Dear Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dear NOI: Is Kibera still a slum after your visit?

Dear News Maker

Dear NOI,

You made a post that got me thinking. By the way — how are you? Been a long time I read from you. I guess you are doing more swimming and interacting with your young mentees nowadays. Don’t mind me, I know your plate is full of tasks and assignments.

So about your post. You visited Kibera—Africa’s largest urban slums (like many other people have visited). You noticed the lifestyle of the people there. And it humbled you. I am glad you went there. I don’t know how many slums you visited while you were the Finance minister in Nigeria. But this is not where I am going to. And really I am not being sarcastic when I say I don’t know.

But the deal is this, I think there must be a compulsory service for Nigeria’s president and ministers. A service of three months spread into days and weeks to accommodate the leaders’ programs and schedules. Because I see where the problem dwells. How can a minister talk about bad roads when most of the time he or she is being lifted across the cities they go.

You were genuine with your post. You talked about how you were going to spend the #thanksgiving season, “I’m reflecting on my recent visit to Kibera – Africa’s largest urban slum. I was humbled to observe the grit and resilience of people living in the informal settlement, the majority of whom migrate from rural areas in search of jobs and a better life”.

So this slum is even urban? As terrible as things seem to be in the slum. It is actually a matter of hope for most people who have made it their ‘Lagos’.

You continued, “This kind of rapid urbanisation brings serious challenges: inadequate housing, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and grinding poverty. It also exacerbates a number of health issues such as the pressing need for immunisation strategies geared to urban populations’.

This sounds like Lagos. I was right. It’s become Lagos for those migrants. Thousand of people come to Lagos from other villages in the country. They crowd Lagos. They come funny. The other day, Lagos’ security was quite scared to see a truckload of northern youths being transported into Lagos.

The amount of people that enter Lagos daily is staggering! And these challenges, as you mentioned above, has become a key issue in the formula of things. Thank goodness to the wisdom of those managing and running Lagos. Otherwise, things would have gone bad.

A reason I am thankful for the leadership in Lagos. I know It’s in our nature to complain and believe it would be better off in another person’s care. But Life as a Nigerian as thought me to appreciate the good leaders we have at each point in time. Knowing things could get worse.

It always seems like the next leader is better until the leader comes with his evil. Most of the leaders we have today at national and other state-level were supposed to be hope and change. But…

Well, let me just drop the concluding part of your post, “I applaud the dedication and commitment of health workers like Joy – a young woman who is continuing her mother’s legacy by supporting the delivery of immunisation and other essential health services to Kibera residents. CDC Kenya, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Amref Health Africa and Carolina for Kibera.

A crucial step in meeting the immunisation needs of the urban poor is to use data to uncover obstacles to vaccine access. This will help to map the reality on the ground and clearly identify inequities. Knowing where our efforts are best spent brings us closer to ensuring that everyone – no matter where they live – is healthy and thriving”.

This is awesome. But did you and your delegates leave the slum changed? As a global figure did you leave the slum doing all you could to ensure it’s not the Largest Slum in Africa? Or is it impossible for such to happen?

I am not attacking your visit. I am just thinking about the situation more critically. That is, the good in you visiting there and leaving that area changed. I imagine you left there and it became a mega Urban City.

Your Slum Visiting spotter,

PS: Imagine Buhari spending one week in Akute or Ajuwon. Then the Finance minister is serving in Ajegunle. Others scattered across the grassroot places or Urban Slums in Nigeria. That way, they will understand our pain better. Or how do you explain to a minister that the shortage of electricity supply is affecting your business and growth? When that minister is always in his place of comfort far from the system.

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