The blurb on the EkoAtlantic website describes the city as being:
Lagos and Eko Atlantic are expected to become the new financial epicentre of West Africa by the year 2020.
By that time, Nigeria will be one of the world's 20 largest economies.
Eko Atlantic will be a city to live and work in. With its tree-lined boulevards, waterways, manicured gardens, elegant plazas, three marinas and a stunning ocean front promenade, the new city will be a complete contrast to the congested, traffic-filled streets of Lagos."
This seems to be the idealic city, the city in which dreams are made, manicured gardens where the height of grass represents an element of safety, the neatness, the coyness of the detailing in the environment just speaks of a place that would make anyone feel like they are in a place, and not just a meaningless left-over space.
It all seems perfect, but as you might have observed, I am rarely pacified by the prettiness of things, and I seek to find something much deeper within this project.
First of all, I will never condemn a project that is developing our country and I commend all those who are involved in bringing much needed change to a place that has been neglected for decades now. I am pleased to hear that something is finally being done about the eroding coastline and also the flooding that occurs during heavy raining seasons. My only issue is the human aspect to this project.
My studies in architecture have led to me to strongly believe that the best built forms are those with meanings. Well I guess it may be unfair for me to undermine the general human desire for wealth to provide comfort and safety, but I still can't help but feel that this could be so much more.
If you look deeply into project and really think about it, it can give off a "very important person" *only* vibe. My question is: "How is the average Lagosian or Eko person going to relate to this project".
If you don't own a car, are a market trader or working class, will you feel included in Eko Atlantic City? Is it for you? Well I am sure when you think of this question, you will most likely, like I have, come to the conclusion that no it isn't. Eko Atlantic is for big investors, for the rich, for the elites, the people who Nigerians in power constantly remind us are the only important ones. They surely are the ones who will be able to afford the rent there.
This leads me to believe that Eko Atlantic could be yet another gated community, gated by the price which many may not be able to afford, the price of this luxurious lifestyle.
Now why does this bother me, after all you may say that Lagos has been needing some finessing for a long while. Well, I am concerned for those who will inevitably fall through the sieve, again it will be the working class. They will be left in crowded Lagos, and continue doing what they have always been doing and there will be no real change. Eko Atlantic fails to operate at a deeper level; the community, how will this project help improve the lives of the average Lagosian, and the children who inevitably will become the adults of the future? Have we forgotten that there are children in Lagos, have we forgotten that there are people who make average wages? Have we forgotten what it is to be a real Lagosian?
Many people have outrightly blamed the project for not being sensitive to these particular people, the people who can't afford drivers, who can't afford to stay in luxurious hotels in the 'expensive' parts of Lagos, and wonder why the project avoids confronting Lagos' biggest issues.
Well I simply believe that the purpose of Eko Atlantic city, is to demonstrate that Lagos can be a place of great luxury, a place of development and a place with many investment properties. Eko Atlantic lying at the coastline in an analogy is the new paintwork that hides the cracks in the walls behind or the mould that will inevitably seep through with time.
My hope is that once Eko Atlantic is completed, this fresh front to Lagos does not distract us from the city's desperate need to accommodate more people, the city's need for better infrastructure, the people's need for electricity and working social services.
I believe all of this is very possible, and in an ideal world I would love all of these projects to be going on all at the same time.
I am thankful that more and more roads are gradually being maintained and refurbished, but of course, I continue to hope for more.