The hell called Makoko
By Emmanuel Udom
Makoko, a notorious slum in Lagos, Nigeria is one hell of a place. Located near the bank of the Atlantic Ocean, the settlers, or should I say, squatters or residents are mostly men, women and children, who make a living from fishing business.
Why the hell, you dare ask? Well, when you manage in this rainy season to enter the shanty called Mokoko either through the Atlantic Ocean on the Lagos Island axis, Yaba, Iwaya or Alagomeji all in Lagos, you will get the message.
Inhabited by mostly illiterates, who boasted that they arrived the slum some 100 years ago from Badagry, Ilaje, Cotonue and Egun, you will see that there are no streets on the slum, marshy Makoko that is certainly water logged.
What they call houses are simply huts built with old dilapidated woods, irons or zincs, with poverty, malnutrition, diseases, underdevelopment, clearly visible for discerning minds to see. No social amenities in these back water areas.
On Monday, July 23, 2012, this writer was on the entourage of Umah Abubakar Manko, Lagos state police commissioner, who visited the shanty to plead for peace and calm, over the purported killing of one of their many Baales by a police officer.
Baale Albert Ayinde, who received the police chief, begged him to plead with Babatunde Raji Fashola, the action and no nonsense governor of the state not to evict them as they are comfortable in this poverty and diseases ravaged slum.
Poverty may be a great teacher. But, to the settlers, it is their focal point, deciding factor, and therefore welcome in their individual and collective lives. It seems, their body system is immune to water borne diseases, poverty faces and other wastes littering the entire slum. A kind of self created hell, on earth if you ask me.
The governor wants to turn the place to a mega city, yet the settlers on that same Monday marched to the government house armed with placards and posters, chanting anti Fashola slogans.
The suggestion is for Fashola to find a suitable place for these folks, construct a mega city to replace the mega slum called Makoko and return them back, if they so wish.
On the other hand, the entire bank of the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos is indeed a goldmine for discerning eyes. The fishing business going on there could rake in billions in naira and foreign currencies for the state government, if well planned out.
There must be a way the government could co-opt or work in partnership with these illiterate fishermen, women and children to run a mega fishing project, provide schools, hospitals, recreational facilities, water and power supply to the area.
The Makoko protesters insisted that the governor, whom they voted into power, is trying to turn them into slaves. Dead wrong, I must say. The man at the government house is angry and desperate to make the entire Lagos a mega state, or should I say city. Let the Makoko settlers give him a chance