Makoko is a metaphor for resilience in the face of enormous pressures. This community floating on the waters of the Lagos Lagoon is resilient because it is not a rigid community. It is resilient not because the buildings in this community are the strongest in the world but because they are built in sync with nature and not against her. Her resilience is seen in the young boys and girls who ferry us in the boat taxis in order to make enough cash to pay their daily school fees and so access a measure of education.
The intense pressure the communities that make up Makoko have had to confront is best told by the people themselves and not by observers. However, beyond their voices and cries observers are able to see the stumps that poke above the waters of the Lagoon in silent testimony to brutal assaults and fires that seek to demolish, dislocate or erase the community.
Makoko is a community loaded with lessons that we can only deny to our peril. Makoko is a laboratory of life. It is a community of possibilities. Makoko gives hope. It also raises challenges. This is why we have chosen to assembly for our dialogue in this structure. In this series of HOMEF’s Sustainability Academy, we are interrogating the evident conflicts and turmoil manifesting across the world. We have looked at armed insurgency, economic violence and ecological assaults. We will continue with this at this final lap. Two additional dimensions here will be those conflicts generated by, and expected from, global warming and those generated by forces of disaster capitalism.
Makoko as a community sitting on water is prone to the impacts of sea level rise that could be triggered by intense rains or by global warming. Flooding is a challenge to Lagos, any day and the state pays a lot of attention to building resilience and also mitigating the impacts. However, Makoko teases the sea by sitting on it. The Floating School in which this session is being held speaks volumes about how to face sea level rise and deflect its sting. The School is designed and built to float. This means that if the sea rises, the building itself rises. This school is designed and built with in line with the rhythms of nature and not in defiance of nature like Eko Atlantic does, for instance. The Floating School and the entire Makoko communities show us what resilience means.
Capitalism has entered the cannibal stage where it feeds more blatantly on disaster. Not content on accumulation by dispossession, when disasters happen today they are seen as opportunities to displace citizens from their ancestral abodes and not as emergency calls to help the victims to overcome their plight. Thus, if a fire breaks out in a community such as Makoko, those who see the location as prime property, would wish to pour fuel on the fire rather than fight to quench it. This displacement for acquisition trend is not restricted to Makoko, but is a common challenge that shoreline communities are facing from desperate speculators.
The world acknowledges that global warming is real, and that dependency on fossil fuels is a critical contributor to the menace. Yet there is no desire to shift away from the bad habit that is sure to bring on catastrophic global warming. The allure of the fossil dependency is not just in the fact that they make energy much easily available than other energy forms. More importantly, the attraction comes from the fact that fossil fuels are extracted without responsibility, or care for the environment, and that they are money-spinners for governments, oil and other hydrocarbon companies and provide the necessary power for rampaging war machines.
While Makoko is an affront to those who desire her beautiful location, she is a great inspiration for those who believe that progress can only be progress if it is in line with the desires of the people and generally supports life. The Floating School is a concept we believe should be replicated in all communities on the coastline of Nigeria and elsewhere.
As we round up this third session of our third Sustainability Academy we will continue to look at Turmoil in Africa and ask if these constitute Uprisings or whether we are seeing a descent into Chaos. Before we introduce our Instigator for this session, HOMEF would reiterate our key calls relative to the issues we have been interrogating as follows:
- African leaders must ensure that the continent gets out of the trap of being the arena for proxy wars by interests inimical to the well being of our environment and peoples
- Ecological warfare must not be a tool in the war against terror. In this regard HOMEF endorses the demand: #BringBackOurGirls and adds that they must be brought back to a secure environment devoid of stigmatisation and exploitation in any guise including exploitation as child brides.
- Nigerian and African leaders must protect our environment and peoples from the activities of rampaging resource extractors, ensure that environmental costs do not continue to be externalised to the people/environment and that ecological crimes are severely sanctioned
- African governments must be primarily responsible and accountable to our peoples rather than to international financial institutions and to multinational corporations
- The Nigerian government should scrap the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) and replace it with a National Environmental Restoration Agency (NERA) under the Federal Ministry of Environment, with a mandate to clean up the Nigerian environment including in particular the Ogoni environment as demanded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report issued three years ago
- The Makoko Floating School model should be adopted and replicated across all coastal communities by the Nigerian government as a climate change adaptation measure and to teach the lesson that our architecture must support our ways of life and be in sync with the rhythms of nature
- The Nigerian and Lagos State governments should commit to upgrade the Makoko communities and provide support for the communities including by providing adequate health, educational and other services. The community should also be protected from property and financial speculators as well as from other disaster capitalists.
By Nnimmo Bassey (Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation – HOMEF)