Ebuka Obi-Uchendu: Governor Fashola can’t be blind (YNaija Frontpage)

Makoko is an eyesore and there is no better way to put it.

The size of the rats I once saw strolling and chewing on left over junk food, while I waited for a train at the New York subway, are probably only compared to the ones I saw at an asun joint in Surulere, which coincidently, also strolled right beside humans, waiting occasionally like domestic dogs beside tables for customers to drop bits of their food. Both incidents shocked me beyond measure first, because of the sheer size of the rats, secondly because of how confident they were; but mostly because of how comfortable humans had become around them.

New York isn’t Lagos, New York is miles ahead of Lagos especially in terms of GDP and infrastructure. Whenever I hear the term ‘fine from far’, New York comes to mind. Flying into the city or looking at it from across the Hudson River, leaves you in awe of its architecture and the raw steel that somehow draws you in. It takes waiting on a train or walking the streets of Brooklyn to actually understand how shockingly uninviting the city can be. None of these apply to Lagos.

Lagos is probably the only major city in the world that isn’t pretty from the sky while flying in. The chaos can be seen from anywhere. ‘Far from fine’ is what comes to mind this time. It looks chaotic and unbelievably disorganized. Most times, it’s hard to believe that the city actually functions. PHCN doesn’t help while flying in at night, as you’re left with random spots of yellow bulbs, making it look like one badly, candle-lit market. Sadly, physically going through the city and living it up-close, doesn’t make it any better.

Without a doubt, Lagos has had its fair share of neglect over the years and it would be hard to fix things overnight. My Uncle was in Lagos last week for the first time in a while and couldn’t believe what he saw on the Lekki-Epe axis. New roads with American style toll gates, sprawling estates and malls all over the place, with traffic lights that actually work. He couldn’t stop raving about the governor and how much he had done for the state. But one thing bothered him; the same thing that bothers me every time I cross the Third Mainland Bridge.

Makoko is an eyesore and there is no nice way to put it. If you’re wondering where that is, when next you’re driving to the Island from the Mainland, it is that community you see on the right with wooden homes built on water. For some reason, I had existed in Lagos for a while, blocking out that area from my consciousness until sometime in 2009 when Guinness held it’s 250th anniversary and I hosted. I was a part of the team that went to the airport to get international dancehall artist Sean Paul who was headlining the concert. On our way to his hotel, we passed through the bridge and he asked out of nowhere; “What are those?” I put on a smile and tried to sound as effusive as possible; “It’s our little Venice. Those are people’s homes.” His eyes opened up, not in admiration but in shock at my statement. “People, live there? In those things? Wow!” I smiled and went on this winding explanation of how intriguing it was that they moved around in canoes and were fishermen and what not. But his general expression registered with me.

I have looked right every time I’ve passed that bridge since that day and can’t express my shock at how the community keeps growing. In fact, I told my Uncle that before Gov. Fashola leaves office, the community might have reached the bridge. That is how large they have become.

I find it weird that the Governor has signed off on plans of building this ambitious city called ‘Eko Atlantic’ with sky scrapers to rival Manhattan, in the same state where people live like they do in Makoko. I have seen countless documentaries about the sort of disease there is in the place. People s**t, bathe and sometimes drink from the water they are surrounded by. Schools are almost non-existent and healthcare is nowhere to be found. All this, besides the obvious eyesore it constitutes. Now I’m not one to say that the place be demolished. Like a video on YouTube called ‘Makoko Can Be Nigeria’s Venice?’ asks, “What if Venice had been destroyed before it had a chance to become what it is today?”

So I ask: what is being done about Makoko? Why is it in such a sad state?  All great cities have cracks no doubt, but why must ours be so glaring? I know Lagos is vast but Makoko seems obvious enough to have caught the governor’s attention. Isn’t rehabilitation or renovation possible? What are the possibilities of tourism being a source of revenue for the community?

Interestingly, Makoko sounds eerily similar to Maroko. And we know how the demolition of the latter went back in the day. I want to believe that the right thing will be done with Makoko. But first, I want to know that something at all will be done. Is anyone listening?


