On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

Welcome To Lagos: A Compelling Reality of Struggle, Perseverance in the Megacity May 10, 2010

Filed under: Entertainment/Distractions,Lifestyle — kikenileda @ 8:56 PM

Update: Vocal Slendar will be going to London to play Live in London Indigo 31st of May with Basket Mouth,JJC etc.

We may never know what exactly is the West obsession with Nigeria and Nigerians lately. Even way before the Abdul Mutallab incident, there was a healthy obsession with Nigerians in Holly Wood. They were front and center in District Nine, the epicenter of CBS and Dateline NBC scam documentaries and even the biggest grossing film this year, AVATAR did not fail to mention Nigeria. While Nigeria has been making news due to the recent death of their president and the circumstances that surrounded the events leading up to his death, the BBC found time to squeeze Nigeria to the forefront of media headlines again. It has not been an easy year for our Nigeria indeed, and the latest 3 part documentary by the BBC has split the Nigerian community abroad and at home with some crying foul once more and others siding with the BBC. Seeing that documentary was western produced, I was not expecting  a balanced representation of Lagos, but wondering to what extent the facts will be distorted.

 Thus as I ate my eru in slow gulps I calmly watched with the intensity of hawk, making sure I followed every second of it. Ten minutes into the documentary, I could understand why Nigerians were raising hell over this documentary; another unflattering image of the country was at the forefront of the world media. By the end of the documentary, I however came to the realization that, no matter the intentions of the BBC, this documentary was actually good for Nigeria. The characters in documentary go along way to portray the work ethic, perseverance and communal spirit of Nigerians which has largely been overshadowed by the misdeeds of a few. Theirs is not only a Nigerian but an African story that is reflected everywhere in the world where there is a great disparity between the rich and poor. Even Douala and Yaounde do not compare to Lagos as far as slumps and ghettos go. I don't know if I should give credit for that to our government though. We just hope it never gets that bad in Kamer. Whatever the case, if BBC's cameras should appear in Cameroon and shoot such, I would grin but I do not think I will or the government for that matter will raise hell as some Nigerians are doing. 

We as Africans also have to come to the understanding that if anybody is going to tell our story or reality it has to be "US." We cannot stump our feet every time the Western media depicts Africa in a way we think is unfair because it is not their duty to. It is time for Africans to do their best in portraying themselves the way they wish to. Instead of the Nigerian government complaining to the BBC about this documentary, the could do their own documentary and show the world the other side of lagos. Check out the article below by Nigerian writer Adunnibabe on the events that followed after the airing of the three part documentary and his analysis

Part Two:

Part 3:

Nigeria has protested twice against the BBC documentary film, Welcome to Lagos, which shows the human side of slums and dumpsters in Lagos. The first came from the Nigerian High Commissioner in Britain, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida. The second protest was raised, understandably, by the Action Congress. The AC is peeved that the BBC didn’t ‘balance’ the story by documenting the efforts the Lagos State Government is making to change the face of Lagos and upgrade it to a mega city. 

Well, the BBC has not pretended it set out to do a PR film on Lagos. If the BBC had gone another mile to show “the great efforts of the state government in the past 10 years to change the face of Lagos” and “world-acclaimed efforts by the state government to uplift the city”, as AC demanded, the documentary would no longer look like a social commentary but an attempt to promote the Lagos State Government. Nevertheless, Welcome to Lagos is interesting to watch. It was a departure from the trite TV ‘reality shows’ where people lock themselves inside a house and fritter precious time away gesticulating wildly and talking loudly about nothing. I held my breath while watching Welcome to Lagos, as I watched ordinary Nigerians struggling to make honest living. 

The documentary showed different aspects of Lagos slums and how people in these unsavory places make a decent living from the mountains of refuse they burrow through daily. There are plenty of stories told in those footages: poverty and industry; struggle and resilience; squalor and cheerfulness of spirit; communal-ism and fights; survival and hope.

One of the men in focus, Slender, scavenges for a living to be able to make enough money to book studio time to record his demo and buy clothes with which to take pictures he will put on the cover of his album jacket. Easily realizable dreams, we say, but for millions of Nigerians, simple things of life taken for granted elsewhere become something to hold fasting and prayer sessions to achieve.

