGOS: MEGA CITY OR MEGA MADNESS

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No doubt, Fashola government in Lagos state means different things to different people. To the elite, who wish to drive his car without hindrance through a well-flowered road, a road that is devoid of poor children hawking the streets, with beggars completely packed off the visible arena of passage; to him, Fashola is a hero. It is a different case to a poor woman who had lived all her life selling in one corner of the road, a condition forced down her throat by immense poverty, with her children hawking all over Lagos at the risk of being arrested by the police or even be crushed by moving vehicles. These children suppose to be in school, but public education has completely collapsed and becoming increasingly expensive. When she is ill she has to go to native doctor because public health is dead; a small apartment she stays will either soon be pulled down or is already demolished in the interest of Mega city project; to her, Lagos has never been so hellish as it is now. Of the estimated 18 million Lagosians, 11.55 million (64.2%) are living below poverty level; the question is, under genuine democracy who really own Lagos?

Overview of Mega Project

The major claim of the present ACN administration is to turn Lagos into one of the most modern mega cities of the 21st century. Light rail is said to be under development, in the form of Lagos Rail Mass Transit. The proposed light railway is expected to consist of blue-line districts on the outskirts and inner red-line destinations. The Badagry Expressway, linking Lagos to Benin Republic, is also being rehabilitated by various contractors.

A proposed Eko Atlantic City is a housing project that is aimed at accommodating the main Lagos elites, screening them away completely from poor Lagosians, who incidentally are the overwhelming majority. This is in addition to traffic lights being fixed, streetlight and flower being planted. All these are to transform Lagos from Mega slum to Mega city, but the question is, where can you hide 15 Million poor Lagosians? Drowned them in the sea or shoot them at sight? Or be completely relocated to other towns? Only time can tell the direct outcome of this war between the rich and true Lagosians who are majorly poor.

At what cost?

But a big question is - at what cost is this entire mega project been carried out? The answer to this question is obvious; this is being carried out at the cost of making life much more difficult for the already poor and impoverished Lagosians. People of Makoko community will never forget Monday, 16 July 2012. On this fateful day, the whole of Makoko community, a community largely dominated by low-income earners whose major business is fishing, was completely demolished on the order of Lagos State Government. This unjust action was carried out with just 72-hours quit notice to the inhabitants who had been living there for decades. The marine police corporal in a desperate attempt to carry out their assignment shot and killed chief Timothy Agbe and left scores of others injured. Presently, over 20,000 people have been rendered homeless by this callous action, many of whom are children and women. The pictures of pregnant women and less than 5 year old kids sleeping under bridge have been everywhere on the internet, some are now sleeping in their various shipping boat on the lagoon at night. 

Lagos State is presently the most indebted state in the country. As at June 30, 2012, Lagos state is said to have accumulated an external debt profile of $517,677,672 (more than half a billion dollars), despite having a monthly revenue of about N33 billion. This debt is strangely increasing by the year and the government seems at liberty borrowing as if these debts will once again enjoy forgiveness or grow wings and fly away.

This explains the reason why the Lagos state government is getting more and more desperate by the day to squeeze as much as possible from the Lagos state workers who presently receive the worst salary in the country. Recently the Lagos state government increase the tax payable by Lagos State workers; in essence cut down their wages, all in the attempt to pay this fictitious debt the Lagos State government has incurred over the years. Recently, the tuition fee in Lagos State University (LASU) was increased by over 750%, while the official minimum wage in Lagos state is less than N17, 000.00, making education completely out of reach of ordinary Lagosians. Most of these students are presently at home, because they cannot afford the fees.  All these are desperate attempt to shift the debt burden on the ordinary Lagosians.

The recent draconian traffic law in the state is also an attempt in the same direction. The law is not intended to make the traffic better but rather to further make life much more difficult for people.  For example, how can we explain the draconian law that says assault on traffic officer, attract a fine of N100,000.00 when most of these officers are liars and excessively corrupt? This is in a state that is paying less than N17,000.00 as minimum wage. Driving in a direction prohibited by the road traffic law  attract one year imprisonment and forfeiture of vehicle to the state, all this in a state where there is no conspicuous sign to show the direction prohibited by the road traffic law.
All these attacks on the people is at the cost of making Lagos a mega city for the 1% rich Lagosians at the expense of 99% ordinary Lagosians.

Who is bearing the burden?

Despite the fact that this mega city project is 100% in the interest of the elites and it means enormous pain for the overwhelming majority of Lagosians, this Government is still placing huge financial burden on workers and the poor. Recently medical doctors working in Lagos state hospitals were sacked by the Lagos State Government, all because they demanded for implementation of COMMESS (minimum wage for medical doctors throughout Nigeria) which was contained in an agreement that was jointly signed by the State Government and Doctors in 2010. When the government saw that they were loosing face everywhere, they quickly recalled the doctors but up till now COMMESS has not been implemented in Lagos State. Lagos civil servants are one of the worst paid in Nigeria, all to ensure contractors and political colleagues are kept happy.

The real Lagosians are very angry and very desperate to better their lots. They have endured for too long and are already running out of patience. Though they are not yet aware how powerful they are in overthrowing this despotic and extreme minority Government of Fashola, events will clarify it to them in the coming period; they will soon be aware that Lagos belongs not to the elites, but to over 15 million ordinary people of Lagos.

Workers Alternative to Mega Project

Lagos is obviously at present a slum and must be developed into a city. Lagos requires mass rail system, good roads, industry, lighting, good qualitative education, health facilities, etc. To fix Lagos, less than ten percent of the amount presently expended is enough. Do away with political jobbers, the thieving contractors, patronizing family friends and profit first motivation. With mass public works, living wages for the workers, active incentive for the teachers and the doctors, a real ‘mega city’ will be built. A mega city that contains decent affordable accommodation for ordinary Lagosians, where poor children are not on the street because they are in the school with qualitative free public education, where a major improvement in the environment is not accompanied with pain and woe for ordinary Lagosians. That is, a Lagos of the real Lagosians, in the interest of Lagosians and for the Lagosians.

Conclusion

Does it require the wisdom of Solomon for Fashola Government to realize and pursue the alternative highlighted above? Why has it been so difficult for them to sympathize with the plight of common people of Lagos? When will they be tired of making life difficult for ordinary masses? Well, it is only us the ordinary Lagosians who are seeing this as wickedness and unjust, they cannot see it as such. We always see things from different point of views from them and therefore we can never come to the same conclusion.

Under capitalism, within which this government operates, interest of the rich must always be preserved at the expense of the ordinary people. Interest rate must be paid for loans, even if every worker dies of hunger. Therefore, it is only our government that can see things the way we see it and can do things the way we want it. The most important pre-requisite to have our own government is to have our own political party, party of ordinary Nigerians. They have their own parties, many of them. The leadership of Labour formed one, the Nigerian Labour Party, but they refused to mobilize into it, nature abhors vacuum, if we refuse to enter the party, wrong and enemy of the people will manage it for us. It is our party and we must control it in the interest of the people and for the people.