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Who Belongs in a City? Watch this thought provoking TedTalk by OluTimehin Adegbeye at TED Global 2017



At the recently concluded TEDGlobal 2017, themed: Builders, Truth Tellers, Catalysts, OluTimehin Adegbeye gave a talk addressing the violation of the rights of Lagosians by the state government.

These Lagosians, she said, are being forced out of their homes. The government’s target is urbanisation, a goal to make itself the “new Dubai” – ignoring the displacement, loss, and homelessness the forced eviction results in.

With lines like “The first thing we are taught to forget about poor people is that they are people” and “You don’t need to be the new Dubai when you are already Lagos,” OluTimehin turns the spotlight on the people whose lives are being adversely affected by the gentrification process.

Watch the talk here:

Read an excerpt of the transcript here:
The Lagos state government, like far too many on our continent, pays lip service to ideas of inclusion, while acting as though progress can only be achieved by the erasure, exploitation and even elimination of groups it considers expendable. People living with disabilities who hawk or beg on Lagos streets are rounded up, extorted and detained. Women in low-income neighborhoods are picked up and charged with prostitution, regardless of what they actually do for a living. Gay citizens are scapegoated to distract from real political problems. But people, like cities, are resilient, and no amount of legislation or intimidation or violence can fully eliminate any of us. Prostitutes, women and women who work as prostitutes still haven’t gone extinct, despite centuries of active suppression. Queer Africans continue to exist, even though queerness is now criminalized in most parts of the continent. And I’m fairly certain that poor people don’t generally tend to just disappear because they’ve been stripped of everything they have.

We are all already here, and that answers the question of whether or not we belong.

When those fisherpeople started to sail down the lagoon in search of new homes, it could not have occurred to them that the city that would rise up around them would one day insist that they do not belong in it. I like to believe that my grandfather, in mapping new frontiers for Lagos, was trying to open it up to make room for other people to be welcomed by the city in the same way that he was. On my way here, my grandma called me to remind me how proud she was, how proud [my grandfather] and my mother would have been. I am their dreams come true. But there is no reason why their dreams — or mine, for that matter — are allowed to come true while those of others are turned to nightmares. And lest we forget: the minimum requirement for a dream is a safe place to lay your head.

Read the full text HERE

Photo Credit: Bret Hartman / TED


  1. The Real Oma

    September 10, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I watched it. She was amazing.
    Very thought provoking topic too.

  2. Ronx

    September 10, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    I had goosebumps watching this.
    Awesome talk!

  3. BA

    September 10, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    OluTimehin did such great work with this speech, I broke down in tears watching it. Not like our governments do not know how their greedy and terrible decsions affect the populace, but they don’t care. It is a good thing to have a platfrom and a voice to call their actions to scrutiny. In a world where mega cities are pushing for ecological solutions, our governements are pushing to go in the same poorly thought out direction that certain mega cities are trying to turn away from. Eko o ni baje, but o ti already baje fun awon mekunu.

  4. ND babe

    September 11, 2017 at 1:33 am

    “You dont have to be the new Dubai when you are Lagos!” Aptly spoken. Eloquent does not do your talk justice. Lagos has its uniqueness and it cannot/will never replace Dubai. It can be itself. It should be itself. It should find its niche (and it has it but it seems WHITE washed brains dont value it). The beauty of Nigeria is the juxtaposition of poverty right next to immense wealth. I grew up in these conditions and it grounded me. Morning akamu was purchased down the street from a poor lady who made a living supplying the tastiest akara and akamu. She bothered no one. We had a commensal type relationship. The less poor brought roads and infrastructure and sales. They brought the pharmacies, hair studios, better peppersoup and goat head joints, the quick store you visited at midnight and they opened shop because they knew you. They also made us safe. To rob our estates successfully, you had to get past the shanty town. You could never succeed at that once the term Ole/Thief was issued. They had a code of living. It was strict. Life was very okay with it. It was even better than what police has to offer. It used to be a no brainer living harmoniously among the poor until the gap widened between the two. The widened gap is now accompanied with uncommon economic deprivation experienced by the poor. They have become poorer. Now we have coupled this with displacing them from their shanty barely there but warm homes. And we want to drive our expensive SUVs down the streets without living under the constant threat of being extinguished by those who we prefer to see as invisible, who we force to take on extreme adaptive behavior, aka vices, in order to just live and be. Why? This is inhumane. More importantly, it is a violation of human rights. It is unjust, immoral, and unacceptable. We harm ourselves when we push out and dehumanize our fellow humans. It eventually comes back to hunt us. STOP chasing poor people out of their homes. They can live well next to the wealthy in well designed communities. It is their land. They should be treated fairly and allowed to sell what they will at an asking price. Figure out how to give them the opportunity to thrive and live. In fact, you need them for commerce and labor to say the least. You need them to have a stable ecosystem where all levels of interaction and services abound.

  5. Liz

    September 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Lesson: you can be eloquent, articulate, intelligible, confident with your Nigerian accent.

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