Welcome to Lagos is therefore a jolt (in case we are inured) that a lot is wrong with our country and that the figures on poverty are not just about numbers; Welcome to Lagos has shown that it is actually about people who have hopes and dreams but need to forage through refuse to make enough to survive and continue dreaming. It is particularly hard for our government to take the lesson because it was shown by a foreign medium which seems to derive joy from showing ‘how the other half lives’. 

Many times, while watching ‘Inside Africa’ on CNN, I have cringed to see unpleasant public spaces in Nigeria captured on camera. The reports look objective enough but it is difficult to shake off condescension on the part of these foreign stations. For instance, a feature on Computer Village, Lagos, described the place as ‘Nigeria’s Silicon Valley’. 

The danger of frequent depictions of slums, poverty, famine and disease in Africa is that it leads to stereotyping, and stereotypes subvert reality. There are many out there too who have the image of Africa as a place where broomstick thin kids with distended tummies and flies in eyes live. 

Why is it that it is only unpleasant aspects of third world countries that appeal to the West? Simple: exoticism. The concept suggests that unfamiliar aspects of other cultures appeal. That is why a white man will leave his country, come to Nigeria to watch people in raffia skirts, leopard skins and painted faces do tribal dances that supposedly invoke spirits. 

The average Westerner, in the name of exoticism, will prefer a documentary on Nigeria to show Okada, flooded streets, crashed buildings, juju to one of Africans building a mega city. 

Exoticism didn’t start recently. It started hundreds of years ago when European explorers started landing on other shores and writing about people of other worlds.

However, exoticism is not a bad thing in itself, but it has inherent dangers. Apart from stereotyping, it leads a people to begin to unconsciously discount themselves and their culture; they play up their culture for the consumptive benefit of foreigners’ who are deemed to have superior way of life. 

We see this attitude in literature. African and other third world writers will write about child soldier, religious crisis, ritual killings, tribal wars, child witches, child trafficking etc and the Western reader will find it alluring. That is why Oprah Winfrey would read a book about child prostitution, child trafficking and other social malaises (and other popular stereotypes) in modern day Africa and say it left her ‘gasping’! 

While we blame the West for showing us in our naked ingloriousness to satisfy their curiosity, we should also look inwards a little bit and ask if Welcome to Lagos is not the reality of our country. 

At least the protesters have not said the slums are not part of our city spaces. 

For me, the social failing depicted in Welcome to Lagos is not a Lagos State problem alone, and I will lie in wait for any politician to hold it up, self righteously, to mock the efforts of Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola. It is more of a Nigerian thing and should be treated as such. ‘Slender’ left his oil rich village to scavenge in Lagos because things are not better in that part of the country either. 

It will be dishonest of any state government to pretend that the young men and women who migrate into Lagos daily is not part of their failure to make a decent living for their people in their respective states. There are many more ‘Slenders’ out there. They ride Okadas, work on dumpsites, live under bridges, take to crime and just generally survive. 

And there are millions of such Nigerians like that for whom life is harder than pulling a rotten tooth. If a similar documentary were shot in any other state in Nigeria, the stories will be the same accounts of poverty, and dreams deferred. Rather than seek political balancing for the documentary, why don’t we at least start with some social balancing?

By Adunnibabe

Nigeria has protested twice against the BBC documentary film, Welcome to Lagos, which shows the human side of slums and dumpsites in Lagos. The first came from the Nigerian High Commissioner in Britain, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida. The second protest was raised, understandably, by the Action Congress. The AC is peeved that the BBC didn’t ‘balance’ the story by documenting the efforts the Lagos State Government is making to change the face of Lagos and upgrade it to a mega city. 

Well, the BBC has not pretended it set out to do a PR film on Lagos. If the BBC had gone another mile to show “the great efforts of the state government in the past 10 years to change the face of Lagos” and “world-acclaimed efforts by the state government to uplift the city”, as AC demanded, the documentary would no longer look like a social commentary but an attempt to promote the Lagos State Government. Nevertheless, Welcome to Lagos is interesting to watch. It was a departure from the trite TV ‘reality shows’ where people lock themselves inside a house and fritter precious time away gesticulating wildly and talking loudly about nothing. I held my breath while watching Welcome to Lagos, as I watched ordinary Nigerians struggling to make honest living. 

The documentary showed different aspects of Lagos slums and how people in these unsavoury places make a decent living from the mountains of refuse they burrow through daily. There are plenty of stories told in those footages: poverty and industry; struggle and resilience; squalor and cheerfulness of spirit; communalism and fights; survival and hope.

