The sun rises over Dosunmu’s quarters
Songs of war have dimmed
The sailors have reversed orders
Boats now chasing fish it seemed

Echoes of Brazil on the island
The Street was Broad from the Square
A turn led to the new Marina brand
True welcome there now rare

What image shall we then carve
As rest is on the cards
For Lagos lifestyle must have
Places to relax for babes and lads

A few years ago, not knowing where the name Lagos came from or it’s meaning, it came as a pleasant surprise to learn that the name was given to the settlement by the Portuguese and meant “lakes”. The name is the same as that of a town in Portugal which at the time was the centre of Portuguese expeditions down the African coast. That town however has a population of 22,000 while our Lagos has easily a thousand times that number of people. One major difference is that the Portuguese Lagos has an influx of visiting tourists and seasonal residents during the summer months, similar to the Côte d’Azur just down the coastline of Europe to the east of Portugal. By the way, the Portuguese Lagos is also one of the most visited cities in Portugal due to its tourist friendly beaches, rock formations, bars, restaurants and hotels, renowned for its vibrant summer nightlife and parties. Some interesting echoes…

The Côte d’Azur is the Mediterranean coastline of the Southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco. This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century, it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II, it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region.

The Côte d’Azur is better known as the French Riviera. The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d’Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50 percent of the world’s super-yacht fleet, with 90 percent of all super-yachts visiting the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime. As a tourist centre, the French Riviera benefits from 310 to 330 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.

The estimated tourist spend on the French Riviera in 2006 is roughly €5 billion.

The one similarity between Lagos, Nigeria; Lagos, Portugal and the Côte d’Azur is a coastline on a sea and parties. And that’s about it… Granted that our Lagos is in a tropical region while the other two are in a temperate region, we do not have an equivalent stretch of tourism infrastructure development. At best, tourism focused resorts are scattered along the coastline of Lagos. At one end in Badagry, we have the Whispering Palms while at the other end well after the free trade zone, we have La Campagne Tropicana. In between the two, we have the Inagbe Grand Resorts, the Victoria Island ocean facing hotels such as Eko Hotels, the Lekki Conservation Centre (longest canopy walk in Africa) and the Lakowe Golf Estate which is essentially a private, members only development. There is certainly no easy way of connecting all these developments for the benefit of tourism.

One could retreat to the Five Cowries Creek between Ikoyi and Victoria Island and try to imagine that stretch as the beginnings of a riviera, but that idea is quickly jettisoned with a boat ride from Lekki Phase 1 to the Five Cowries Bridge. There was the idea of a quay on the Ikoyi side of the creek which still hasn’t materialised while private boat jetties dotted along the waterside make it impossible to develop a proper quayside and of course, security concerns of residents will certainly nip that idea in the bud.

On the Victoria Island side of the creek, it would be entirely possible to build a boardwalk that stretches from Lekki Phase 1 all the way to the Five Cowries Bridge. Now that would be amazing indeed. The hotel developments along that stretch, both old and new would be connected and creekside cafes would become a thing. But I seem to be getting ahead of myself as one imagines the embassies at the other end robustly protesting such a tourist friendly development for ‘security reasons’, even if the government could get past the private developers…

There is then only one contiguous stretch of Lagos land that could be used to spark a true riviera type development. This is the land stretching from the Apapa Port all the way to Whispering Palms and a bit beyond. As it is today, the Atlantic beachfront sections of this stretch is home to quite a few private beach houses but in the main the rest of the land consists of small settlements. It is not difficult to visualise resorts, nine hole golf courses and hotel developments of the Banyan Tree type along this stretch. Accessing the Atlantic for deep sea fishing and diving — when the weather permits — would certainly not be a stretch.

There is a pent up need for the consumption of tourism by locals. During several of the holidays, the beaches that exist and jetties that have boat rides are packed with eager consumers who wish to get some little bit of pleasure and a break from the typical harried living and working pace of Lagos. Every weekend, boats are seen making their way down Five Cowries Creek to destinations likely among the Atlantic beachfront properties or even to diving and deep sea fishing rendezvous.

The population of Lagos increases on a daily basis and has been projected to be somewhere between 22 – 25 million people today. There simply are not enough places for these hard working citizens to take time off and decompress. It is time to be deliberate in providing them with options. One dare says that a large contribution will be made to the Lagos economy especially when people are given places to go and things to do that they would willingly pay for. And we haven’t even considered the influx and economic impact of foreign tourists when such destinations come to life. Let’s build the Lagos Riviera and look forward to the Ilase Creek Walk and the Badagry Corniche.

Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje for This Day Style