No one seems to have ever contemplated zoning in this city, and grimy industrial parks, ramshackle high- and low-rise housing, and commerce of all kinds,
together with an extraordinary proliferation of churches on nearly every block, were all joined together in a chaotic mix.
Our motorcade finally pulled of the main avenue and entered into a tight grid of streets that was bursting at the seams with people and bustling with petty
traders. Without warning, our press vehicle suddenly stopped and the reporters and cameramen run, as if for their lives, dodging massive puddles, to get
inside a walled-off construction site before the governor's car made its entrance, so that they could get their shots.
Simultaneously, Fashola's security men, large and unsmiling, also rushed to take up their positions, and then the governor's vehicle, a black SUV, pulled
onto the grounds of the site and the governor emerged, tall, smiling and exuding confidence as he buttoned the blue blazer he wore over an open collared
shirt and crisp khakis.
With aides and construction company representatives cocooned around him, the governor strode forward toward a collection of nearly completed apartment
blocks, firing off a series of detailed questions, and pressing for more minutiae when the answers disappointed him.
When he finished, the governor engaged in a lively give and take with local reporters who scrummed around him, lobbing tough questions.
Noting the relatively modest number of units involved in this project, a Nigerian TV reporter pressed a skeptical question, asking whether the new housing
complexes we had seen weren't largely propaganda devices; more symbol than substance for a city flooding with new residents.
Fashola's posture grew more erect as he bristled, but his answer made clear that he relished her challenge. "You know how many projects that have been
launched in Nigeria that we don't see again today?" came his reply. Far larger numbers of units would be coming on stream in the future, he added, but
unlike other governments, his administration wanted to emphasize work that was being delivered, and not make promises.
"If you [announce]a scheme and there are no houses, it will just be a big advertisement, and we do not do that. If we are committed to something in the
state, we deliver it."
Curious local residents had filtered onto the construction site, forming clusters in the shaded wings. They were kept at a distance by the governor's
security detail, but could follow the exchange, and with that they applauded.
As Fashola turned on his heels, bringing the press conference to a close, he waved to them. Instead of smiling and saying "thank you," as one might have
expected, his parting words were: "Pay your taxes!"
The long-held attitude toward Lagos of Nigeria's federal government and of its leading national politicians, many of whom have hailed from the country's
poorer and less developed north, can be summed up in the famous 1975 New York Daily News front page in which then-president Gerald R. Ford supposedly told
a near bankrupt New York City to "drop dead." (Historians later established that Ford never quite used those words.)