One of the men in focus, Slender, scavenges for a living to be able to make enough money to book studio time to record his demo and buy clothes with which to take pictures he will put on the cover of his album jacket. Easily realisable dreams, we say, but for millions of Nigerians, simple things of life taken for granted elsewhere become something to hold fasting and prayer sessions to achieve.

Welcome to Lagos is therefore a jolt (in case we are inured) that a lot is wrong with our country and that the figures on poverty are not just about numbers; Welcome to Lagos has shown that it is actually about people who have hopes and dreams but need to forage through refuse to make enough to survive and continue dreaming. It is particularly hard for our government to take the lesson because it was shown by a foreign medium which seems to derive joy from showing ‘how the other half lives’. 

Many times, while watching ‘Inside Africa’ on CNN, I have cringed to see unpleasant public spaces in Nigeria captured on camera. The reports look objective enough but it is difficult to shake off condescension on the part of these foreign stations. For instance, a feature on Computer Village, Lagos, described the place as ‘Nigeria’s Silicon Valley’. 

The danger of frequent depictions of slums, poverty, famine and disease in Africa is that it leads to stereotyping, and stereotypes subvert reality. There are many out there too who have the image of Africa as a place where broomstick thin kids with distended tummies and flies in eyes live. 

Why is it that it is only unpleasant aspects of third world countries that appeal to the West? Simple: exoticism. The concept suggests that unfamiliar aspects of other cultures appeal. That is why a white man will leave his country, come to Nigeria to watch people in raffia skirts, leopard skins and painted faces do tribal dances that supposedly invoke spirits. 

The average Westerner, in the name of exoticism, will prefer a documentary on Nigeria to show Okada, flooded streets, crashed buildings, juju to one of Africans building a mega city. 

Exoticism didn’t start recently. It started hundreds of years ago when European explorers started landing on other shores and writing about people of other worlds.

However, exoticism is not a bad thing in itself, but it has inherent dangers. Apart from stereotyping, it leads a people to begin to unconsciously discount themselves and their culture; they play up their culture for the consumptive benefit of foreigners’ who are deemed to have superior way of life. 

We see this attitude in literature. African and other third world writers will write about child soldier, religious crisis, ritual killings, tribal wars, child witches, child trafficking etc and the Western reader will find it alluring. That is why Oprah Winfrey would read a book about child prostitution, child trafficking and other social malaises (and other popular stereotypes) in modern day Africa and say it left her ‘gasping’! 

While we blame the West for showing us in our naked ingloriousness to satisfy their curiousity, we should also look inwards a little bit and ask if Welcome to Lagos is not the reality of our country. 

At least the protesters have not said the slums are not part of our city spaces. 

For me, the social failing depicted in Welcome to Lagos is not a Lagos State problem alone, and I will lie in wait for any politician to hold it up, self righteously, to mock the efforts of Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola. It is more of a Nigerian thing and should be treated as such. ‘Slender’ left his oil rich village to scavenge in Lagos because things are not better in that part of the country either. 

It will be dishonest of any state government to pretend that the young men and women who migrate into Lagos daily is not part of their failure to make a decent living for their people in their respective states. There are many more ‘Slenders’ out there. They ride Okadas, work on dumpsites, live under bridges, take to crime and just generally survive. 

And there are millions of such Nigerians like that for whom life is harder than pulling a rotten tooth. If a similar documentary were shot in any other state in Nigeria, the stories will be the same accounts of poverty, and dreams deferred. Rather than seek political balancing for the documentary, why don’t we at least start with some social balancing?

 

One Response to “Welcome To Lagos: A Compelling Reality of Struggle, Perseverance in the Megacity”

  1. c mbouende Says:

    I watched this last night with amazement! When our problems are not attended, it is right to expose them. The good we do can only benefit us, but the problem unattended is what will hurt us. The government instead of worrying about the country’ s image should provide support to and or invest in those very resourceful people by providing: job skills, education, health, affordable housing, entrepreneurial loans or grants. Instead, they embezzle the revenues from our natural resources, taxes and the so called foreign aids and loans.
    This would remind them of what they choose to ignore and of their impotence at solving elementary problems. Dogs have more compassion than Africa’ s leaders.
    Good catch Ade!


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