Feature: Exploring Lagos, Nigeria's "city of dreams"-Xinhua

Feature: Exploring Lagos, Nigeria's "city of dreams"

Source: Xinhua| 2024-04-19 20:56:15|Editor: huaxia

by Olatunji Saliu

ABUJA, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Leaving behind the tranquility of his homestead in Nigeria's southeastern state of Enugu about two decades ago for Lagos, the country's economic hub, Emeka Okafor's journey began with a dream for a brighter, more rewarding future.

Having determination as his compass, 37-year-old Okafor learned and ventured into the business of trading, carving a niche for himself and navigating through the various experiences that the bustling metropolis of Lagos threw at him. "It was not an easy decision to leave my home and family behind in the village," Okafor recounted in an interview with Xinhua.

"I knew that if I wanted to succeed, I had to take a chance on Lagos. And I am glad I did," he said. With a flourishing business dealing in hair products and cosmetics at the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex, where he now has five different shops and a sixth one underway elsewhere within the city, the businessman stands as a testament to the boundless potential that Lagos promises.

Okafor's success story is not without its trials and tribulations. Like many who flock to Lagos to search for prosperity, he weathered the storm of challenges that the city presented. "Lagos is a city of contrasts," he said, noting "for every opportunity, there is an obstacle. But it is how you navigate those obstacles that define your experience."

With a vibrant culture, three busy seaports, bustling markets and a notable influence on entertainment, fashion, tourism and arts in Africa, as well as in commerce, technology, politics and education, Lagos remains Nigeria's most populous city.

Data from the state government shows that though the smallest state in Nigeria in terms of land mass, Lagos has the highest urban population in the country at 27.4 percent. With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 120 billion nairas (over 104 million U.S. dollars) as of 2023, Lagos generates about 30 percent of Nigeria's total GDP, according to state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Lagos was formerly the capital of Nigeria, but it has been replaced by Abuja since December 1991. Home to over 200 local financial institutions, including the headquarters of the majority of the local banks, and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos has at least 29 industrial estates and four central business districts. It accounts for over 80 percent of Nigeria's foreign trade flows and generates over 50 percent of the country's port revenues.

Commonly referred to as "Eko" by the indigenes, the history of Lagos dates back to the 15th century when it first came to the attention of the Portuguese who gave it its current name derived from "lakes." It was later formally annexed as the British Lagos Colony in 1861.

"Lagos is the most accepting of all the cities in the country. You come with your baggage -- religious, tribal, cultural -- and Lagos will make way for you," Muyiwa Adetiba, a media practitioner, wrote in a published article in the local daily, Vanguard Newspaper.

In Adetiba's words, Lagos offers a bear hug to everyone with "a dream" in all aspects of life and rewards such individuals accordingly. "And if scamming people is your thing, Lagos will still give you the space to ply your trade. You could come with only the shirt on your back and become a shop owner in a year, and a landowner in five or less."

The paradox of life in Lagos is evident in its socio-economic landscape. In the dingy recesses of the Makoko floating slum, located in a lagoon where poverty casts a long shadow, residents grapple with the harsh realities of urban existence. Conversely, in the many opulent houses of Lagos' wealthiest neighborhoods like the man-made Banana Island, where affluence reigns supreme, the narrative takes on a different hue.

"In Makoko, the best-known slum in Lagos, every day is a struggle. As a teenager living in Makoko, I grew up witnessing the people live hand-to-mouth, scraping by on whatever scraps they found. It is no way to live, but what choice do the people have?" Fatima Ibrahim, a former resident of Makoko, told Xinhua. Now married and living in Agege, a densely populated suburb along the rail corridor of the newly launched Red Line project, Ibrahim described Lagos as "a city of opportunities and a place where dreams come true."

"Lagos has an electrifying energy," noted Chukwudi Okonji, a shipping agent near the recently inaugurated Chinese-built Lekki deep seaport on the city's outskirts.

Generally, Lagos has remained the fulcrum of Nigeria's economic revitalization, and the Lekki deep seaport is a testament to the coastal city's pivotal role in driving innovation and development, he said.

The Lekki deep seaport is "a game-changer that has opened up new avenues for trade and commerce, not just for Lagos, but for the entire country," he said, noting that the newly constructed world-class airport terminal in the Lagos capital of Ikeja, also built by Chinese engineers, stands as a symbol of Lagos' ambitious commitment to progress and modernization.

Amid the whirlwind of progress, the Chinese-built Blue Line and Red Line light-rail projects that crisscross the cityscape like veins of opportunity have become some of the most talked-about recent transformation projects in the Nigerian state, aimed at solving the traffic congestion that characterizes frenetic Lagos.

This aspect of socio-economic development, which eases life for the common people and cuts down travel time, is a "lifeline of sorts" for those who rely on public transportation, noted Taiwo Adekunle, a local insurance broker.

From the electrifying nightlife of Victoria Island to the vibrant music scene of Ikeja, Lagos pulsates with a rhythm all its own while maintaining its status as the entertainment hub of Nigeria, especially the melting pot of Nollywood, the local movie industry.

"This (Lagos) is where dreams are born and nurtured; a city of opportunities, where talent thrives and creativity knows no bounds," said Tolani Abass, a budding actress.

"Life in Lagos is like a dance -- you learn to move with the rhythm, to navigate the twists and turns with grace and determination. It is this spirit of resilience, and the indomitable will to succeed that defines Lagos -- a city unlike any other, where dreams are born and destinies forged amid the hustle and bustle of urban life," she added.