Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not so apocalyptic

With all my talk of market bulldozing, garbage, and ugliness, perhaps I have been too negative on Lagos.

In fact, there have been some notable improvements here in the last couple of years that have made real differences in people's lives. One is the public bus system, called Bus Rapid Transit or BRT. The BRT buses ply regular routes for a fixed ticket price, and they are loads more comfortable and orderly than fighting to get onto/being crammed into a danfo, as the beat-up VW transporters that provide the informal-economy alternative are called. The BRT is also quicker, as they use dedicated lanes set off by concrete dividers. In a city where many people spend 2-3 hours each day in "go-slows" (traffic jams), the system is hugely popular, and has rightly been winning praise. I take it whenever I go downtown.

Another new policy is the "Green Lagos" initiative, which involves reclaiming the areas within highway cloverleafs and planting trees and grass, as has been done here:

In a city where they don't understand or don't have a word for "park", it's nice to see some green. I wanted to drop down and roll around on this grass when I saw it. Maybe I will go back and have a picnic. And in a country where the leaders are known for doing nothing other than lining their own pockets, Fashola deserves credit for doing something.

But unlike the BRT, which I don't see any downside to, the Green Lagos idea is more complicated. These cloverleafs were not vacant land -- they were all being used by people as informal areas for car repair or metal work or cinder block manufacturing. The creation of these green spaces requires the displacement of jobs and people. And what struck me most about this park was that no one was using it. Are parks a bourgeois Western concept reserved for people who have the recreation time and money to enjoy them?

Even if you don't want to field that question, please comment if you are reading this! I will be eternally grateful.


  1. Please know that everyone who reads your blog is interested in your insight and travels and are trying to understand the Nigerian culture.It's hard to sort out such a differt lifestyle and we need time to process the information. You're opening our eyes to an entirely different world. Keep on bloging because you're giving us all an education. Don't get discouraged when we don't reply because I have to admit we sometimes get lazy, but it gets us thinking outside of our own world. M & D

  2. Thanks, Mom. You're right. And really I am blogging for myself, not others. But its still nice to see that people are reading.

  3. Hey Sean,
    It's been great keeping up with you through the blog and I've been telling folk about it. You should ask someone for an old r&b song called "I am a Danfo Driver" Take care. Ejim

  4. Hi Sean,
    This world in which you now find yourself is totally unimaginable to someone like me who has never been further from the US than to Canada. Are you keeping a personal journal other than your blog? I am really impressed with all you are doing. Chris and Tom send their best and wish they had your "guts." Aunt B.

  5. Thanks, Ejim -- although I may need your help finding that song.

    As for you, Aunt Barb, I'm happy you're reading. I do keep a separate journal about my daily comings and goings, but its pretty boring stuff (like yesterday's search for contact lens solution). Hi to Chris and Tom for me.

  6. U can just ask any music vendor on the road. They usually sell it. the song is called danfo driver. Great job with your blog..u are really giving a lot of insight