Lagos, it turns out, is not too far off as a twin replica of the city of St. Louis. The differences are huge, of course, but so are the similarities, top of which is the problem of security at certain times of the evening at certain parts of the town. A big difference, of course, is in population. Lagos Island, the most obvious equivalent to the City of St. Louis, according to the 2011 estimate, has a population of 318,069, while that of Lagos Island is 209,437.
Driving to Victoria Island, Lagos, a couple of weeks ago, I contemplated the similarities. Separated from Illinois by the Mississippi, the city of St. Louis boasts of a number of tall buildings, fancy restaurants, fast speeding cars, and the Gateway Arch. It is also arguably the most dangerous city in the country. The Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Lekki Penninsula (and other adjoining small islands in the state) are separated from the Lagos mainland by a set of bridges. The longest one of them, the Third Mainland Bridge, was built in the 80s during the military regime. If another regular traveller on the Illinois/St. Louis road were to be blindfolded, and suddenly open-eyed while on one of these bridges into Lagos, heading into the Islands, s/he might immediately start asking where the Arch went.
As a developing megacity with enormous potential for the 21st century, the government of Lagos is keenly aware of the need to keep up with the rate of growth, development, and migration. And as one of the most developed cities in the country, the weight of the responsibility is not more evident than in the near autocratic way in which its laws are being implemented so as to get the city into order. The Lagos Traffic Laws look like a governing manifesto of a North Korean administration. I exaggerate, of course. My experience has now ranged from the merely tangential floating via public transportation to work and back, to participant observation immersion in petty conversations with frustrated denizens.
It is a long way from Eldorado, but the city works on schedule as it should. For now.