Welcome To Lagos 2: Dealing With Our Realities, Confronting Ignorance and Demanding Equal Representation
“Resourceful, resilient and unbelievably determined,” words used to introduce the second instalment of the documentary, ‘Welcome To Lagos.’ The narrator further on goes to inform us, that the people living in the lagoon and ghettos are adapting to life, the way those of us in the so called, ‘developed world’ could not begin to imagine. Compliment or patronising? I do agree that some of us in the West would not make it past a day if we had to live like that.
Makoko is Lagos’s own Venice, at least Lagos has a Venice. A place that was a fishing village 200 years ago is today home to over 100,000 people and I bet you that number is going to keep growing.
In this day and age, I have no idea why anyone would want to have 18 children but I guess Chubbey, must be going on God’s mandate to replenish the earth. When you look around the environment they are, you do not want to drink water or eat fish again. The water looks dirty and they stay in it with no clothes or form of protection on them while working/clearing the fish pond. Goodness gracious, the sanitation system, heaven help me. “There is no odour,” Chubbey says, “the water washes it away, everything is clean.” I have no idea the eyes with which he is looking at his environment but nothing about it is clean from where I stand.
However, there is a lot to be admired in Chubbey, he is a family man and he is worried about his son, and wants his son to be a good child. He also makes it a priority for his family to eat together everyday. Hmmm, I cannot say that for a lot of households anywhere in the world. We are too busy chasing the Pound, Dollar and Bling, we let mum do it alone or dad when he has the time. Chubbey goes the extra mile to get protection for his child, the traditional way, I have no idea if that shit still works but I know people who have done it in the past and I understand it worked for them. Now that is what you call the ultimate ministry of defense.
In the same vain, we see a young man coming of age and doing what a lot of teenagers will do. We experience a dose of parenting from the point of view of a Nigerian father though Chubbey does not represent all Lagos or Nigerian fathers. My father’s style is different. My dad’s first words when you are pushing him are, ‘what the fuck is this?’ And if you keep going, he will add, ‘woe be-tied you’ and then ask, ‘who is your father? Do you have another father elsewhere?’ Oh, my dearest father, my very own comedian.
Paul, who works at the sawdust mill is another interesting character in addition to the two young boys, who work with him. I love the way the young man with tribal marks on his face speaks Yoruba. It sounds so sweet and I am dead jealous. Okay, here is a sick observation, the two young boys have a fantastic set of teeth, white and complete. Nothing missing, nothing broken and I’m certain, they have never been to the dentist. More power to chewing stick! Again, we also see that element of community and coming together to help each other when Baba Toyin dies after being electrocuted. It is another incident, which highlights the fact that safety measures are not in place within the working environment of the sawdust mills at Ebute Metta. When Paul gets a shack for home, he shows so much gratitude for it. There is a lot to be said for anyone with a heart of gratitude.
Kissme and Daniel, the two sand diggers. If that is not hard work, then I don’t know what is. I bet when anyone shakes their hands, they must think, what da hell? Nevertheless, they are happy doing what they do and making a living.You cannot deny they too have had the Armada experience. It may not be the Spanish Armada but it is an Armada and that is an experience, some of us will never have. In order to set sail, they had to build all of their equipments by recycling rice bags, stitched together by hand. They also used bamboo trees for their sail, so they can generate enough trust as the wind picks up while they travel. Talk about ingenuity, I have seen nothing like this in my countrymen. I appreciate the fact that these men do the type of job many would walk away from, yet, they are proud. They are not thieves, neither are they lazy. They are helping to shape the landscape of Lagos with the sand they dig. The same sand, is used to build houses in places like Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Island but the BBC among other Western media will never show the world those same images.
My favourite words from this episode is ‘Dundee United,’ Chubbey’s own way of saying someone is a fool. And of course, that famous line, ‘With immediate effect and automatic alacrity.’ In his own little way, Chubbey is a man with a sense of humour.
So, in picking this episode apart, I still stand by the fact that, Welcome To Lagos, shows real people doing what they can to survive. There is something about their will and zeal to keep going that I love and admire.
However, there is a lot to be said about representation and the images been beamed wherever this documentary is shown. It is Nigeria’s image at stake. The image has suffered a great deal over the years, no thanks to the idiotic leaders we have, who turn themselves into clowns for the world to laugh at us. The Western media has not helped either with its stereotypes and aim of only showing negative images because that is what sells the frigging news. Personally, I am of the opinion that if you want to break this down, you could do so in three different ways.
A – It is forcing us to deal with our realities and the realities of some parts of Lagos, which a huge number of people probably never knew existed. I did not know about the sand diggers until I saw it a few days ago in a news package and then again with this documentary. Makoko was relatively a small community when I was at home but in the 15 years I have been away, it has grown. Welcome To Lagos, is holding a mirror up to us as Nigerians, to ask ourselves if this is the way people should live? If anything, we are now fully aware that the environment in which these individuals work is not safe. What can be done socially and on the government level to improve people’s live?
The Nigerian government has picked a bone with the programme makers, citing dismay and disappointment. Well, I am ‘dismayed’ they didn’t know a programme of this nature was being produced in their frigging backyard.
