By Olamide Udoma
Lagos should be striving to become a liveable city. The term liveable city is derived from the liveable urbanism model, which has a configuration that reconciles decent livelihoods with ecologically sustainable living. The configurations are determined by levels of financial investment, politically determined roles of the state relative to markets, institutional capacities, geographical boundaries, technical know-how, capacities of civil society to engage the managers, and user’s demand (which, of course, is fractured by class, race, space and gender).
At present Lagos has the attributes of splintered and slum urbanism, where people are their own government; they provide themselves with basic services such as water, electricity, transport, and security. This is due to the government’s inability to provide these services at an adequate standard. The urban poor suffer the most because they are unable to afford to provide themselves and their families with these basic services.
This type of urbanism has led to unequal development, with areas of extreme wealth and grinding poverty, inadequate transport and public services, and pollution and unremitting squalor. The negative impact of slum urbanism has led to the delivery of services becoming politicised, where promises are made solely to attain votes. Despite the governments inadequacy people continue to migrate to Lagos, mainly because of the pull factor of jobs and opportunities. This populous further puts a strain on services and infrastructure. Lagos is unsustainable and to move to a more sustainable model continues to be a huge challenge.
The challenges Lagos would face to move from the present to become a liveable city would be mainly governmental. With the public sector unable to supply basic services to its population there is a need to increase the capacity of the public sector and think of new ways of financing infrastructure. This is already happening in Lagos with various Public Private Partnerships financing transport, power and water projects. However, the administrative and managerial skills still need drastic improvement. A holistic and integrated approach should be used.
The process of change needs to be one of discussion, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance. Different groups of the population (private sector, non-governmental organisations and the public sector) need to be involved in these discussions. The whole society needs to face the moral and political questions on the provision of housing, education, health and transport to name the least.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel but urban planners and government ministries need not just borrow things from abroad but harvest what strengths we have, the capacity within Lagos, its culture, and its history to find ways to solve the urban development puzzles within Lagos. A new way of thinking needs to arise. The idea of African Modernism can be harnessed to achieve a more liveable city.
As well as liveable urbanism, Inclusive urbanism can play a part in overcoming nationalisation. There needs to be space for entrepreneurs to flourish. This may be possible in freeing the market to allow for businesses to perform and the economy to grow. However, the government needs to have an agenda or vision for both social and environmental concerns that flows through all policies. This will then dictate what types of economic, social, and environmental policies are implemented. A lot of governments address problems when they occur but this needs to change to an ethos of long-term thinking and demand management.
As well as changing politically and economically, there is a need to educate the public about the needs and growth of the city. The population of a city needs to buy into the vision of an inclusive, environmentally friendly city. Behavioural change is the most difficult to change and at present a man living in an informal settlement, may take public transport to work now, but the reason he is working is so he can live like the so called ‘others’; who drive their polluting 4×4 cars, and live in large houses in gated estates; removing all sense of community. How do we sell a different vision of wealth to a Lagos population of over 17 million?
With a ‘Lagos Vision’ that encompasses the ideals of both liveable and inclusive urbanism that the population have bought into and are in support of, as well as participatory governance, and holistic policies managed by a well-oiled machine (Lagos State Government), Lagos can start to move towards being a more liveable city.