• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria at 54….

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This is a good time for reflection, although, I grew up in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s I remember our homes had clean running water, electricity and good plumbing. The roads were tarred, clean and pot hole free with trees and flowers on either side. People hardly used generators. There were housing estates for multinational workers like the Railway compound in Yaba, Shell Petroleum, Cadbury, Nestle etc which provided the best facilities and services for its occupants and their children.  Even in the last 30 years or so which I remember, we grew up on a secure well run estate which to me was like paradise, children out till late in one another’s houses, riding their bikes on roads, No traffic jams or LASTMA at every junction. There were no cart pushers coming against traffic. Ikoyi and VI were places where parents took children on Sundays to have a meal and look at what they could aspire to if the studied hard in school. There were hardly any blocks of flats. Houses were spaced out and had land for trees. Parkview Estate was a real park!

Almost all Schools were free and run by missionaries, providing first class education and accessible to all. There were hardly any private schools. In all schools, including universities the shoemaker’s son sat side by side with the bank manager’s son and the governor’s son. All grew up together and the class gap narrowed, they all had equal chances at succeeding when they graduated. Nowadays the class gap is so wide, we may never see it close again in our generation. Places we looked forward to going as children, like the National Arts Theatre to watch films and shows, the National stadium for games and sport days, have all gone. Where do the answers to remedying this national disaster, lie?

The mainland areas, like Surulere , Yaba, Ilupeju and Ikeja were previously inhabited by hard working white collar families that sent their children to the best schools, most of those children are the movers and shakers in Nigeria today, from governors to doctors and lawmakers, who have now in turn all run away from those areas which have become so run down and are seeking out homes on the Island and Lekki. Then, Victoria Island ended at Adetokunbo Ademola street, there was no Lekki phase1 or any of the estates we have now. The Lekki  Penninsular was all bush and water. In my generation I have witnessed unprecedented development of land and destruction of property. We have regressed in so many ways. We have become so wasteful and uncaring.

The road and traffic situation is unimaginable! I flew into Lagos a few days ago, the plane landed at 5.45pm, I left the airport at 8pm and I got home at 12midnight! A whole 6 hours plus just to get home from the airport. The same aircraft I arrived in could have taken off and arrived back in the UK in that time. We have become so desensitized to the decay and filth around us. In the midst of all this, people still attend multi billion naira parties every weekend, major international hotel chains are springing up all over the place which are booked solid every weekend, state of the art cars ply our run down roads, getting scratched purposely by okada riders, and we can do nothing about it. We are assaulted and bombarded daily by generator noise and fumes, bad water, poor service, rogue policemen, fat cat politicians, bad roads, poor education, incompetent staff, non existent healthcare…and the list goes on. And we have accepted it all! The only thing Nigeria has going for it at the moment is our growing telecoms sector and our entertainment industry. Without these two, we would have expired by now.

New estates and properties are being built daily, but the necessary infrastructure to keep it going for years to come, is totally absent. The facilities are being managed by incompetent individuals. I recently tried to do some marketing of my company’s facility services and got a rude shock when I was told by a developer, that his brother was managing his estate. The brother is a recent school leaver with no knowledge or experience of facilities management. Sadly it was all too obvious that the facilities were already in the early stage of mismanagement and would soon give major problems to the residents. Trying to save money by employing incompetent people, could work out much more expensive in the long run.

In summary, Nigeria at 54 has a very long road ahead to even get back to where it was 54 years previously.

Caroline A. Akinlotan