lagos must prosper

Marina-at-DuskAlexis Okeowo at Granta:

The city of Lagos takes the form of an awkwardly shaped octopus, with tentacles reaching east and west, plucking up land that was once outside of its edges or part of neighbouring states. The metropolis, the commercial capital of Nigeria, is inundated with water, a fact never more obvious than during the rainy season – about half the year. Pushed up against a lagoon, riddled with creeks and canals and lacking drains, the city sinks under the rain and roads disappear. Lagosians pull up their trousers to wade through the water and cars slow to a near-halt as they tentatively plow through rapidly forming lakes. Most residents live on what is called the mainland, the body of the octopus, where quarters continue to become denser as migrants pour into the city. Settlers build precariously on the wetlands, and the homes, constructed quickly and cheaply, routinely fall in on their residents. At least one hundred and thirty-five buildings in Lagos have collapsed over the last seven years, some of them of considerable scale and some of which were schools.

Every morning, more than 60 per cent of the mainland’s inhabitants, from the upper-class neighbourhoods to the poorest shanty towns, cross three choked bridges, leaving the mainland to work on a series of islands. The original downtown of the city is a tight grid of markets, parks and commercial and government buildings called Lagos Island. Today, the city center includes Victoria Island, Lagos’s financial centre, and its adjacent residential area, Ikoyi.

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