Are we fine with paying for high-rise apartments or gleaming new malls with the homelessness of a baby? Is this a price we are willing to pay for development? Are we all wiling to live in a society willfully devoid of all mercy and human empathy, a hyper efficient but largely soulless state?
Nigeria has been talking about her leaders for as long as I have been alive. Ever since the first republic when the new country imploded due to corruption, Nigeria has not freed itself from the clutches of a stridently corrupt ruling class. The military promised a war against indiscipline but in the end they destroyed the civil service completely and ushered in complete chaos. However, there is a new breed of leadership, whose raison d’etre is not corruption, but whose goal and methodology requires that Nigerians pay attention, ask questions and judge for themselves how they want to run this country and what they can stomach in the race to be developed.
Let us face it; the People’s Democratic Party has failed in its goal to make life easier for all Nigerians. It has failed woefully in virtually all sectors. PDP failed and this failure was so complete that the people needed any alternative, anything but PDP. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) used this opportunity to present a different way of getting things done in Nigeria and it has worked. The party now controls most southwestern states and with the big merger for 2015 and the creation of a brand new party it hopes to get enough votes to control the presidency.
But has the ACN brand worked? Has the development their frontrunner and flag bearer, Mr. Fashola, has brought to Lagos State worked and has it worked for all the other states? Are Lagosians better off than they were 2100 days ago? The result of the Lagos State “ban” of the commercial motorcycles from 475 Lagos motorways and highways has been released. There were 183 motorcycle accidents reported to the National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi and by November 2012, the number of accidents reported had been reduced to 130 incidents. This major reduction has been a significant talking point for the Lagos State government. They banned ‘okadas’ in Lagos and it has decreased accidents and improved the public health. At face value, it seems like a major achievement, lives have been saved and Fashola was right to ban ‘okadas’.
However this administration did not release data on all the externalities and the amount Lagosians paid to have the okadas removed. How children were forcibly withdrawn from school? How many citizens had to turn to crimes? How many people did newly jobless motorcycle drivers kill? These are the human cost of that policy that seems like an open and shut case. The truth is that it was important for the health of the public to do something about the recklessness of okada drivers, but the questions about methodology remains. Was this really the best way to ban okadas so that externalities are reduced? Or could the Lagos State administration that chose to sign and implement the law have done better?
Last week, Fashola’s government again chose to destroy a slum that housed the poorest Lagosians without any thought for those who are rendered homeless and destitute, among them a one-month-old baby. The residents of this community were forced to sleep in makeshift homes made with sticks and mattresses filled with filth and thrown on muddy roads. After international media carried the story and helped the Badia Easterners to tell their story to the world, Lagos State decided to halt the demolition. But those homes that were destroyed remains destroyed and again a one-month-old baby is left homeless.
Are we fine with paying for high-rise apartments or gleaming new malls with the homelessness of a baby? Is this a price we are willing to pay for development? Are we all wiling to live in a society willfully devoid of all mercy and human empathy, a hyper efficient but largely soulless state? This is not just a Lagos issues, most new ACN governors have adopted this ruthless punishment for those who are unlucky enough to be poor in the name of development.
This is a conversation that Nigeria must have now before this model of development becomes entrenched. What is the price we are willing to pay to get a developed country? Are we willing to build our country with the blood of our poor and most vulnerable citizens? Are we willing to pay with the homelessness of a one-month-old?
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