Fifty years of Lagos. But what about the next 50?
By Sophie BOUILLON
Lagos (AFP) The Nigerian megacity of Lagos, with its 20 million inhabitants, is the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
But how do those who have made their name in Lagos envisage the city in 50 years’ time?
– Leye Adenle –
Leye Adenle was born in Nigeria in 1975. His first book, “Lagos Lady”, is a gripping crime novel that flits between the city’s less salubrious neighbourhood and the high life of the islands.
“It’s the year 2067 and global warming has become global flooding but Lagos, a coastal megacity in Nigeria, has figured out an ingenious solution that the rest of the world is keen to copy.
“The floating islands of the city, half-submerged wonders of engineering, featuring underwater boulevards with 360-degree aquatic-views, are home to the world’s mega-rich: movie stars, rappers, footballers, musicians, celebrity bloggers.
“The annual rising, when the islands lift out of the Atlantic Ocean and hover above the turquoise waves, the glass walls of their inter-connected transport routes gleaming beneath them, has become the greatest tourist attraction in Africa, maybe even the world.
“‘The city the gods envy’ is now the world capital of innovation, banking, art, and tourism. And today, the richest state in Africa, finds herself in the grip of LAGXIT as she conducts a referendum to determine whether to remain in Nigeria or breakaway and become the newest and wealthiest country in the world.”
– Aliko Dangote –
“Africa’s richest man”, as his name is always prefaced, originally comes from northern Nigeria but he now lives in Lagos, where he runs a multi-billion dollar business empire.
“In 50 years, I imagine Lagos to have consolidated its position as the industrial hub of Africa with the Lekki Free Trade Zone (on the edge of Lagos, where the Dangote Group is heading a $9 billion refinery project to help alleviate the frequent fuel crises and regular power outages that blight the country).
“The availability of power, excellent location, international seaports, airports and a friendly environment can only lead to more dynamism economically.
“Lagos has a huge potential for growth. The state has demonstrated consistency in growing its (tax income) even in recession.
“Investment in power generation and infrastructure will open up the Lagos economy and projects such as the Lekki Free Trade Zone, will consolidate Lagos State’s position as the foremost industrial hub in Africa.”
– Francoise Aramide Akinosho –
After growing up in France and studying architecture in Paris and New York, Francoise Aramide Akinosho moved to live in the country of her parents’ birth.
Space is lacking in Lagos. Except in the large homes of her wealthy clients.
“Lagos is somewhere between magnificent and horrible. It’s a bit like New York but worse and tropical. I think that — the worst, like the best of Lagos — will only get bigger.
“We’ll continue to suffer daily pain, like constant traffic jams. But people will build private refuges for themselves, ever more beautiful and expensive.
“We’ll have to pay for everything, even to walk on the pavement.
“There’ll be designated zones for and by a few rich people, who will be able to take advantage of their sterilised bubble before returning to the chaos.”
– Bruce Onobrakpeya –
At aged 84, Bruce Onobrakpeya is one of the most famous and most prolific Nigerian artists. His last work — a sculpted stone triptych — depicts Lagos as a magic flute player around which all Nigeria’s people flock.
“When I arrived in Lagos in 1962, it was like any small town in Nigeria. It was many small towns and all of them came together: VI (Victoria Island) was being developed, and the only most impressive building was the cathedral in Lagos Island.
“It was green and plenty of water. Couples were walking down the old Bar Beach, but that is no more now.
“In 50 years time, Lagos… will have swallowed up Bagadry (60 kilometres/38 miles to the west), Epe (60 km to the east).
“It will go all the way to Ibadan (a city with four million people 120 km to the north).
“Apart from that it will grow higher with sky-scrapers. We will still have the same challenges with transportation, water, control of people, like any other cities in the developing world.
“But I think Nigerian artists will grow also with new ideas, new challenges and they will bring new art forms.
“(Lagos State governor Akinwunmi) Ambode is very interested in art, it’s giving education to the people, it gains attention and it’s more important in their life.
“I think art will play an very important role.”
– Ono Bello –
Ono Bello has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram and an online magazine, onobello.com. The former model and journalist dictates fashion in Nigeria and lives in Lekki, a Lagos suburb popular with the city’s young bourgeoisie.
“Lagos might not be like London or New York but it will be close. The pace of development of the city is going so fast, especially in art, entertainment and fashion.
“Today it’s Johannesburg but in 50 years, Lagos fashion week will take over for Africa fashion week.
“The centre of everything that has to do with African fashion will be about Lagos… I think we will go back where we were in the post-colonial years, in the 50s, 60s.
“People are already looking back, buying Nigerian, African indigenous fabrics. There will be no more Gucci, no more Armani.
“All the greatest designers will be Nigerians, they will be Africans.”
– Femi Kuti –
The son of the king of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti carries on his father’s legacy by performing every Sunday evening at the New Africa Shrine — the mythical Lagos concert venue
Twenty years after the death of Nigeria’s most revolutionary, engaged and engaging artist, his son denounces the same scourges that blight the country: corruption, corruption and corruption.
“I’ve lived all my life in Lagos. Lagos is everything to me, I love its energy. But when I imagine it in 50 years, it doesn’t look good.
“Don’t take me wrong, I don’t wish for what I see, but there is too much uncertainty, the population is too much.
“Everyday at 3:00 pm, all the children are coming out of school and I keep wondering, ‘How are we going to create so many jobs for them?'”
“Crime will rise, for poor people it’s going to be even more difficult, traffic will rise. Politically something needs to be done, otherwise we are in big, big trouble.
“This city is about to explode. But once again, I do hope that I’m wrong.”
– Kemi Adetiba –
The 37-year-old former radio presenter turned film-maker used to make music videos.
In 2016, she won acclaim for her first film “The Wedding Party”, which beat Nigerian box office records and made her a Nollywood icon.
“Lagos is the city of my birth and my dreams; the land that brought my parents together; the land that dirtied the feet of my brothers; Nigeria’s very own ‘New York’.
“Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder about the Lagos of the future. What would it feel like? What would it smell like? Would it still be ‘home’ with the same tenacious, diverse, ‘never say die’ spirit of its people?
“Would it still be a melting pot of colours and cultures, steaming up in one voice. Will our infamous traffic still be on the list of ‘Sights and Sounds’?
“Would we have our very own ‘Time Square’ with lights, and lights and more lights hypnotising its tourists that refuse to go to sleep?
“Will they finally catch that horrible, mischievous ghost that comes out in the dead of night to steal large chunks of the tar-roads, creating craters for cars to manouevre during the day?
“Whatever it may be, however it may be, I pray it is still the land of hope, the land of people with an unbreakable spirit, the city where everyone knows that ‘if you make it here… you can make it anywhere’.”