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Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna: Lagos – The Imperialist Hub of Nigeria’s Economy



LagosAsides its geographical virtues, the infrastructures that define Lagos as a state of great comeliness that it is today were not created by God, neither were they a product of the big bang.

Sometime in May, a heated debate on Facebook Nigeria ensued between the residents/enthusiasts of Lagos and those of Abuja. While Lagosians described Abuja as spoilt, entitled, and privileged, the Abuja residents spotting the Achilles heel―the congestion, traffic, and stress of Lagos―went for the kill. The debate ended with a poll where only twenty-seven percent of participants agreed to live in Lagos in an event that they could get all that Lagos offered to them from another city, say Abuja. (It is worthy to note that this poll was carried out by an Abuja resident, Bibian Pius-Urum). The Lagosians, not succumbing to defeat, taunted the Abuja folks as people with no good gibing content, who had to resort to singing same old song until it had become hackneyed.

Eby Pius-Urum, a fashion designer and a caterer who had her thriving business in Lagos even referred to the traffic and stress as “…the sauce.” “Laye! Lagos will loose it’s (sic) taste without the traffic,” she wrote. But amused spectators, like me, would see this as a lame excuse; a pitiful case of one denying one’s problem. Besides, it is funny how one, particularly an inhabitant of Lagos, would refer to Abuja as privileged. The statement, though factual, is an embodiment of the trite expression of pot calling kettle black.

Lagos is a history of political privileges and attention. Lagos was among the first (if not the first) cities occupied by the whites when they came into the geographical expanse now known as Nigeria. The city was even christened by the Portuguese who were the first Europeans to visit the settlement. The whites revamped the land, providing it with virtually everything―ports (both air and sea), good road network, electricity, water, etc. And after the amalgamation of 1914, Lagos would go ahead to become the capital of the country for almost eight decades. If Lagos was human, it would be that over pampered child that had been showered with so much love and attention right from birth.

Although the capital of Nigeria in 1991 was moved to Abuja, Lagos still remains the capital of all sectors in Nigeria―business and finance, entertainment, literature, information technology, even religion. Having inherited prodigious financial history and political attention―the bait it has used to lure people to itself―the city has become a hothouse for money, one constantly choked by a horde of hustlers – a place of urgency and din.

Although, ethnically dominated by Yorubas, Lagos enjoys a sort of de-centralization and de-tribalization. The World Population Review stated that there are more than 250 ethnic groups represented in Lagos. And with Nigeria having a total of 250 ethnic groups, one could logically assert that Lagos is Nigeria—a melting pot of cultures; a rainbow state.

People who live in Lagos are usually assertive and quick-witted, which I believe is a good thing. But these traits are more of survival instincts than they are innate. My friend, Samuel Sulemanu, had said to me twice, “they will sell you easily in Lagos.” He said this because he believed that I exhibit a tropism towards trust; that I am too quick to believe people. Traits one shouldn’t possess in Lagos. While this may be true, it is also worrisome that the people who live in Lagos have grown comfortably with insecurity; have become wary of performing or receiving good deeds; have worn paranoia like an armour.

Apart from these, people outside Lagos, especially new graduates and recent ex corps members, are being financially bullied into Lagos. Recently, I received a call from my mother. She told me of a job offer: a firm was in need of a pharmacist, salary was attractive, but firm is in Lagos. I heaved in exasperation because every time I had sought for a high-income job, I was always referred to this city. To get real money one has to be there. In cities like Enugu (the acclaimed Eastern capital which I love and also look forward to settle in), one would receive the crumbs that have fallen off Lagos’ table. This is disturbing!

So I took to Facebook to ask a question: Why are all the good job opportunities located in Lagos? There was a myriad of answers and reactions to this question. Some people said that the major attraction to Lagos are the sea ports. A commenter, Charles Jaja-Sackey, a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom said that it is not so easy establishing ports in other states like Cross-River and Rivers. “You can’t open ports in other states,” Charles started. “It’s not that straightforward: You need natural harbours that would allow ships, otherwise you’d be stuck with spending extra resources in extended continuous dredging, and additional expenses in operations because smaller ships would have to go into sea to help offload larger ships. It’s pointless. We have a thriving port in Lagos, we just need to expand it.”

While this argument may have some validity to it, it doesn’t erase the fact that not all companies or organizations that have situated their headquarters in Lagos need the sea ports. Ports are mainly required for export and import. I am a pharmacist. Pharmacy is a profession with diverse areas, but of all these areas only industrial pharmacies and community pharmacies involved in wholesales would require ports. Yet, a huge percentage of highly remunerative community pharmacies are littered around the Lagos metropolis. Every year, hundreds of inducted pharmacists pour into the city to find lucrative organizations for internship, NYSC or post-NYSC placement.

Aside being a pharmacist, I write. And there is this gnawing pain that I feel when literary festivals and workshops are constantly held in Lagos. Do writers make use of ports too? Aren’t there writers in Enugu, Asaba, Minna, Kaduna, Benin, Calabar, Lokoja who can benefit from these festivals and workshops without having to travel long distances? Why make writers yearn with envy at literary opportunities readily available to their Lagos counterparts?

