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Planning, Anti-Planning, and the Infrastructure Crisis Facing Metropolitan Lagos

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Cities in Contemporary Africa

Abstract

When the Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti recorded his song “Water no get enemy” in 1975 he could not have anticipated that living conditions would continue to worsen in coming decades to the point at which Lagos would garner the dubious accolade by the 1990s of being widely regarded as one of the worst cities in the world.3 The deteriorating state of the city since the post-independence euphoria of the early 1960s, to reach its current position as a leitmotif for urban poverty and injustice, has occurred in the midst of a global transformation in patterns of urbanization. Lagos is now one of a number of rapidly growing cities in the Global South, which appears to challenge manypreviously held assumptions about the relationship between economic prosperity and demographic change: unlike the experience of nineteenth-century Europe and North America, for example, we observe a form of urban “involution” marked by vast expansion in combination with economic decline (see Davis 2004; Gandy 2005a; Sala-i-Martin and Subramanian 2003; UN 2003a). The UN has recently predicted that by the year 2015, the population of Lagos—currently estimated at over 10 million—will reach 17 million, making it one of the largest cities in the world (UN 2003b). The sprawling city now extends far beyond its original lagoon setting to encompass a vast expanse of mostly low-rise developments including as many as 200 different slums ranging in size from clusters of shacks underneath highways to entire districts such as Ajegunle and Mushin (see Map 11.1).

Lagos is a difficult city to study or understand. Its spatial organization has a kinetic quality that allows it to escape conventional methods of analysing cities.

Uche Isichei1

If you want to wash, na water you go use

T’o ba fe se’be omi l’o ma’lo

If you want cook soup, na water you go use

T’o ri ba n’gbona o omi l’ero re

If your head dey hot, na water go cool am

T’omo ba n’dagba omi l’o ma’lo

If your child dey grow, na water he go use

T’omi ba p’omo e o omi na la ma’lo

If water kill your child, na water you go use

T’omi ba pomo re o omi na no

Ko s’ohun to’le se k’o ma lo’mi o

Nothing without water

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti2

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Martin J. Murray Garth A. Myers

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© 2006 Martin J. Murray and Garth A. Myers

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Gandy, M. (2006). Planning, Anti-Planning, and the Infrastructure Crisis Facing Metropolitan Lagos. In: Murray, M.J., Myers, G.A. (eds) Cities in Contemporary Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230603349_12

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