Echoes of greatness as Lagos celebrates Golden Jubilee

Eniola Ajayi, Lagos

EYO MASQUERADES

On May 27, 1967, Nigerians woke up to witness the dissolution of the four regions which existed from the nation’s independence in 1960.

The dissolution gave birth to 12 States; out of which is Lagos in the South-western sub-region of the country.

From a tiny population and a very small land space, coupled with insignificant financial prowess, Lagos has evolved not only as the most successful State in Nigeria, it also accounts for the highest population and the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

From left, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, Oba Elegushi of Ikate and APC chieftain and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu during Eyo 2017 festival.

While the State is essentially a Yoruba-speaking environment, it is a socio-cultural melting pot for local and foreign nationals.

Indigenous inhabitants include the Aworis and the Eguns with very rich cultures; one of the notable cultural practices that have made the State thick, is the iconic ‘Eyo’ Masquerade Festival, an age-long tradition that has become a part of the Lagos brand.

Five decades of Statehood, five decades of evolution and five decades of tortuous journey; the journey of 50 years has culminated in the State becoming the 5th largest economy in Africa although the race to become Africa’s number one investment destination is still on.

At Eyo festival to mark golden jubilee

One of the major reasons said to be responsible for the prosperity of Lagos is the fact that it is a home for all, irrespective of colour or tribe.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde says although Lagos spent 24 of its 50 years as Nigeria’s Federal Capital, its tremendous growth has been largely premised on visionary leadership, political stability and continuity and the receptive nature that ‘Lagosians’ have developed towards visitors.

“It is clearly the number one State in Nigeria; 26 out of its 50 years of existence, it has spent not being the Federal Capital Territory and it has probably recorded most of its successes within those 26 going to 27 years… absolutely there will be always challenges because of influx from other States and the West Coast, it means Lagos will continually subsidise other States and neighbouring countries that may not be able to look after their own but Lagos’ strength lies in rising to the challenges to meet people’s expectation,” Mr Ayorinde reiterated.

Music icons
Lagos has been a home for notable industrialists, blue chip firms and music icons such Afro-beat legend- Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Tunde Nightingale both of blessed memory, other living music legends are Ebenezer Fabiyi (Obey), King Sunny Ade and lots more high-life, fuji and hip-hop stars.

Fela’s effigy at Allen junction, Ikeja.

One of the notable businessmen in the city is Chief Rasak Okoya, who chronicles his business exploits in the city.

Chief Okoya attested to the fact the platforms given to him by great music icons such as Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade really went a long way in boosting his business.

Nigeria and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is another business mogul whose history will not be complete without Lagos.

In Dangote’s description of Lagos; “living in Lagos has actually been a tremendous blessing by the Almighty God.

According to him, Lagos too has grown and it has been a wonderful experience seeing the city transform to what it is today.

“When I came here, those of us working in Apapa used to make use of motor-bikes because it was much easier, I only used my car on weekends, it’s been great, I have seen the transformation in Lagos in the last 39 years from a smaller Lagos to a much bigger Lagos,” Dangote said.

Lagos of old
Lagos also has to its credit, the richest black woman not only in Nigeria and Africa but in the world- Mrs Folorunsho Alakija who recalls with nostalgia, the Lagos of old.

“As a young girl when I was about 6 years of age, we lived in a big four-storey family house in Ido-Oluwo street, we used to walk to school and there were plants on the left and right sides of the roads, there wasn’t too much hustle and bustle, there was little or no security whatsoever, I have lived 59 years of my life in Lagos, the social life was such that there were always street parties and I remember that it was in one of those street parties that my husband and I actually met; when we were courting, we used to go to many ‘Mama-put’ areas (local canteens) where it was fun to just buy rice in leaves and eat inside the car.”

”Making it (becoming wealthy) as Nigerians will say, has been in Lagos, Lagos has evolved and it is still evolving, Lagos is my best city ever, I cannot and I will not live anywhere else” she affirmed.

The former Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola is always full of gratitude for what providence has bestowed on him through the State, adding that his decision to stay back even when opportunities to travel abroad were there, has paid-off.

“Lagos was created as a State when I was only four years old, we went from one corner of Lagos to the other, from Mushin to Surulere, Gbagada, Bariga and so on, I saw the National theatre develop as a pool of sand when the reclamation was done, it was a very happy experience growing up in Lagos and seeing Lagos develop, even though some of my siblings went abroad, I just refused to go, I am happy that I stayed here, that experience helped me when I became the Governor because I knew the State like the back of my hand,” Fashola said.

Stability
Lagos in the last five decades has developed politically and economically; since 2009, the State has a long history of being controlled by the opposition.

This continuity many believe has been responsible for its ingenuity to be self-sustaining making it the only State with the highest per capita income and internally generated revenue.

Lagos @ 50, foot at Berger bus stop.

Educational development
In educational development, it is an understatement to say that Lagos has grown in leaps and bounds. In 1968, just a year after its creation, there were only 55 secondary schools while in 1969; only 402 public primary schools existed.

Today, Lagos boasts of 679 secondary schools and 1,010 primary schools.

This statistics is exclusive of 18,000 private primary and secondary schools as well as 18 tertiary institutions and five Technical Colleges that render educational services in the State today.

These and many other success stories have culminated in the 50 day celebration which began with the three wise men dolling out gifts to residents, coupled with royal visit by the monarch of Ile-Ife, which according to history is believed to be the source of the Yoruba race.

Various graffiti and monuments have also adorned strategic places in the city; major infrastructural projects have been commissioned both on the Island and on the Mainland, thereby further stimulating the State’s economy as well as the beauty of the environment.

Defining moment
For the incumbent Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, it is a defining moment for him, being in the saddle at a time the State clocks 50.

In the words of Governor Ambode- “when you look at it generally, Lagos at 50, we have every reason to celebrate our dear State and our collective achievements because we have all been part of the success story of ‘Eko Akete’- The Centre of Excellence.”

Like the Holy Book says, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep; it’s a season of joy for Nigeria’s economic hub city and it will be an aberration not to join in the celebration.

Happy birthday Lagos!
Happy Golden Jubilee anniversary to Nigeria’s economic capital city!
Long live ‘Eko Akete.’

 

Sammie Idika