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Comments (38)

  1. True talk my brother. the first time I saw this same community, I had to stop and mope. I wonder why and how in the sprawling opulence and squalor that is Lagos, people could live in such conditions.Fashola should do do something about this, cities like Rotherdam have this situation and the have made the most out of it.

  2. Makoko is a laughing stock. It is an eyesore. CNN is always capturing as how the entire Lagos is. Americans now prefer to visit South Africa than to come to Lagos, Nigeria. This may hamper foreign investment. Carrying out urban renewal by demolishing makoko and other slum areas in Lagos may improve the image of Lagos and attract foreign investment. If you stay in a dirty filty environment and a visitor intends to come to your house and give you N10m. Someone shows him a video of your dirty, filty squalor, that may be how you will lose a hugh amount of money

  3. makoko should be demolished and the people relocated or deported depending on wheter or not they are nigerians. that place is an eyesore and totally disgusting.

    it should be considered child abuse to have people raise children there.

  4. The eyesore is some people's lives. I have lived at both ends of the spectrum (from a refuse dump in Iwaya) to posh homes all over the world. I have since quit judging or making some kind of statements. However, I stand for one thing and I believe the government is ultimately responsible for these types of intervention: the people should have access to potable water, healthcare, and education. A medium term plan can be established for reorganising the chaos and establishing some sort of order. Regeneration is possible, and to be honest I find the kind of organised beauty and granduer of places like Dubai or Brussels tiresome.

    Visit the small English villages, the coastal tiny cities of Spain or roam the tiny Italian towns – they are old, walls cracking, and totally full of character. Some have but one major hospital and police station, but they are clean and have electricity. The basics are there. Let people live how they chose abeg.

  5. Ebuka, of all the places in Nigeria, y is it Makoko, now you been an activist in ur own accord, bt NY av der odds also, av u forgetten dat Nigeria is a developing country, stop judging frm afar, try nd get to Makoko and see out of d lots, its dis u see, e b lyk say dem pay u to talk crap, wats sean paul's business n dis, if he feels he has sympathy for does residents at Makoko let him make donations, at least u r known now and what's wrong if you have fundraising for this people and if I may ask where do you live (on the island) and u are complaining…. Oga go play for shit

  6. The Lagos State Government in conjunction with the World Bank, set up a project called Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project. This Project was basically set up to regenerate 9 of our numerous slums in Lagos; namely Badia, Makoko, Amukoko, Ilaje, Ajegunle, Iwaya, Itire, bariga and Agege.

    kindly check http://www.lmdgp.org.ng for some of the works we have done in these slums

  7. 1. The Lagos state government takes care of the people of Makoko as much as it can because they are Lagosians. It can support with teachers, doctors, nurses and supplies but it cannot really build infrastructures.

    2. On the Badagry Road, the Lagos state ten-lane highway begins some distance from the border. I am not sure of exactly how many kilometers as permitted by law but the construction is perfectly within the rights of the Lagos State Government.

    3. As someone pointed out, this should be about the people of Makoko and I think the LASG is doing just enough to make them get by.

    There is a National Ecological Fund managed by a Federal Ministry; such funds will go a long way to help the people of Makoko.

    Maybe we should write about that.

  8. Sade,this is an intellectual discourse and should be treated as that. Your comment about Ebuka trying to tell us about his little conversation with Sean Paul was totally uncalled for. We can air our views and add value to discussions without putting other people down. Ebuka deserves an apology. Thanks.

  9. @Sade and Zaynab, ur points r noted and maybe Ebuka didn't do enof research, but wil u both say that wot u saw there is the best a govt can deliver. Shud we always settle for half measures? Now if ur child LOVES chocolat, do u kip saying, well, my child says s/he loves it n t leave him or her to it? Pple, can we sing xcuses for an irresponsible govt? We r creatures of habit n naturali xpect deze pple to want to stick to the familiar. One way to change this is painting a better pictut whuch includes them. But wit Maroko hanging on all our consciences, I doubt dat deze pple wan 2 blieve dis govt. Rehabilitateideration first for te original occupants, with their social, cultural and piritual sensibilities in consideration, like someone earlier noted.

