Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Census 2006 Counts Some Out Of Lagos Again
Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa
March 22, 2006
On my way back to Nigeria some years ago, I was advised by a lady that I would not find a civilized person living in Lagos. Since I was hired by the Federal Government, I might not have a choice over my station. Luckily, I was stationed in Lagos. On my visit to Campus Square, my old neighborhood, one of our uncles there told me if I walk from Tokunbo Street to Lafiaji, nobody would know me even if I told them my name. Can you imagine going unrecognized in your village? The fact is Lagos has changed for the worse. It simply can not handle the number of people trooping into the City.
One can easily be a good Nigerian and a dedicated Lagosian just as one can come from any place in Nigeria and be a good Nigerian. Nobody that has lived in Lagos in the fifties or sixties would go there today and not feel sorry for a fallen City. Yet I hear about how much others have contributed to Lagos. They live there, have children there, build their houses there, established businesses and pay taxes there. As soon as there is a Muslim or Christian or Ethnic festival, they vamoosed. That is the only time I can recognize the old Broad Street, and Nnamdi Azikiwe Street. Martins Street is so congested, it flows into side Streets. I could not even locate the tombstone of my great grand Father moved to Ita Akanni from Martins Street because it has been crowded over by the market.
In spite of the announcement by the President and the Governor of Lagos State that people should be counted where they live, Lagos has been deserted again. The Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio, Kanuri, Fulani and many more have taken to their heels back to their State of origin. Why have you forsaken Lagos you claim to love so much? Are you coming back to run for office in the same State you turn your back on?
Actually, Many Lagosians claim they love it when everyone leaves hoping they will not come back again. It is the only time Lagosians can breathe some fresh air. I was surprised that Tinubu did not leave. At one point, the Governor, the Chief Justice, the Head of Service were not from Lagos. As soon as higher political offices open up in their States, they desert Lagos and run home. Where can Lagosians go? Oh, Jakande, a bona fide Lagosian who claimed he is Tapa from Kwara because of politics. Well, so was the mother of Shango, Oba Koso a Yoruba King known all over Africa. Aiye gba Tapa, o kole Igunnu. Out of complacency in Oshodi Lagos, they established a masquerade.
I have decided to ask my brothers from Onitsha, the Yoruba-Igbo to make some land available to some of us to build. The same will be asked of my Hausa-Fulani brothers in Sokoto. If that fails, I will have to petition both the Obi of Onisha and the Sardauna of Sokoto. It has got to the stage where some of us can not afford to buy or build houses in Lagos. In case you are wondering what happened to all our land in Lagos, I will ask you to please let our dead fathers and uncles rest in peace. They sold houses to enjoy fine wine and women and they hardly worked. We have rained enough abuses on them. One of my uncles sold so much houses and land; he sold the one he was living in!
We have to be careful about how we now lease and rent to avoid any form of discrimination against fellow Nigerians. A few Omo Eko were raining curses at those who sold or lease those houses out. One of my sisters was on a visit listening to us. As I was laughing at the fools who gave away family houses, she turned to me and asked me if I know that the first floor of our family house at Enu Owa in Isale Eko had been leased out. My laughter at the fools ended immediately. The joke was on me.
Greed can kill some Lagosians. When people started leasing houses, still better than selling, they would only lease to the highest bidders. So traders from outside realizing this, would bid very high and for three or five years. The problem was that it would be the last money collected for a long time. When they go home for census, on vacations or ceremonies, they lock up without paying rent or lease.
The only way to get the house back was through lengthen litigations. Now that many owners realize this, they stopped their greed and lease or rent to reputable people with surety. This created a charge of discrimination. When the allegation was looked into, Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa landlords refused to rent to Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa that are opportunists to avoid problems. So it was not one Ethnic group against another.
I came to realize what a girl was telling me one day at the library. She told me she is a Lagosian, but I know her name is not from Lagos. So I told her to mention her compound in Lagos. She said it was in Isale Eko. I later realized that she could have been born in one of those compounds rented or leased out. I grew up with so many Nigerians who adopted the name of the compound they were born. Some of them know no other place but Lagos and marry into Lagos families. They will be counted during census and can hold any position. Those with European and Arabic names like ours know that even if we marry into that culture, we can never be fully assimilated as in most African cultures. Yoruba will even accept the Tokunbo and Omowale from overseas.
There is a friend of mine who starts his introductory greetings to me with: Omo Eko living under Carter Bridge, selling houses to eat, too lazy to work, fine dressing and so much pride. Please do not say that to me, this is my close friend. I will not tell you how I greet him back. The next minute, he wants me to sell him land if there is any left. He was the same one I met in school in our first year in college. He wondered aloud what Omo Eko was doing in the University when I could be driving a Mustang.
Some people have told me they do not live in Lagos but live in Lagos State, so Census should not matter to me since many Lagosians discriminate against those who live across Carter Bridge. That is true because I remember people were very upset that University was built in a swap at Akoka with all the land in Lagos. But all that changed when we were forced to move to Surulere, New Lagos. Now I have cousins who live at Alagbado Okokomaiko, Ipaja, Aboru, Ijaije, Opeilu, Meiran and other strange names in those days. Yes, that is Lagos now. My friend’s daughter asked the Dad how I can be a Lagosian and do not know all those places. As a kid, it took me a while to realize that Iga and Ibeshe were actually Towns in the West, I thought they were slang, please forgive my ignorance.
The problem is Lagos can not plan for the people that are not counted. If ten people are counted during census, there is no way the State can accommodate 100. It means that the resources meant for ten will be utilized by a 100. It is the reverse where people fled to. They will inflate the number of people there. That way people in those areas will be enjoying planning meant for more people than are actually there. This may be the reason we have many local governments in Nigeria without people. They all live in Lagos!
We have to find solution to this problem. There are many things we can do. The most obvious will be to block all the roads into Lagos and tell them to go back to where they were counted. That will be crude and Lagosians are not crude.
Many people brag that they pay a great deal of taxes in Lagos. It may not be unreasonable to tell them to show receipt of those taxes before they are allowed back into Lagos. That will mean we have to create another group of bribe takers who will not deliver the money into the State coffer.
The problem with taxes in Nigeria as a whole is that people only pay when they need services from the Government. Unfortunately, poor people do not get Government services, only rich people ask for Government services for their houses, cars or permits to export. Even then, there are fake receipts and fake tax collectors.
Another idea is what I will call exchange program. For every person that comes into Lagos. The State s/he comes from must take a Lagosian who would like to settle there. Well, talking about One Nigeria. That will be a way to go. Everyone born in Lagos must take a Yoruba name or be adopted into one of the Lagos family. The same goes for those who are exchanged into Borno or Aba, they must take names there. That is what many of us did outside Nigeria to “blend” in. Did we?
If none of the above works, Lagos must secede from the rest of the Country and join with Calabar that used to be the capital or Port Harcourt, another cosmopolitan City. What about Abuja, Jos or Enugu?
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.