Lekki One is about as middle class as Nigeria can boast
There are other residential areas in Lagos which rival Lekki One for status and layout – Ikeja GRA, Magodo, Surulere, and on the upper side of the scale, Victoria Island and Ikoyi. But Lekki One is chic. It is where new money meets old money. Judges worship with Yahoo boys, expatriates run after runs girls, druggies, and entertainers fraternize.
Well-appointed shops spring up daily. And the grandeur of worship houses is only outdone by the architecture of new palatial homes, especially in the A1 part of Lekki. In some areas, slums are a stone throw from some of the most beautiful, most impressive houses in the country.
The picture painted above is one of a microcosm – a mini Nigeria in short. Expectedly, the middle-class suburbanites in Lekki One are unable to act differently from the politicians and high-ranking government officials we roundly and routinely condemn like a national sport.
Street gates & barriers
The state government under Governor Fashola decried the erection of street gates and barriers. The then governor’s reasons were straightforward and logical – street gates on public roads caused traffic. They were a breach of the basic right to freedom of movement. And most of all, the gates prevented or at least slowed down the access of emergency services within the state.
Ultimately, the state passed a law prohibiting the continued construction of street gates. In some cases, however, the government allowed that gates already erected be kept open all day till 10pm. At which time, these gates were manned to allow access to residents and emergency services.
Within a year of Governor Ambode’s tenure, he reiterated the ban on street gates and ordered the demolition of some around the mainland.
Is there more to this phenomenon than meets the eye?
Strangely, Lekki One residents in an act of incomprehensible defiance, seem to have suddenly woken up to the concept of street gates and are erecting them on almost every street. And the justification is that street gates help provide extra security to residents. This is in spite of the newly launched Lagos Neighbourhood Watch, and the increased sophistication in ICT based security control.
The fad in Lekki now is for groups of residents to form themselves into Residents Associations, register a convincing name, open bank accounts and WhatsApp groups, and make monetary demands on others. This, of course, is after electing themselves into office and using titles to rubber stamp their intending actions.
Money. The long and short of this environmental & human rights abuse
Threats and extortions soon follow. These so-called residents associations are willing to spit in the face of the law and trample upon other people’s fundamental rights to free movement. For money.
In some areas, the associations lock the gates permanently. In the name of security. Interestingly, residents who refuse to be part of the illegal charade are sometimes barred from entering or exiting their homes by the gatemen (not security guards).
So what kind of money are we talking about? A good few millions. Remember, this is Lekki 1. Monthly dues start from about N10,000 per resident. And there are about 100,000 residents in Lekki 1 (extracted from a Lagos Business School report). Even if only a quarter of this number is eligible, we have an idea of the kind of money at stake. Per month!
As such, getting even a small piece of this huge pie is definitely worth all the trouble and worth risking the wrath of the state. Because this is where the Nigerian factor comes in. The persons in control of such monies will ultimately rise above the law. For starters, the associations will make contributions to the police. And, the associations may include members of the clergy, the judiciary, and other professionals. In other words, their illegitimacy will turn legitimate on the strength and “character” of involved personalities.
And herein lies the foolishness of the average Nigerian
By simply referring to a person as “Chairman”, Nigerians cower. How this person became chairman is irrelevant. What matters is that he has the title. It is exactly the same with people in elected office. They get away with murder. Literally. Because Nigerians cannot question authority.
We are incapable of fighting for our rights. As one member of a particularly notorious residents association said, “after all, we are all law breakers one way or the other. At least, in this case, it is for a good cause”.
The average Nigerian is all too reminiscent of the proverbial frog dropped in cold water and eventually boiled to death as it continued to “adjust” as the water temperature increased.
Unsurprisingly, more and more opportunists have realized that cowardly men and women with money to spare populate the Nigerian middle-class. So while scare-mongers take their money in exchange for their physical security, another group thrives by selling spiritual safety.
There is almost one church on every other street in Lekki. And each one proclaims to be God’s house. The Lekki masterplan is however clear on the locations of churches and houses of worship. But why bother with the law or development plans? Can any plan be bigger than God?!
Not to be outdone, the Lekki Central Mosque continues to blare its call to prayers loudly before dawn and throughout the rest of the day. Again in complete defiance of State laws.
Every revolution in the history of revolutions in every country in the world has been led directly or indirectly by the middle-class. Nigeria should be no different. The hope of the country lies squarely in the hands of the middle-class – Lekki dwellers and their ilk. But we need to grow a collective pair. Fela captured it perfectly when he said “my people dey fear too much…”. We want change, but we want it given to us by someone else.
Nobody has asked these resident associations to make their accounts public. We have not insisted that the Senate and house of representatives cease to function until their salaries and entitlements are laid bare and debated. Renegotiated even. Instead, we complain. And then we simply “get on with it”.
Nigeria’s shrinking middle class will need to stand up to their many oppressors and protect their turf. Sooner rather than later. Otherwise, like the aforementioned frog who gets boiled to death in hot water, we will not survive much longer. Venezuela and Haiti serve as perfect examples to those who care to read.