    The prblemS facing us did not drop from mars, neither r they new… If we r ready, we go solve them.

  10. Wildeyeq, I basically said, it's not all on Fashola. The residents also, need to be willing to move or for an Urban Renewal.

  11. In 2008, I was one of the producers when Funmi Iyanda did a documentary on the area. And like Sade and Zaynab have said, these people's way of life is to live on or close to the water. I still have on my laptop a clip of the Baale saying, if the government builds us the fanciest estate in the world, we would not want to move there. All they want is assistance to live where they are. And yes some of them are from Benin, but the vast majority of them are Ilaje, Egun and some Ijaw, many who relocated from the Niger Delta generations ago. Like someone else has mentioned, they are actually afraid of land, and the Baale said they didn't want their children going to school on land, because many of them get into accidents and got hit by cars because they were not used to being on land.

    There's actually a hospital, or what amounts to a clinic, with a doctor who we also interviewed along with several nurses. The state government actually runs several of its health programs from there to the community. The doctor and Baale had one simple request; help us with an ambulance speed boat so we can transfer emergency cases to the general hospital on land. We also spoke to the teachers at the one school they have (the Baale also asked that a secondary school be built there for them), who were essentially volunteers. After the documentary, we followed up and the local govt chair put the volunteers on their teacher's payroll and gave them further training.

    Yes, Makoko is a peculiar place; the solutions to its problems might not fit any mold so far made. But engagement is ongoing on several levels already, though that doesn't preclude more. But I don't we should assume there's none at all.

  12. the people of Makoko should * come first

  13. Sure we're listening.

    Nicely written with a gentle tone.

    We hope it can be a Venice someday. Let's begin by rehabilitating and renovating the place before we go Manhattan. Skyscrapers are good but the people of Makoko should be come first.

    I been to Venice and I can relate with what you've written.

  14. Yes we all kno that Makoko is an eyesore. How many of us on here would actually choose to stay a month in those conditions?

    @Sade and @Zaynab you're basically saying these guys over there would not for any reason leave that area rehabilitated or not. But these same guys save and engage in illegal acts at times so they can visit clubs on the island and "roll with the cool". Does this not show us how humans no matter how dire their situations always aspire for something better?

    If those "things" over there can be called schools and hospitals then we should all bow our heads in national shame. Or will the sentiments afforded to wealth and poverty allow us forget what is wrong and what is right?

  15. I wonder why Ebuka's comments about turning Makoko into a Venice-styled structure is not considered pivotal to discussions here. Perhaps the area can be rehabilitated without demolition. Such a sad state of affairs.

  16. Thank you Sade. I guess this just means that my idea of a 'school' is different from yours…

    As for the hospital talk, I'm still not convinced. I know NGO's do go there to help a lot but I have no idea that a hospital is there. Great news if there is tho; especially since the community needs it.

    Thanks for all the help and updates… Thoroughly appreciated 'cos it has surely enlightened me a bit more.

  17. @ Ebuka: this shows u didn't carry out a thorough research b4 writing this article, the name of the school is Waina nursery and primary school, Lagos state Government is always sending the teachers for training and the least qualified teacher there as an NCE cert, the school was established of 20 years ago by a missionary with Yaba local government always updating the furnitures and giving books and other materials to the students. And note; most of them are frm the republic of Benin.

    The hospital which name have forgotten now has doctors coming in everyday of the week frm Lagos state. I don't work for Lagos state, am just a journalist that noticed Makoko and decided to know what's happening and what could be done. Yes Lagos state should clean out the waters but the place is structed by the pple living there. Pls just visit the place for once then ur writing won't be based on what u think is happening there.

