Friday, October 8, 2010

Another Lagos Documentary (and a Little Something on Governance)

BBC has been killing it with the Nigeria documentaries. Via my twitter friend @419Positive, here's a great one featuring Funmi Iyanda, TV personality and probably one of my favorite people anywhere. She talks to major Lagosians like eccentric entertainer Charles "Charley Boy" Oputa and Lagos State Gov. Babatunde Fashola.

Lagos, unlike the rest of Nigeria, has always had some good luck with it's leaders. We (Yes, I'm from Lagos) have definitely been a lucky state, always having one thing tangible with which to attribute to a certain governor, from Jakande (the free high schools) to Marwa (the bicycle taxis), and Tinubu (the much-needed road splitting in Allen Avenue and ambulances on Third Mainland) to Fashola (the BRTs). My theory is that Lagos is the one place in the country where you do not want to lose face. A lot of major business in Nigeria is done there, so it adds a good amount of pressure on its leaders to make sure that you do a good enough job that you can still make an appearance in those high society parties, those tennis clubs, those functions in those hotels, be taken seriously as a leader as the city evolves in its role as epicenter of one of Africa's major economies. The last place in the world a Nigerian wants to be persona non grata is Lagos.

This line of thinking definitely has its holes. Among other problems, Lagos is quite socially segregated and the ghettos are still sprawling, so this societal pressure has not worked well for everyone (Maybe it's worked best for whom the likelihood of bumping into said governor at MUSON Center or Yoruba Tennis Club are quite high). Still, everyone I've heard from who lives in Lagos quite likes Gov. Fashola. His administration has made laudable changes to improve transportation, but I do not know much about his work on Lagos's ailing infrastructure, nor on his initiatives (I believe there have been some) to encourage small business. It's also worth mentioning that I have no idea how this pressure that I think works so well in Lagos holds out in a commercial area in other regions of Nigeria, like Port Harcourt, for example.

I think I'm right on the merits and I'll stand my ground until corrected, but I'm curious if there is a correlation at all between the number of major cities in a country -- and therefore pockets of industry where a sizable middle class can thrive -- and the likelihood of there being good governance practices.

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