By IKENNA EMEWU
A few years ago, it was one of the most coveted beaches in Lagos. Its name resonated. Favourite of beachgoers. That was then. The story has since soured. If you are a beach lover in Lagos who has known or been to Elegushi Beach at Osapa, the bustling conurbation of Lagos in the Lekki Peninsula towards Epe, you may have to delete Elegushi Beach from your list of fun places in the city. The beach is no more. Gone. Consigned to history. Lost forever to the rapacious Lagos’ land grabbers. What is left of the once wonderful beach is a parody, akin to the burnt husk of a beautiful mansion gutted by an inferno.
I stumbled on this sad picture recently on a sunny afternoon when I found myself on the Lekki axis and I was besotted by a longing to stroll down the beach.
The letdown started with the dilapidated, almost impassable road that branched off the Victoria Island-Epe highway at the Osapa end, directly opposite a sprawling Shoprite plaza. Venturing down the road clearly marked “Elegushi Beach Road” was torturous to the car and its riders. But the urge to see this fabulous beach was compelling. On getting to a gate that led supposedly to the beach, the entire environment took a totally different look. As far as I could see, the once stretch of flatland canvas of water had become a vast desert of golden sand that shimmered in the bright sun. Not a sight of the aquamarine water of the sea.
Yet, I refused to beat a retreat. The gatekeepers insisted on N1000 entry fee which I negotiated down to N500, knowing from their manners I was giving them free money, not any legitimate fee. At that point, curiosity got the better of me, fuelled by the reporter’s hunch that there was a story waiting on the beach.
Indeed, I found the story. I was captivated by a quaint scenery of sand heaps, reminiscent of desert dunes and fine barchans. The beach was fringed by an endless stretch of undulating arches of hundreds of high sand dunes.
At some point, the sands levelled, as flat as a plateau, creating a soft surface that as you walk on it, sinks slightly, forcing you to remove your shoes. Towards the waterfront was a high ridge, so high it couldn’t even be climbed to glimpse the rolling ocean waves that whooshed at the other side.
To see the beautiful blue ocean waves, I had to move round the mountain of sands till I found a pass. The sight of the shoreline was gratifying: beautiful waves doing the usual joyous wish-wash dance.
The shoreline too has been tampered with. Long fingers of rocks arranged into huge ridges jutted from the shoreline into the sea, boulders delicately and professionally arranged to slow down and break the waves’ force. I counted six of these. Some urchins skipped over them, daring the roiling sea, as waves angrily bashed these solid rock walls from all fronts.
At the far left end of the seashore was a cluster of dingy huts. I ambled closer and found they had become a place no longer for normal visitors. The few people have taken residence in those ramshackle sheds built out of disused building sheets, cartons, planks and boards. Some visitors who drove down in a silvery Honda Accord sat with a group of ruffians sipping some drinks difficult to describe. A bevvy of women also sat at a far end dressed in white flowing robes worn by adherents of a religious faith. Some kids, scantily clad in dirty clothes roamed around. Generally, it was no longer a place to have fun.
Step out of the gate of sandbars and you tumbled into a street of hodgepodge of hovels and workshops that specialised in the recycling of disused items. The streets crawled with ragamuffins, bare-clad and barefeet. The elderly did not fare any better. Little trucks trundled up and down to pick or drop items. It was like a market and residential place lumped into one. There was no gainsaying that the ‘hood lack basic living amenities––electricity, water, toilet, what have you. It definitely was an illegal settlement, one that hosted a large population of the economically helpless and the homeless.
You step back after seeing your fill, and let out a deep sigh, feeling empty.
Elegushi Beach is lost.
But what took over this place? I was still wondering if the government had let it out to tour operators to develop into something big and fantastic when a roaming security personnel stepped into my face with a denouement that was a bombshell: “This place is no longer a beach. The government is sand-filling it for building development. They said after filling and pushing back the water, rich people will buy the land and build big houses. So, Oga, beach no go dey here again.”
At last, land grabbers have taken the Elegushi Beach. And whittled the fun and tourism options available in a city where people work hard and needed all the leisure they could get. That makes it the second prominent beach in Lagos to fall to the land avarice of the government and private investors in Lagos. The first to go was the prominent Bar Beach on Victoria Island.
In the avowed quest for economic diversification, is tourism in the Lagos economy schema, given the way beaches are captured and taken over one after the other by housing development?