  18. Ebuka is right, makoko is an eye-sore. I was there in 2008 and photographed a documentary my friends were shooting,that place is a huge contrast.They av facilities u wouldn't want to classify,but its also true-the people are not keen on living elsewhere. We need to understand their alchemy(spiritual,mental &social) before acting. If we must help the area for our sake,then we need their solution & ours to merge.Sadly, Fashola is only keen on ROI,Eko Atlantic is a better arena

  19. I am all for rehabilitating makoko,because….d day disease hits those people,the way it will spread..!look,hiv began like that,medically,its said to have started this way!it used to b d xclusiv preserve of d poor!until it began to afflict d 'rich'! Rehabilitating this ppl is for d collective preservation of all bcos d day lassa go from this people spread…or gastroenteritis…I shudder…

  20. I made errors in my replies. I meant Makoko, not Maroko

  21. I wonder why there's this consensus from comments here that I have asked that Makoko be demolished. I can't remember recommending that at any point.

    And as to the point that the area is in federal territory, the Badagry expressway, where the Lagos State government is currently building it's 10 lane highway with the Eko rail, is a Federal road! I don't see how that stopped the state government from taking it over and doing their work there. Secondly, the Apapa Oshodi expressway, another federal road is currently being worked on by the FG after constant pressure from the Lagos state government on them to fix it

    Simply put, if Makoko bothers the Lagos State government, they'd work on it or get the FG to fix it regardless of who owns it; whether it's Lagos, Abuja or Accra. Obviously, it doesn't at the moment and thus, it remains a problem FOR LAGOS…

  22. Ebuka do more research before you write next time. Though the people of Makoko are Lagosians the land on which they squat -yes squat- belongs to the FG just like the 3rd Mainland Bridge and the Estate right by it.

    The people actually pray that the governments don't remember them or the land/water. They know what happened to Maroko.

  23. Okay, on a totally different and unrelated note…there used to be a market at Ojota/Ogudu busstop, a Central Business District, dirty, caused traffic, pollution and every inconvenience you can think of.

    Govt tried so hard to get them to move out, old and grey women grumbled and cried that their sources of income were being taken away.

    Eventually the Local Govt Chairman demolished and turned it into a proper complex, now called Binukonu Complex. (Yorubas should interpret and read between the letters)

    Anyway, the Binokonu Complex has been opened for about 3 years now, only 10% of the shops are occupied, and the 10% always complain of little or no sales.

    Agents find it difficult selling the shops for inexplicable reasons.

    Some will argue that the complex cursed, others beg to differ.

    Ebuka, you see what I mean now? Sometimes, it's not only in the Government's hands. Yes, they make the rules and execute, but still…

  24. Sade is absolutely right, they don't want Government intervention in any form,maybe we should view the topic from this dimension,makoko residents are occupying that area illegally without approval 4rm govt,if Govt should decide to demolish that area don't you think crime rate would be high on d Lekki,Ajah,Island,Mainland etc.

    Makoko people who aren't employed by Govt or any tax paying establishment are only short paying the Govt,leaving a huge gap to balance infrastructure deficit to those who are paying taxes, considering how business minded individual would easy relocate to areas where their business would strive,

    Ebuka makoko's case is simply a complex one beyond LASG

    Let's be candid here, if Govt should demolish Makoko where would they GO to?

  25. Ebuka has addressed the issue by calling on Lagos state to take action, which is? Demolish or rehabilitate. The Makoko case has been on the discussion table for long and I just learnt that is is within the purview of the Federal Government, nevertheless Makoko can not be left to remain an eye sore forever. The debate around right to reside vs public interest goes ahead here, will the residents of Makoko be able to afford a reconstructed Makoko? The BBB series which brought Vocal Slender to the limelight did show Makoko as well.

    1. I think a rehabilitated Maroko is not necessarily a cleared out slum with posh apartments on water. Maroko can still be rehabilitated with well built water homes with wood and timber. (Like the cottage homes we see in the west) They dont need flats built with cement and all sorts. The culture of the people there is quite unique. I feel that rehabilitation of this area is a process that is achievable if well structured in stages over over a long term plan. The water can be treated, subsidized wood and timber can be provided for residents to rebuild homes following standards set out by the Urban planning department, the government can also pay them to monitor, secure, and ensure cleanliness in the area. I also think that the area can be turned into a 'Water Market' where people can go on canoe rides to shop for sea food.This could in turn be a tourist attraction.

      There are lots that could be gained from that settlement, and as it is, it is difficult for Governments to impose development plans on a community, else the community is allowed to participate in its own development.

