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The poor and the pursuit of Lagos dream

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PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

The Lagos Dream appeals to all, from the far away North Easterners in the grips of terrorists to the South Easterners in the claws of separatists. Poor people from across the country troop in to join the population of the indigenous poor Lagosians in the pursuit of the Lagos Dream. Sadly, these people have never stopped to ask what their place is in the alluring Lagos Dream. If they had asked, they would have realised early enough that there is no place for poverty in the Lagos Dream. It is either you succeed in Lagos or you perish in Lagos. If one word summarises the problem of Lagos, it is poverty. Judging by the consistency with which past and present administrations in the state have pursued the dream, Lagos will stop at nothing to see an end to poverty within its boundaries. The philosophy inspiring the state’s onslaught on poverty and all its manifestations over the years is not quite complicated: the best way to eradicate poverty is to eradicate the poor. This philosophy is at the centre of the Lagos Dream. Nothing else stands in the way of actualising the Lagos Dream than the ignorance of the dream. As diverse manifestations of poverty keep encroaching the spaces of the affluent and the spaces that should ideally belong to them, the government must take the most ruthless approach to mainstream the Lagos Dream philosophy, so that the veil of ignorance can be lifted once and for all.

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Recently, Lagos State Government renewed its readiness to address headlong the menace that street trading has become in the megacity.

Although the Lagos law prohibiting street trading and illegal market is 18 years old, the state has never seen its successful enforcement. Unlike previous attempts, this time the government has floated awareness campaigns on diverse platforms and in many languages. The campaigns seek to make Lagosians understand why street trading is an act of indiscipline, an illegal display of extreme poverty in the streets of a megacity. While the approach adopted by Lagos State Government is commendable, it fails to bring the public to the understanding of the government’s resolve to rid the state of poverty, whatever the name it is called. In the absence of any reasonable alternative provided, KAI officials will be going about wresting street peddlers and hawkers from the jaws of all manners of dangers to safely deliver them into the fangs of hunger. Although the rescue effort is great, it amounts to nothing until the poor are brought to the understanding that it is better for poor people to die of hunger than to die of the deaths that daily roam the streets of Lagos. To die while seeking to eke out a living in dangerous streets of Lagos is akin to suicide, whereas to die of poverty is bliss slow and painless. If especially poor Lagosians understand this philosophy, they will willingly submit to the superior wisdom of the government and get off the streets with no resistance.

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In the same category is the resistance that always attends the clearing of slums around Lagos. It equally exposes the paucity of understanding of the Lagos Dream among slum dwellers across the state. When Babatunde Fashola brought down a part of Makoko, the inhabitants of the slum did not see the glory, which lies ahead of the space that was rid of their poverty. When Akinwunmi Ambode descended on Otodo Gbame in defiance of court order, the inhabitants of the slum could not have thought of the governor’s commitment to delivering the Lagos Dream. Now that Babajide Sanwo-Olu has gone after Oke-Egan, no doubt the slum dwellers did not see the governor’s action as being motivated by the progress of Lagos. In few years to come, beauty will spring out of the ashes, which the slums once were. Skyscrapers will grow from the slum dwellers’ ancestral land of filth and stench. Even the slum dwellers who transited to the great beyond as a result of the displacement will look down on Lagos pleased and satisfied that their death paved the way for the actualisation of the Lagos Dream. Only if slum dwellers are well tutored in the grand anti-poor agenda of the Lagos Dream, the government will not have to execute the benevolent act of slum demolition under the watch of gun-toting agents of the state.

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