Or should we talk about the numerous churches littered all around the city contributing to development of the state in one way or another? How, every year, thousands pour into the holy land that is Lagos for healing and spiritual refilling.

Many humorously hinted that the reason most good opportunities are located in Lagos is because the city is the Centre of Excellence. This title, I think, stems from the fact that the city is only privileged to be the treasure trove of businesses. Let another city have the influx of businesses that Lagos has had over the years, and we would have to find a new slogan for it. I am of the opinion that when individuals and corporate organizations go into Lagos to set up new businesses or opportunities, despite the fact that the city is already saturated, they do it out of insecurity, fear. “That is the place you’d find the largest market for everything” is the common excuse. A valid one. But the city is now saturated, supersaturated even, so it is not out of place for these businesses to crystallize out of Lagos and settle in other cities. This is one of the major ways economic growth can permeate into other cities. As long as there are people living in these cities, there will always be viable market and manpower. There is no need to fear.

Because if this doesn’t happen, it shouldn’t come to us as a surprise, like Chizaram Precious―in Machiavelli-esque style―quipped on the post, if Lagos “. . . as Nigeria’s smallest state . . . soon implodes on itself.”

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Gideon writes because the pen is not shy, nervous, and does not stutter. He spends his days and nights crafting stories in his mind that, most times, never make it to the laptop screen. And he wonders if his interest in "short" stories has anything to do with his 5ft frame.


  1. TheRealist

    October 9, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Seems like every so often, someone trots out some version of this same old tired and worn thesis to diminish Lagos…smh

    Meanwhile, Port Harcourt has 2 ports at Onne (FOT and FLT), in addition to the terminals at Bonny Island, Okrika and Tuma, an oil and gas free trade zone, an international airport, 2 federal refineries, a federally-built petrochemicals complex, and a federally-built fertilizer complex (the latter two since privatized as Indorama and Notore, respectively), one of the world’s biggest LNG plants, and some of the federal government’s biggest investments in electricity power at the 6 Afam power plants. In addition to its 13% Derivation Allocation, one would expect Rivers to be the most economically advanced state in Nigeria, if these matters were as simple as some seek to paint. So abegi let’s accord DUE credit to Lagos and Lagosians (whatever their origins).

    PS: For the avoidance of any doubt, please note that I am not bemoaning the siting of these federal projects in Rivers, as such siting makes perfect sense given the resource base – similr to siting seaports in a coastal city as Lagos makes perfect economic sense.

    • Razz N Bougie

      October 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      @ Realist, yes PH has all you mentioned and that is why, after Lagos and Abuja, Port Harcourt is the next major city we have in Nigeria where people troop to for employment and to seek fortunes.. According to 2015 AfrAsia Bank New World Wealth Report – Number of dollar millionaires in Lagos are 9,100, Abuja 1,000 and Port Harcourt 1,000. Therefore all you have done is support the assertions of the writer.

  2. TheRealist

    October 9, 2018 at 10:53 am

    PS: Meanwhile, the biggest growth areas in (and some of the best parts of) Lagos – Parkview, Osborne Foreshore, Banana Island, Lekki, Oniru, Eko Atlantic (when/if it fully takes off), etc., all manifested two generations after the so-called “whites” left the State House and 27 years after (i.e., a full generation) after Lagos ceased being the federal capital.

    The LASG saw a dilapidated FG-owned Badagry Expressway and tried (albeit sadly unsuccessful at the moment) to turn it into a modern 10-lane highway with rail and BRT services, while the FG saw the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and decided that it merely needed “patch-patch” repairs. That succinctly epitomizes the dynamics at play!

  3. zzzzzzzzzzz

    October 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I live in Lagos and the truth is Lagos is overstretched. The traffic for one is a complete minus. A trip from Ajah to Balogun which on a good day should last 30min can stretch to 3:30mins on bad days. A journey from Ibadan to Lagos which is roughly an hour can take up to 4, no thanks to the tanker driver. At times to evade taffic jam one would have too spend more on bike or ferry depending on your location. Don’t even mention the tanker drivers that block major roads and bridges. Other coastal states need to make their ports functional. Rail travel should be resuscitated, I don’t believe all tankers need to come to Apapa to load/offload goods. Lagos can also consider intercity rails as a form of transport. Many people may love to stay in Lagos for the hype but what hype is it if you don’t have time your self and family? I’ll gladly go to another town to work if the opportunity presents itself and maybe only visit Lagos for holidays and shopping.

    • Razz N Bougie

      October 10, 2018 at 9:59 am

      @ zzzzzzzzzzz, it will be difficult to get coastal states to invest in FG assets like ports, refineries etc. There are legal issues involved. Also, will state govt’s sink hundreds of millions into FG projects only for the FG to impose a corrupt management who will then proceed to run the place down again? Furthermore, I’m quite certain that the FG will insist that the money is given to them so that they can carry out the rehabilitation by themselves. Of course we all know how FG projects are managed and what happens to the money. Perhaps restructuring Nigeria and handing over FG infrastructures to the regions will go a long way towards helping the situation.

  4. Nonnysongz

    October 11, 2018 at 5:03 am

    This is beautiful

    Master piece

  5. Mildy..

    October 11, 2018 at 10:43 pm


    Truth well said.

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