BORDERED at the south by the Atlantic Ocean, curling freely to its eastern edges. Its shores providing the best beaches south of the Sahara. A trip of high-sanded beaches streamlined and colourful like the rainbow.
The boisterous Lagos Island borders it at the West bubbling with the freshness of urban municipality. Only the vintage Onikan community stands between the two. The Falomo Bridge shares its boundary at the north – the bridge crossing over the island Lagoon that stretches from North-East to North-West.
At the East end is the Lekki/Ajah/Epe community. The newly-constructed expressway provides the tourist with a view that keeps the head turning from right to left. Now, wait a minute! If you’re driving, be ready to pay a toll – it’s your own little contribution to the “concession” project.
Lest I get carried away by its splendour and forget to mention it, I am talking about the commercial nerve-centre of Lagos State. Welcome to Victoria Island the Treasure chest of Lagos.
As you drive through the Onika Bridge the strip that connects the Island to the western parts of Lagos across the Lagos Lagoon (at the west end where it connects to the Atlantic ocean), you are greeted with a fresh air that gives an illusion of luxury.
“Temptingly” look to the left the sight of fishermen plunging their hooks and nets into the deep tells a different story. They display their small and medium-sized fishes at the edge of the bridge. Obviously, this alters every pre-informed imagination about what this island offers.
There are cities, and there are cities within cities, but Victoria Island stands tall in a class of its own. It is a budding industrial enclave surrounded by beautiful waters. The massive commercialization now evident in the area is more of a 21st century phenomenon. It was not always so.
Growing up as a young boy on a street called Tiamiyu Savage, just off the highly significant Ahmadu Bello Way, because it does not only sit off the shores of Bar Beach, it hosts a network centre of the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA 2, Channel 5, the Silverbird Galleria which rebirthed and revolutionalized Cinema in Nigeria, the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, and so on.
It also boasts of the Naval Dockyard, with warships in its possession, an Army Barracks, the Bonny cantonment, an Airforce Base Headquarters, and a Lagos Divisional Headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force and in recent past, states government Liaison offices stood opposite the Bar beach – some still do.
Back to my story, Victoria Island used to be wholly residential. It had a special feel that seemed to suggest the area was meant for a priviledged few rich class of elites. So whenever I told someone, “I live in VI, “the reaction is one of reverence. Some reply; “wow, rich kid.”
At the time, the hospitality business was the most thriving industry in Victoria Island. Eko Hotel (then Eko le Meridien) and Federal Palace hotels were the most prominent, may be still are. The view of the ocean attracted tourists and visitors from all parts of the country and the world.
As its recognition and importance continued to increase, the business world began to beam its light on this haven of treasures, and properties continued to become increasingly expensive. So those who had properties preferred to sell or lease them for tens and hundreds of millions and move to other less expensive areas in Lagos like Ikorodu, Ajah, Epe, Igando and so on.
By the dawn of the 21st century, during the proliferation era of new generation banks, a lot of properties were taken over by banks. By 2010, my street which only consisted residential houses and embassies became home to Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank), Guarantee Trust Bank, Keystone Bank, Multichoice Nigeria (marketers of DSTV), Hotels, Restaurants, Arts Exhibition centre, and other businesses.
Victoria Island arguable holds 70% of the wealth of Lagos State. The sky scrapers and high-rise structures are matchless. The acclaimed tallest hotel in West Africa, Intercontinental Hotel. Nigeria’s first five-star Hotel worth N30 billion rears its majestic head at Kofo Abayomi Street in Victoria Island.
The hospitality industry has expanded in new dimensions with international brands taking the lead. The Oriental Hotel owned by the Chinese, Four Points by Sheraton, the South African Protea Hotels, Avenue suites owned by a Lebanese businessman, and a host of others.
Today, any bank that does not have at least three (3) branches in Victoria Island is not ready for business. Each competes with beautiful architectural designs, interior elegance, and classy customer service.
The cinema business has also grown. After the Silverbird Group blazed the trial in the early 2000s, the Nu Metro cinemas has followed suit attracting thousands of people on a weekly basis.
Fast food and confectionaries is another business that thrieves tremendously in Victoria Island. Apart from the ones spread across the state and other parts of the country, there are those peculiar to the Island. Cakes and cream, cold stone, and chocolate Royale are some examples
The geography and resources of the island is what has captured the attention of the state Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola who has since, with partnership from conglomerates, embarked on capital intensive Eko Atlantic City project. In a few decades, Victoria Island may out do the aquatic cities of Dubai.
Victoria Island is elitist than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians constitute the tight traffic on a weekday morning to get to work on time, as they fill up the over 4 million jobs offered by Victoria Island.
Although now mostly commercialized, making life busier and more competitive, the beauty and uniqueness still abounds. You would feel its peculiarity better if you take a stroll along the streets on a quiet Sunday evening.