Sir: In the early part of the 20th century, Ikorodu was a moderately prosperous, if sleepy little fishing and trading village, enjoying the benefits of its pristine lagoon coast and the rich fishing it offered, as well as its rolling hills, largely sitting pretty atop a plateau. Her people were astute traders, travelling far and wide with their wares, including especially, across the lagoon by dugout canoes to Èkó, then the colonial headquarters of British Nigeria. For a few decades, it remained as described above, a charming, sleepy little village, just north of Èkó. Things would change dramatically after World War II.
Suleman O. Gbadamosi, my grandfather, after a stint with Karl Stark & Co, a German importer, had branched out on his own in the late 1930s, since Karl Stark had fled what was a British territory. Young Sule had approached the then colonial government with a request to build a road linking Lagos to Ikorodu, and had been given short shrift by the Governor-General.
He patiently saved up his own share of the profits from Ikorodu Trading Company, and in 1947, persuaded his younger cousin, H.O. Onafowokan (the first Nigerian to qualify as an architect) and a host of other Ikorodu indigenes, to join him in what was then the ambitious project to link Ikorodu to Lagos by road.x
They succeeded, and Ikorodu became a major transit point, linking Lagos to the rest of Nigeria, enjoying the benefits of the trading opportunities that came with that and grew to the point that Ikorodu Local Government Area is now the most populous LGA in Nigeria. All of this started with Ikorodu-Lagos Road.
Successive governments have done their bit to expand the road, the best being the Gowon and Obasanjo regimes, who between them expanded more than 70 percent of it, before Brigadier Buba Marwa and Babatunde Raji Fashola added their bits. Ikorodu continues to grow, despite lacking infrastructure itself.
A look at all of Lagos today, almost three quarters of a century later suggests that there has not been much done by way of road development since 1953, in proportion, that is, the population growth and the tax revenue available to government. The truth is, there has been some development, but it all seemed to have slowed down considerably since 1999, except for a few fits and starts here and there, with none ever really completed to satisfaction.
The result: a near permanently gridlocked, unarguably ugly urban sprawl, largely unplanned, grinding to an inevitable halt under the burden of its own inefficiency. The question is, what do we do?
A cursory study of the existing road network shows that most decently motorable roadways are the centre of Lagos State, with the exception of Epe, where Ambode did some admirable work, even if it remains uncompleted. The extremities like Badagry, Ibeju-Lekki, Alimosho, Agege, Ifako-Ijaiye and even inner Ikorodu, have long been abandoned to their own devices.
The centre, including Ikorodu, to its north, is jam-packed and creates the false impression of an over-populated Lagos.
The truth is that even with a population of 24 million, Lagos is not as densely populated, or as better organised cities like Singapore, Delhi or Hong Kong. There are ways to immediately (within two to three years) address the problem decisively.
Babatunde Gbadamosi is an Economy Analyst.