For a lot of Nigerians Lagos is the epicentre of perfection. For Lagosians their imagination revolves around affluent neighbourhoods like Ikoyi and Lekki, the places they consider as a paradise. Within Lekki, however, there is a slum so horrible it is hard to believe it can exist in a modern metropolis.
Lekki is a top class neighbourhood no doubt. The gargantuan houses and the serene neighbourhood is a testament to the lifestyle you will expect from the crème de la crème of the society. The roads are tarred with manicured greenery by the side. The exclusiveness of the neighbourhood is typified by the seemingly individualistic lifestyle. You can literally hear a pin drop as people keep to the comfort of their fortress houses.
Ordinarily, one would assume that is what the expensive neighbourhood of Lekki is all about until you step into the dirt road that leads to the other world inside Lekki. At first, one is likely to think it is a short cut to Ajegunle, a neighbourhood that is used as a representation of low-class living.
The slum inside Lekki, like every low-class environment is a crowded settlement that is a sharp contrast to what Lekki supposedly represents. In the slum, there is a place for everyone who is interested in ‘’managing’’. Houses are hastily-built constructions that represent necessity rather than comfort.
Few of the houses have doors and the ones that do have little assets to protect. One person’s backyard leads to the front of another occupant’s apartment. There is a close knitted relationship among the dwellers that a visitor automatically stands out like a sore thumb.
It is difficult to consider the Lekki slum a makeshift place as there are basic facilities that one will find in a normal settlement. There are shops that cater for people’s needs. You’ll also find canteens constructed with wood that look more like storage cabins.
Hygiene is probably the last they think about when it comes to feeding and living. There is even a white garment church for believers. Its proximity to the ocean is not an accident as members of this type of churches also consider the water and its environment worship grounds.
There is also a brothel that also doubles as a bar that has a small banner that boasts of girls who are good at dancing naked. Somewhere in the place is even an innovative spring ball-like board game named “Ogun lowo wa”, which literally means “In Ogun, you will find money”, Ogun being the Yoruba God of iron.
A betting game for two people, one needs to score the highest point by clinching a higher number than one’s opponent to win. It’s a past time activity for the slum dwellers. There is a reckless abandonment that permeates through the slum. If something does not satisfy a utilitarian purpose, it is given little or no attention.
Survival and living through each day is the key which is why weeds are allowed to grow unattended to unlike the manicured flowers that surround the affluent part of Lekki. There is no proper drainage system so the roads serve as waste disposal and commuting. The obvious thought on their mind will likely be: “Of what use is a beautiful environment when the inhabitants are hungry?”
It is difficult to imagine what goes through the mind of the slum dwellers knowing that their immediate neighbours roll in abundant wealth and live exotic lives. Whether they perceive their neighbours with envy or resentment is unknown or perhaps they are contented in their own small unexciting world.
It is more difficult to tell how the rich inhabitants of Lekki perceive their poor neighbours and that’s even if they know they exit there. The slum dwellers can take solace in the fact that the ocean is in their backyard and can turn it into their own resort center.
In spite of the impoverished standard of living, a walk down the dusty path leads to Itedo where a turn to the right takes one to a government-owned secondary school. It is not difficult to imagine the sort of students that attend the school. Three thousand Naira is all a student is required to pay in order to get a school uniform and “a free and compulsory education”.
Unlike the slum, however, the school compound is in a fairly good shape. According to report, the fortune of the school changed after a Chinese company decided to rebuild it. Now it has a compound that can stomach any rain with its interlocking stone. Perhaps one day when the students reap the reward of education, they will return to change the fortune of their humble slum that for now, rots in the middle of plenty.
See the photos below that takes you through the journey of the Lekki you know down to the one you don’t: