Community Politics and Policy

If you take me to Otodo Gbame, will I love Lagos?

It is now the typical gyration song that celebrates Lagos, more than Jazzman Olofin’s “Eko ile” and DJ Jimmy Jatt’s “Style”. Olamide is one of the icons of the ‘Success Story’ campaign in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Africa’s Big Apple. Like Olajumoke, Taiwo Ajayi Lycett, the Ebeano founders, and most of the others, bar one or two, he is, without doubt, one of the many reasons to believe in Lagos.

But amidst the pomposity of the pageantry you would find in the highbrow districts of Lekki, Ikoyi and similar environs – where local currencies are used to pay rent for foreign currencies – the stark reality of inequality is inescapable if you take a casual stroll through the city. Obalende, the environment that welcomes Mainlanders to the Island, is a concentration of dirty gutters beside which many sleep day and night.

Worse still are the conditions of residents of communities like Otodo Gbame, who cannot even manage such luxuries as sleep, because the Government has decided they are illegal occupants. A court order was incapable of preventing them from carrying out a forceful evacuation of persons already exposed to terrible living conditions. It is pitiable, it is offensive; in 2017, amidst the gongs of a Jubilee, it should not have been permitted to happen.

It happened, and the Government has moved on. The plans for the Lagos at 50 welcomes all to activities such as movie screenings at various cinemas to celebrate the exciting boom in the movie industry, and the launch of the ‘Educate Lagos’ platform, an innovative digital library to aid the ailing academic standards in the state.

Commendable as these are, the movie of the ordeal of the Otodo Gbame community is not only a teachable event for all with human sensibilities, but a pointer to the need to revaluate the extent to which Governments adopt consultative and inclusive measures in handling matters concerning the welfare and livelihood of persons at the lower rungs of our extended social family. Then, there is the matter of whether Governments are still subject to the law of the state. And could there be dire consequences should the status quo of progressive impoverishment proceed unchecked?

Thankfully, where the Government of the people had gone low, the people of the Government did go high. Good hearted Nigerians have not left the people of Otodo Gbame to their fate, with donations from well-meaning persons now at hugely significant figures.

As long as such persons exist, there remains proof of solidarity, of compassion, of hope for a better tomorrow.

Lagos is part of more than a thousand success stories, and they should all be recognized and celebrated. But, if you carry me go Otodo Gbame, will we find success stories there? Will I love Lagos?

To all the supporters of the deprived, especially of the Otodo Gbame community

Feature image: Justice & Empowerment Initiatives

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