Akintunde Oyebode: The city that never sleeps (YNaija FrontPage)

As Walter Miller wrote in A Canticle for Leibowitz, “to minimize suffering and maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became only ends and the only basis of law. Inevitably, in seeking them, we found their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”

Among New York’s many nicknames, “the city that never sleeps” is the most memorable to me. The illumination of Times Square is a reminder of the artistic heritage of the city’s Broadway District, while the New York Stock Exchange is a proud reminder that NYC has been the financial capital of the world for a long time. The mix of these monuments and the buzz of mixing with people of various nationalities create the feeling of constant activity, and bring life to the city’s nickname.

It is not a secret that Lagos State’s governor, Babatunde Fashola, is a big fan of New York and its mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The similarities in both cities are numerous; from the status as former capitals of the United States and Nigeria, to being melting pots for people of diverse culture and origin. The Lagos State governor seems intent on leaving a foundation for the transformation of the state into a megacity of repute. This is clear on two fronts; the rapid investment in infrastructure and the plethora of laws being enacted to guide citizen behaviour. From the ambitious Eko Atlantic and Lagos Light Rail project, albeit tempered by the poor state of the inner city roads, it is clear the government is executing a master plan to make Lagos a haven for business activity and settlement. On the flip side, we have seen an attempt to govern how rent is paid, where drivers can eat, and how men behave after their sexual adventures lead to ‘unwanted’ babies. It is unclear how the state will enforce all these laws, but the motive is clear. As the governor asserted in a moment of dictatorship, the way out of Lagos is open to dissenting residents.

In many instances, the result is clear. A visit to Oshodi is a clear testimony that settlements can be rehabilitated and order restored. When today’s Oshodi is compared with the picture Karl Maier used for the cover of This House Has Fallen, it is clear the state is making progress, albeit in fits and spurts. The only area were Lagos remains stagnant is perhaps the biggest of all hygiene factors for business and residential activity; security. On Sunday, I woke up to the news of a robbery incident involving one of my friends. The young man was returning home before midnight when he was accosted by several armed men, and tossed in the boot of his car. He spent the night there while the robbers attacked an estate in Lekki, and engaged the policemen dispatched to the scene in a gun battle reminiscent of the Pacino and DeNiro movie, Heat. Thankfully, his creator intervened, and the gentleman is alive to tell his story; unlike another victim whose life was cut short the previous day in similar circumstances.

It is a daily routine to hear tales of highway robberies, home invasion and kidnapping. The places of worship are filled with testimonies of foiled kidnaps and miraculous escapes from robbers despite the increased presence of policemen in the state.

In 2007, the state government created a trust fund to bridge the funding gap that prevented the police from securing the land and waters of Lagos. The fund is overseen by a board that includes the managing directors of two banks and a retired deputy inspector-general of Police, but the billions of naira raised do not seem to be curtailing the wave of crime Lagos is experiencing. Several analysts have connected the obvious linkage between crime and festive seasons, so it befuddles that our security agencies and government seem to fall short at this critical time. The aspiration of a viable megacity can only be built on the knowledge that businesses can operate safely both at daytime and during the night. In the absence of security, all bets on Lagos are off, and the fancy rail lines or new city developments will eventually become relics of a nightmarish end to a romantic dream.

As Walter Miller wrote in A Canticle for Leibowitz, “to minimize suffering and maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became only ends and the only basis of law. Inevitably, in seeking them, we found their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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One comment

  1. “In the absence of security, all bets on Lagos are off, and the fancy rail lines or new city developments will eventually become relics of a nightmarish end to a romantic dream.”

    Has the crime rate in other developed cities affected the growth of such cities? Yes, we need to improve the security situation in Lagos and indeed Nigeria but we shouldn’t be quick to jettison the developmental plans in order to focus on security. The widespread poverty and excessive corruption will unfortunately stifle any efforts to improve security in our land

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