Musings on Africaʼs most populous country

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 200 million according to what they say, it is not certain because our last census of over 10 years was contested. I will tell you why later in this read. Let’s look at Lagos as an example, the industrial city of Nigeria. Lagos is teeming, with over 23 million people packed in a geographical location way smaller than the size of London. Imagine the number of people in Oxford Street during Christmas eve and doing Christmas shopping, then times that by two. Now replace those shopping bags with water carriers pushing Jerry Cans of water in long trolleys, water splashing on your new polished suede shoes, passers-by stepping on you, pushing you from side to side, agbero* shouting at you… for no reason. And the bus conductor chants “Ojota Ojota, Magodo, Magodo” trailing in the air. With a whiff of breath, you are taking in fumes from the many industrial buildings, car fumes from vehicles not fit for the road, dust, sweat, someone’s cough and catarrh, smells.

There’s a stark difference when you inhale in a sparsely populated village in the hilly outskirts of a state in the north. You can feel the difference in the air quality even on the plane to go there. Ok, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. Well, the thing is you cannot go live in those small towns, eating masa and spinach soup and enjoying sites like the little waterfalls you most times see there. Or having a cabin in the lush vegetation down south while working from home. First of all, transport, communication networks, and the Internet don’t always work well there. For a business person, you will need a larger able-to-afford population which you will likely only find in the city. There are other pitfalls but before you realise them, the numerous unmasked but unidentifiable bandits would have pursued you ‘commot.

As you can see, the city is a strategic location but to get away from those annoying things you experience just walking on the usually unpaved streets or sometimes, market crowded pavements, the people that can get cars, get them. You see, one more car added to traffic goes a long way in Nigeria. For people in Lagos, that might be extra thirty minutes to the one hour of no movement in traffic. You might wonder, why can’t they just ride commercial buses, don’t they have it in Nigeria? Oh, we do, of course, but there are many stories which I won’t write about here. In Lagos, there’s the Dando and Molue slowly becoming a less preferred choice to the BRT. But these BRT buses, a copycat of the London red ones, are only in parts of Lagos, not Nigeria. The cost of transportation is going up because the government can’t seem to arrive at a point: fuel subsidy or not. A fuel price issue in one of the largest oil-producing countries—which is a major addition to its GDP that is one of the highest in Africa, tells a lot. Many critics are coming to say the population is the problem. No population isn’t the problem, not having an optimum population is. It is a population with adequate resources. Now, who are the sharers of resources again?

* Agbero – A labourer that carries heavy load in the market. It is now being used to describe irrational behaviour and touts who become hoodlums during political elections.

‘Commot – This is pidgin. It means to get out.

To be continued…

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