According to a news report on a Nigerian news website, “The Federal Government on Wednesday protested against a documentary on Lagos aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation, which portrayed the city as a slum. The documentary entitled, “Welcome to Lagos,” was broadcast on BBC2 in the United Kingdom on April 15.Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, conveyed the pro…test to the BBC just as Nigerians resident in Chicago, United States, advised the government to do more to change the negative perception of Nigeria in the foreign media. A protest letter by Tafida was sent to the Controller BBC2, Ms. Janice Hadlow, in Glasgow. A copy of the letter, which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria, reads, “The Nigeria High Commission has watched with dismay and disappointment, the first of the three-part series of your sinister documentary on Lagos which featured on April 15.“The commission would therefore like to register its strong rejection of this documentary as a deliberate distortion of life in Lagos, and totally…”
Forgive me, but the only reason, they are dismayed is because their inadequacy has been exposed and there is nothing they can do about it but find a way to make the locations featured in this series better. It shows how they have failed their own people, over and over because with Nigeria’s wealth, there should be a state system, a social system that helps its citizens to live life at a decent level. But, MBA (NO), we do not have one. Instead, we have greedy SOB’s for leaders whose thought pattern centres along the line of Me, Myself and I. Hence, Welcome To Lagos is giving us an aerial view of a huge problem that needs to be looked at.
B – The next point will be the very fact that, now we have to confront the ignorance of small minded arseholes who now think and believe, this is all there is to Lagos or Nigeria at that. Yes, it is a good documentary but at whose expense you ask? NIGERIANS. They are the ones who have to live with the negative image and attitude from bigots. Personally, I think this documentary is better than the frigging reality shows they produce for us here in the UK. However, these images only refuel the negative stereotypes already out there. Imagine some little kid in Shropshire thinking the whole of Lagos is a slum or even an adult at that. I know this may sound far fetched but I have been in newsrooms where after you hear the very people, who are producing what you hear at home discuss the news, you feel sorry for the listeners because the people producing the news have never been to the place they are writing about. I know you need not have been to a place to write about it but their frigging ignorance stinks, yet they think they know it all. The one that really gets me angry is after someone has been to Africa for three weeks, he becomes a frigging African expert. And so, they feel sorry for Africans and that pity is what comes through in the news broadcast. There, I said it. You can chew on that.
Truth be told, there are slums all over the world. The slums of Brazil has given the world some of its best footballers. The slums in Kenya are now home to some great businesses, as far as the fashion world.
C – We have to demand balance but that is something we will never get from the Western media and so, we must tell our own stories. I was having this conversation with someone the other day and he asked, why don’t they show Victoria Island and the other landmarks in Lagos? All they ever show is the slums and horrible places. However, when they show London, they show Big Ben, House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace etc? I understand his anger and I agree with him. But this is the trick, the British press believes its own hype and so, will tell its own story. That is the way the media in every nation works. It is their job to tell their own stories and show the other guy as the bad one you need to be aware of.
Hollywood has sold America to us on the basis that, whenever the world is in danger, America will save the day. While Britain and the others play allies. A Ha! Ain’t it funny, that’s the way it truly is. America coughs, Britain catches a cold.
Hence, we as Africans must learn to engage in a semiotic warfare and counteract the negativity with positive images of ourselves. We also need to get our act together and stop ‘faffing’ about. I have discovered a group on Facebook, We Demand a Better Balance for Black Programming On The BBC, and their aim is to ask for a redress on the issue of representation and balance. They cite the following documentaries:
BBC4 – Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children – aired 1st, 2nd & 3rd Mar 2010
BBC3 – The World Most Dangerous Place for Women [The Congo] – aired 30th Mar & 12th Apr 2010
BBC2 – Welcome To Lagos – aired Apr 15th 2010 and will air 2 further episodes on Apr 15th & 22nd 2010]
Until we start doing what we need to do for ourselves, we cannot complain and expect anyone to fix what we want fixed.
The founders are also fully aware that these type of programmes are educative and needed. The trouble is, they are always negative and nothing positive is shown to balance it. This is what they had to say…
“We are fully aware that these programmes ARE informative and the stories NEED to be told. We are NOT asking for a ban on this type of programming that raises awareness at all.
We also NEED to see a POSITIVE BALANCE of what goes on in the daily lives of African/Caribbean, men, women and children all over the world.
We are raising and educating children in this country that belong to the African Diaspora. It is vital that the images seen are a fair contrast and reflect those of a positive and uplifting nature also. Not just for their sake, but from an educational standpoint of non African/Caribbean people watching these programmes who already have a limited view as to what living in Africa/Caribbean IS and can truly BE like.
You are showing one side, too often and it’s the negative!
The aim of this campaign is to bring this to the forefront, raise awareness from the press and other media outlets and show the BBC that we are tired of the one sided depiction of a poor and poverty stricken Africa. If we aren’t shown as hungry, starving, living in huts/makeshift homes, dying from AIDS or Malaria, we are now being shown as ‘Scavengers’ on a rubbish dump in BBC2′s Welcome To Lagos.”
I understand what they are saying. The images seen in Welcome To Lagos, is not all there is to Lagos. There are beautiful places in Lagos and some of the houses, no disrespect to you Brits, some of us who live here in London cannot afford them despite the strength of the pound. I wonder if the BBC in conjunction with the film company behind the documentary will show us those images?
If you are waiting for that, you may be waiting for a very long time.
My thoughts on Episode 1: Welcome To Lagos: Look Beyond The Poverty, See The Indomitable Ingenuity In the people