I type this in shame (holds head in hand) as I feel I have done you a disservice (I haven’t blogged since May but hey whose counting?!) But it is with good reason (my limp and pathetic attempt at an apology); I travelled back to the Motherland!! I went home to a place that is nothing short of exuberance, culture and endless history. Yes I went back to Nigeria.
The purpose of the trip was two-fold: 1) my beautiful friend and mentor (she is all things rolled into one) had her traditional engagement (#GetYourManGurrllll) and 2) I wanted to scope out what progression has been made since my last visit, which was exactly two years ago (2011; I know your maths is impeccable).
And how refreshing it was to see the huge strides that had been made by way of development!! Very stark difference to the picture that the BBC has painted in the past; nothing further to add…
Given that there has been so much discussion of late on the rapid rate at which African economies are developing (many African countries can boast of a GDP growth rate of more than 6%) I thought I would weigh in and offer my own take on the matter. But I won’t bore you with academic perambulation; on the contrary, I have done a ‘Top 5’ list of key things I want you to note (I had so many other things I wanted to say…did someone say part 2?!) This is my take on Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in the world. Our land is beautiful and bursting at the seams with potential; enjoy… 😉
- Mainland versus Island – Lagos is divided into two areas: the mainland is what is traditionally known as the older part of Lagos (so places like Ogba, Surulere are found on the mainland) and the Island is the newer part of Lagos (e.g. Lekki, Ikoyi, Ajah). Just like the Palm Islands in Dubai, the area was sand filled to create a place that is symbolic of modernity, progression and of course money; purchasing land on the island comes with a hefty price tag but it is worth it considering how much calmer it is than the traditional parts of Lagos.
- Babatunde Fashola – the current Lagos State Governor and one of the best politicians to ever grace Nigerian soil. He has transformed Lagos for the better and it continues to get better and better by the day. As the lovely Sena would say ‘I have broken bread with the locals’ and I have heard nothing but praises for Fashola. From the taxi driver to the business oligarch, Fashola has been a breath of fresh air and a definite contender for the next presidency. He has introduced measures designed to improve the life of every Lagosian and not just the rich and famous. From his introduction of the brand new Lekki-Ikoyi cable bridge to public buses to his courageous efforts to crack the whip on corruption, he truly represents the future of Nigerian Politics.
- The ‘resource curse’ – Nigeria is a paradox. We have an abundance of natural resources (if you don’t know, ask somebody, preferably Dangote) which should breed ground for steady trade and boastful profit margins but instead widens the corridor for corruption and illegal trade (case in point- Oil. Niger Delta. Need I say more) I think this is one of the biggest battles that Nigeria must contend with; curbing traditional practices of patronage and corruption should continue to be placed at the top of the political agenda over the coming years. Yes we do have the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission which have made desperate attempts to nip it in the bud but the journey is still far; corruption is perhaps the greatest impediment to economic growth; more needs to be done.
- The steady rise of the middle class – part of the rapid economic growth that Nigeria is currently enjoying could be partially explained by the rise of the middle class. Business owners, professionals, those within the entertainment industry…they are indeed enjoying the fruits of their labour. Consumer habits show that the up and coming middle class continue to come out in the droves. And with the likes of Shoprite in Ikeja (MAC has recently opened ladies!) as well as in Lekki, the middle class have limitless choice. And of course if you can’t get it on home soil, they are choosing to fly out to Dubai, London and wherever else just to get it; it’s by all means necessary!
- Infrastructure – I think this is another area that must be considered as a major priority in the next general election. The improvement of the transport corridor is critical for business and growth and I think this is one of the biggest hindrances to successful trade.
My beautiful friend and sister Oyinkan showed us the new Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge which has cut her journey time by more than half as it links Lekki straight to Ikoyi. The bridge no doubt is breathtakingly beautiful; it’s a work of art and this is exactly the kind of attention to detail that needs to be rolled out across all major roads in Lagos. The roads on the Island are mostly of a very high standard but this standard needs to be maintained throughout the whole of Lagos; there are some roads that are so treacherous that treading carefully is literally an understatement.
I cannot wait to see how Nigeria continues to transform over the next 10 years and I think as I continue my plight to become fluent in Yoruba (my supposed ‘mother tongue’) I will definitely be travelling back more regularly. I had a blast! God bless Nigeria!