  26. FoluShaw, I know of the wood processing enclave project – the people would have been moved further in, but with access to water. It wasn't just talk. Sadly, it had to be shelved due to the credit crunch.

  27. But Zaynab, that's why we have governments. I for example, would like to pack my things and go set up residence on Banana Island. But I know there are regulations and the law won't allow it so I can't. The governemnt needs to set Makoko on the right path. The people of Makoko will always want to stick with what they want. Very few humans like change…

    1. Ebuka, as much as the Government has a responsibility of setting the 'Marokosians' on the right path, that is ,enforcing Urban laws in order to make the place habitable and pleasant to the eyes, I think they need to understand the fact that these people have a culture that is water related. And I am sure you know how extremely difficult, or almost impossible it is to change ones culture. That said, I'd like to see a Lagos where the government meets with the 'Marokosians' and set out a plan to rehabilitate the community. They dont have to be moved, the Government can clean out the water, and help them rebuild their water homes, and then show interest in their community politics to ensure some sort of adherence to sanitation and environmental laws.

      I believe in participatory approach to development, they need to know why they are a subject of concern to the state.

  28. This is one problem we have in lagos and its truly an eyesore cos the rich, the poor, the average man who pass through the third mainland see makoko area and they take Their eyes away. Makoko is a popular place in yaba/adekunle/alagomeji .. V know that place since when I was a child. Makoko is not a place gov fashola will start his next project on but he will lay the foundation. He has to lay that foundation and start something good in that area. Ebuka I'm with you on this issue but it will be difficult for the govt to just demolish Makoko .if dey demolish makoko, where will the people live? Where will dey stay? The government will have to do something good , like a work out for people in that community

  29. Considering the fact that I have had to work on a school Urban Renewal Project with Makoko as a case study, visited and conducted interviews with the residents and all, I think Fashola is the least of the problems.

    These people, if given a chance to move into better living conditions, will not. As in, they will NOT.

    They literally 'live and die by the water' and all water related activities.

    To them, it's a lifestyle, it's what they were born into, it's their occupation, a means of feeding, living etc. They will swear and curse any public figure that eventually tries to make it better for them.

    Call it ignorance and what not. But there's always more to what meets the eye.

  30. Sade, I did say schools were 'almost non existent'. That means they probably do exist but do not deserve to be called sools. Random Togolese immigrants organising classes on irregular days do not qualify as school for me. About hospitals, please tell me the name of the hospital there in case I missed it… Thank you

  31. Makoko is a self sufficient community, u can only understand if u av bin der, I was there several times in 2010 and was shocked learn that nothing will make the people there move away, they even offer sacrifices to some gods for government to forget they exist.

    Ebuka: they av schools, they av hospitals, bore hole water scattered everywhere in the community and more then a quater of them have dstv. Yes pls visit the place b4 making ur conclusions, rather than telling us about ur chanced discussion with Sean Paul.

    Pls go to that community and u will be shocked by the structure that's in place. Do you know most of the people in makoko are scared of roads, they rarely venture out of the place and the kind of commerce going on there can rival Oke arin in lagos.

    Yes Government should look into Makoko but pls don't write what u know nothing about.

  32. Well….well.

    Makoko….isn't his concern.

    The super rich don't live there.

    There's no one to effectively coerce the govt to do something.

    I've heard of plans to rehabilitate and turn it into a wood processing enclave.

    But that's all talk…so far.

    They're inconsequential.

    Or so we think.

    Let em build the Eko atlantic and watch the Makoko kids paddle over there to rob them for all they've got!

    Call it wealth redistribution.


  33. Fashola needs to first pay the debts he owes. The man is by far my biggest disappointment.

  34. So, how about if that guy was contracted to house the residents of Makoko? It would be pretty cool.

  35. Interestingly, I attended a climate change seminar in January organised by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. The architect on the panel runs Nle Works, and he showed us brilliant designs specifically for Makoko residents. Really nice and innovative. The website is here: http://www.nleworks.com He also showed us his design for a 4th mainland bridge. These are the kind of things I wish the Governor would take on first. I imagine there are loads of stories behind that, however. 🙂

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail