Not too long ago, the Lagos State governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola launched “The Spirit of Lagos”
Many of us began to wonder if indeed the mega city had a spirit. If it had or has, what kind of spirit drives the city? Is it a benevolent or malevolent spirit?
Every Lagosian will have a tale to tell of the Lagos city. It is a city with wide matrix that accommodates the splendour of the very rich as well as the choking squalor of the very poor. They all live side-by-side in the same Lagos.
I have lived here since 1991. And I can speak of Lagos with near exactitudes, what with being a reporter that has traversed the plains and plateaus of the city.
According to Fashola, there are four prisms to the Spirit of Lagos: good neighbourliness, citizenship, social justice and civic responsibility.
Taking a critical look at the so-to-say, four pillars of the spirit, according to the governor, one is tempted to conclude that Fashola was merely being prescriptive and not descriptive of what the spirit of Lagos is or should be.
It appears as mere aspirational wish for the city.
Yes, enlightened Lagosians are passionate in their conviction that this spirit has always existed though they concede to its erosion over the years by a lack of focus.
The city has a spirit indeed that possesses its inhabitant so much that they yoke together with such burning affinity. That explains why some persons are so fanatical about Lagos in spit of all its hassles, so much that you hear people say they cannot live anywhere else in Nigeria, as they see all other place as dull and slow.
Back to the four prisms, the social justice platform says everyone deserves the same set of rules and fairness: rich or poor, educated or illiterate, adult or child. Citizenship speaks to the need for everyone to play by the rules, obey the laws and carry your responsibilities to self, other individuals and to the entire community. Good neighbourliness? We are our brothers’ keepers. Family is where we live and work. Take care of the neighbour and his family, he will take care of you and your family.
In other words, taking care of your neighbour is ultimately taking care of yourself. Civic responsibility is a way of life. Get involved in the community, volunteer, get involved, drive your areas of interest and make a change.
Are these not mere ideals? How many Lagosians, for instance, are their brother’s or sister’s keepers? Too often, we experience attacks either in our homes or on the roads (during traffic). How many Lagosians rise to the occasion of helping to confront the assailant(s)? Do we not secretly and furtively pray that the attacker(s) do not get near us? And we often heave sigh of relief when they rob our ‘neighbour’ and go from there?
Yet, Lagos, to use the trending cliché, is a “happening city”. It is the city of life and living. It is the city, to borrow the Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s phrase on Ojuelegba, one of Lagos’ many melting pots, that never sleeps. There is bustle, there is hustle. There is the good, there is the bad and even the ugly. There is the mundane, there is the exceptional. Like a tapestry laid prone before the artistry of any willing mind, Lagos is the city that beckons to any and all who will utilize its vast resources to achieve life goals. Lagos is what you want it to be. Put differently, Lagos is you, Lagos is me, Lagos is all of us.
There are also running fallacies in the city. First is that Lagos is no-man’s land. Really? Go try buy and build a plot of land anywhere in the state. When you survive the financial mauling and harassment of Omoniles (land owners), you will reappraise the fallacy of Lagos being no man’s land.
However, all who are willing to make the most of the opportunities it offers are free to enter and exit at will, yes; in the sense that there are no laws, no guardians, no responsibilities to the land, this cannot be true, surely? No better recipe for the Hobbesian inhumane jungle life exists.
Another is that Lagos is a sharp man’s land. Hence such popular phrases as shine your eye, and this is Lagos are part of the community lingo, which makes you pro-actively suspicious. The message is driven home with such terse lines like “This is Lagos!” It is loaded with unexplained meanings.
Only the strong survive in Lagos. This is true. Per square metre, Lagos is probably one of the most competitive human space in the world. There is hardly space to stand and stare nor any benevolent spirit to crack nuts for any one.
Yet, Lagos has always been a place of strong humanity where care for others is the norm. Lagosians hate to see others being ‘chanced’ especially if the oppressor is stronger – be it in terms of wealth, strength or position. From June 12 to Occupy Nigeria, freedom fighters have had an enduring romance with Lagos, a romance that is unlikely to abate. There is just something so powerfully and inherently Lagos that makes the next man willing to scream, marching in solidarity ‘aluta continua, victoria ascerta’.
Yes, Lagos has a spirit. There is the good spirit and the bad spirit. Which one are you hosting?