By Abayomi G. Omotayo
My good thoughts are with all the victims of flooding in Nigeria over the weekend. Sadly, lives were lost in Suleja. I pray for comfort and succor for the families of those whose lives were cut short by that flood.
In Lagos, Nigeria’s own mega city and poster boy for urbanization, the rain decided to pay special attention to Lekki-Victoria Island area of the state. Streets quickly became rivers for kayaking. Properties were destroyed. One thing I can tell for certain is that auto mechanics will be smiling to the bank in the coming days due to the many cars damaged by the flood.
The rain has come and gone, at least for now, let’s hope that it won’t come back with renewed vigour in the course of the week and victims have started counting their losses. We can blame everything else for the flooding, even the village people but please Lagosians, do not pin this on global warming because that will be the lamest excuse to give for our inability as a society to evolve, to be better and to do better.
Here are three lessons to learn from that flood. Even though it happened in Lagos, this wonderful state is a microcosm of Nigeria therefore the lessons here is applicable nationwide.
- Our setup is largely a charade, an amalgamation full of sad ironies
Victoria Island (VI), Lekki, Victoria Garden City (VGC) and Banana Island arguably holds 80% of Lagos’ wealth. Arguably because this is my personal assumption based on intuition fuelled by Pareto principle and not empirical evidence. VI is the commercial nerve center of Lagos, although Ikeja may try to raise eyebrows on this. Lekki, VGC and Banana Island create an impression of wealth and luxury. Just two days of heavy rainfall and these places were overwhelmingly flooded. Drive through the streets of Lekki and one will be amazed how poorly the drainage system was designed.
So that is my point? Rich place, poor infrastructure. Nigeria comes to mind. Oil rich yet poor in all ramifications. Sad but true.
- We have a misconstrued idea of what being a ‘big man’ is
A big man or a group of big people should ideally be able to collectively pull their weight effectively. Going by the sheer number of men of means in the flooded area on Lekki-Epe axis, it is quite astonishing that they can’t form a formidable pressure or advocacy group that will pressure the government to taking more concrete steps in upgrading the drainage systems. I doff my hat for the people of Otodo Gbame, for @meganschapman and @justempower team who out of abject poverty, took their destinies in their hands and stopped the demolition of their houses and forced eviction. They are the real MVP, the real big men and women and not the ‘siddon’-look-until-flood-destroys-my-area people.
So what is my point? Rich people yet ineffectual. This reminds me of Nigeria. The giant of Africa but largely on paper. We even celebrated our economy overcoming that of South Africa momentarily as if that reduced the poverty level of Nigerians.
- ‘Siddon look’ (complacency) attitude has eaten deep into the fabric of our society.
I stay on the mainland and socially in the middle class. For now. About two years ago, the transformer serving my neighborhood would pack up every now and then. Reason? ‘the fuse has cut’. This was the incessant and annoying tune the PHCN official always sang. To make matters worse, some evil people decided to steal the cable from the transformer. Prior to this time, I would always go to PHCN office and bring the PHCN officials sometimes with my car and they will use theirs if available to come and fix the blown out fuse I’d developed some rapport with them. Eventually, I didn’t need to drive down to call them save for the sole purpose of officially logging the complaint in their books. A phone call would bring the officials.
We quickly galvanized ourselves in my neighborhood, I and some other folks became task collector going from house to house. In no time we had enough money to buy the cables and also secure the transformer with barb wires and padlocks. It is over two years now, no more ‘fuse has cut’ or ‘the cable has been stolen’. Imagine everyone waited for PHCN and the government, by now we probably would still be waiting.
So what is my point? Nigeria is a place you have to provide everything to make like better for yourself.
Even though the government has responsibilities and obligations towards the citizens, when the government fails in its responsibilities, the citizens should take matters into their hands in ensuring that they have a better society. It will do no one any harm if street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, slowly and steadily, the residents in these posh neighbourhoods pull their resources together to mitigate against flooding. If they fail to do so they may wait forever. This flooding is a yearly phenomenon this means that they will continue to count their losses yearly. For how long?
The badoo gang in Ikorodu area of Lagos unleased terror and wiped out entire families in some cases for a year in Ikorodu. It was when the residents had enough and took the matter of their security in their hands that the Lagos state government realized that the badoo guys are not spirits and they must be flushed out. After about that fifteen incidents!
Omotayo is a blogger at www.musingsamplified.com.ng and tweet @AbayomiGOmotayo and @musingamplified