Where I grew up, the last three months of the year are known for the harsh cold they bring. I remember occasions when my face wrinkled like the skin on an old woman’s neck; you dared not powder your face and you better have a jar of Vaseline in your purse. One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to Lagos was the year-round heat. Before you even get to the Mowe – Ibafo area, you start to feel the change in temperature. Occasionally, heavy rain brings with it dull weather, but as soon as the clouds lift, the heat descends. There is little land, and too many people, so to maximize space, land owners stack small boxes on top of each other and charge exorbitant amounts for rent. There is barely room enough to stretch your feet without kicking your neighbor in the shins, much less park your car. On the Island, a lot of low income families cannot afford these rates, so they live in uncompleted, water-logged buildings, until the land owner remembers that he has a house that needs finishing, or until the court awards the property to one party or the other. Then, the families are evacuated and they move to another half-built house.
I grew up looking at hills and long patches of healthy, green grass. Here, if you find grass, it’s most likely from an overgrown bush in a fenced land with a “Keep Out!” sign. The only space available between houses are the barely motorable roads and the water-logged lands surrounded by sinking fences. Even though it seems physically impossible to have more buildings, because, where is the space? New buildings spring up from the ground almost overnight. And we’re spreading out onto the water. One of the cool points of where I lived was that I could hear the wind howl and gently rattle the glass doors. Now, there are so many generators in the compound that one won’t hear the rain until it starts to beat down on the roof.
Why are there so many people in Lagos? Why does everyone want to come here, and why do we think this is the land where gold grows? Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria, and there are more opportunities for connects here than anywhere else. Brings to mind the gold rush of the 1800s.
That said, I cannot help but look at other states in the country, the South-West especially. Ibadan, in Oyo state, is an example; there is so much land that people have inordinately large compounds; buildings stay on the farthest side, and the rest is just space. There is so much potential and opportunity for growth; why is no one taking it? Why are there no multi-national companies there? Why are more indigenous companies not springing up? There are opportunities, and a lot of people in the South West. What are the government of these states doing to attract investors?
Unfortunately, there is not enough space in Lagos for everyone. But I dare say that if these other states were even half as developed as Lagos, if even half the number of opportunities were created, the exodus will reduce.