The first house was brought down at about 9 o’clock in the morning. Some gunshots and teargases were fired to scare away residents of this impoverished community in Lagos, eyewitnesses told me. By the time I got there at about 1.30 p.m., it was a complete devastation.
Thousands of people had been rendered homeless; schools, hospitals, churches and mosques – everything was gone.
Only rubble, mattresses and other personal belongings littered the area as dozens of policemen and other security agents cordoned off the area.
It was a classic example of the inhuman treatment many Nigerians have become accustomed to – the oppression by those who were elected to protect them, but have become their greatest tormentors.
Otodo Gbame community is located in Lekki area in Lagos. It’s about two bus stops from the glittering Lekki phase one in Eti-Osa Local Government Area.
From the main expressway that goes all the way from Victoria Island to Ajah, rising buildings, beautiful shops and homes as well as offices can be seen.
But behind that beauty, behind that air of modernity and development is a community that lives in ramshackle houses, right by the lagoon, people who are being left behind and now being thrown out by successive governors in Lagos.
Today’s demolition is not a new story and it’s becoming a familiar one that follows the same pattern.
It goes like this: Thousands of impoverished people are illegally evicted from a vast land they have occupied for decades by security forces relying on a controversial or dubious court order obtained by the government or a powerful royal family or someone or persons with strong ties to those in power or in corrupt court houses.
Houses are pulled down. Schools and health centres are completely crushed to the ground by bulldozers. Protests break out and the people are teargassed.
Often, with nowhere to go, the newly evicted residents erect tents nearby and hoodlums sponsored by those trying to grab their land attack them with ferocity and impunity.
As security forces look the other way and the government does nothing to help, the evicted residents melt into the society.
New houses, malls and offices spring up and the new landlords become multi-millionaires even as the evictees and their children suffer for many years to come. Life moves on.
The media attention is virtually non existent. And when it is, it does not last for long. Another breaking news, another story to cover and the attention shift away from Otodo Gbame community.
Simon Ateba, narrates a first person account of the demolition of Otodo Gbame community in Lagos by the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.