Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, November 20, 2006

A "Picture" of Lagos

The November 13 issue of the New Yorker included George Packer's article on Lagos,The Megacity. It offers images of life in Lagos and Packer's reaction to to it.

The article is not online, so ask your favorite librarian to find you a copy.

Packer's profiles of people in Lagos might offer teachers illustrative examples to use in teaching about Nigeria. Here are a couple quotations I think have the most relevance for studying government politics.

There's too much to excerpt here, but I have posted more than a dozen more quotes from the article at the Teaching Comparative Government and Politics online discussion site. For teacher background, this is a great article and I think you ought to find a copy to read.

Packer writes that, the Nigeria's capital will, in a few years, rank as the third-largest city in the world, behind Tokyo and Bombay, with 23 million inhabitants. Right now it’s the sixth largest and has 15 million residents..."where only 0.4 per cent of the inhabitants have a toilet connected to a sewer system." (It sounds like early Industrial Revolution London.)
  • "Begging is rare. In many African cities, there is an oppressive atmosphere of people lying about in the middle of the day, of idleness sinking into despair. In Lagos, everyone is a striver."

  • "Florian Gbadebo-Smith, the chairman of a district on Lagos Island [described] a distored picture [of Lagos] that flows back to the village. 'Come Christmas, everybody in Lagos -- the successful and the unsuccessful -- packs their bags and goes off to the rural areas to show off what they have achieved... Some achievements are real, for some it's just a mirage, but everybody's there showing off. So the young people in the villages very quickly come to the conclusion that 'Hey, I've got to go to Lagos, make enough to be able to come back here, and to show off.' In this way, the West African countryside is being rapidly depopulated."

    Lagos traffic is in a perpetual "go slow."

  • "Gbadebo-Smith [said] with forboding, 'We have a massive growth in population with a stagnant or shrinking economy... We're sitting on a powder keg here... If we don't address this question of economic growth... there is no doubt as to what's going to happen here eventually. it's just going to boil over.'"

  • "Adegoke Taylor, a skinny, solemn, thirty-two-year-old itinerant trader... kept trying various small-business plans, none of which had worked out, for a simple reason. 'There's no capital to start,' he said. For this, he blamed the Nigerian government. 'Most of the people who lead us embezzle instead of using that money to create factories,' he said."

  • "With [the] structural adjustments [in the mid-1980s], civil service jobs, the mainstay of the middle class... disappeared; meanwhile privatization often occurred at fire-sale prices, with the profits benefitting politicians or soldiers and their cronies." [Does that remind you of Russia in the mid-1990s?]


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