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23Apr

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

11 Responses to “Welcome To Lagos 2: Dealing With Our Realities, Confronting Ignorance and Demanding Equal Representation”

  1. ShonaVixen says:

    I’m one half of the duo behind the Facebook Group and would like to thank you for this post! We were frustrated at how this show Welcome To Lagos was being advertised weeks before it was programmed and both episodes so far have been the rubbish dumps and slums and the last episode next is no better!They did mention the ‘rich parts of Lagos’ but never ONCE did they show that part!
    So instead of just complaining and moaning amongst ourselves we started that group and will be sending a petition to the BBC – we need our people to support this!
    So thank you very much for this post and do keep spreading the word!

  2. Hans Schippers says:

    Your remark about Big Ben and Hollywood is spot on. UK and US are portrayed as heaven on earth, while the truth is that in the US 25% of the people are living in poverty, and that means according to UN criteria, so those just above the poverty threshold are far from wealthy just as well…
    It reminded me of Cuba, where so many people try to escape to the US because they think Hollywood is your average neighbourhood there. No one reports about those Cubans migrating back to Cuba when US reality has been a wicked eye opener.
    Personally, I do not have a problem in itself with the bad situations being shown on television, as it might actually “kick people a conscience”, although I’m probably being naive. I do have a problem with the inbalance, i.e. African countries being portrayed as backwards while at the same time poverty in the West is being ignored. I wonder whether this is, in general, a political move, designed to remind people “how good things are over here” and how grateful we should be to our leaders.
    In that way, it could be compared to cold war propaganda, where Africa is the Soviet-Union, with corrupt leadership, lack of human rights and accute poverty, whereas in the West, everyone owns a villa the size of a palace and at least 2 cars…
    On top of that, maybe it’s even a justification for colonialism, designed to feed the claim that it obviously was a selfless act of civilization, as current conditions show African leaders clearly cannot cope by themselves? I shudder to think… And worst of all, people will end up buying this as the truth :(

  3. chika says:

    1. I think the big problem with this documentary is the title, not the focal points. The docu maker is free to choose his own perspective (just like we are free to, when we go back and tell stories of Europe that we tell of the good, the bad and the ugly). He should have chosen a title that reflects the aspect he has decided to focus on: Lagos Ghettos; Resilience and Beauty in Slums; okay my titles are not very inspired but Welcome to Lagos is far less inspiring
    2. It’s a relief to see that stroppy teenagers are everywhere. I felt like caning that Payo (-:
    3. Dundee United!!! I hear you oo Belinda. It’s my new fav word
    4. The narrator/the documentary handles its subjects with respect. That is a big PLUS. Like in the previous episode, it never degenerates into poor-but-happy-Africans always dancing-singsong-chanting-in the midst of poverty.
    5. This should also move us Nigerians to demand more from our elected officials. Why shd children like those two apprentices be working at their age? What is their future? Forced to leave their parents to work under appalling conditions, they have no childhood and their future isn’t looking orange either. And to imagine that some JOKER wants to run for presidency next year in Naija!!!

  4. Belinda Otas says:

    @ Chika, you are on point about the title, it is misleading in my opinion…you never know, your titles could well work :-)
    The two young boys, scary to see the amount of work they have to do and the time they go to bed…even if it is that way everyday. Payo, me too, I wan beat the yeye boy…
    If IBB gets that presidency, Welcome to Lagos, the documentary could well become the reality of the whole country…okay, a bit exaggerated but that man is an ‘economical rapist and looter.’

    @ Hans, another change of job, you want to take on international relations and analysis??? :-)

  5. Jaycee says:

    Thank you for, not only the videos, but your views on these topics. I actually got mad when I heard the Government was protesting the documentary? What for? What are they trying to hide? And after seething in anger for some minutes I decided that it is also right that the documentary portrays the other side of life in Lagos.

    I also did not know about sand-diggers, well one never knows until documentaries like these expose the facts, or unless we personally know people who do these kind of jobs. I am happy that the other operators paid respect to baba Toyin as well, they did what they could…some were angry because they didn’t have much money, yet they were supposed to somehow stretch their little resources to fund a funeral.

    I especially liked this statement, “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.”

    Our reality today cannot be our reality tomorrow.

  6. Belinda Otas says:

    @ Jaycee, thanks for the comment, I sure hope our reality today is not our reality tomorrow.

  7. k.dot says:

    Dear Belinda Otas, seems to me like you wanted this documentary to focus on rich people or something. Nigeria is a corrupt nation where the rich simply wish the poor will go away or we can just pretend they don’t exist. I thank the BBC for showing how some of our Brothers and sisters really live. It is up to us to build our destiny and correct several injustices in society. This documentary was not negative as you made it out to be…this documentary was to show proof that there are hardworking Nigerians who can barely afford the necessities in life…yet the likes of you wish that they will somehow go away and that they are negative images. Shows how close minded you are.

  8. Belinda Otas says:

    Dear K.dot/Liam, Thanks for your comment, by all means read that blog again and the previous review, Welcome to Lagos 1 and then ask yourself if you are on the right trail of thoughts as to what I wanted and did not want the documentary to show?? Besides, how do you know what I want the documentary to show?
    It is condescending for you to think, the ‘likes of me’ want the poor to go away and that I am ‘closed minded.’ Obviously, you read the review with a closed mind, if not you would have seen the different sides of argument presented. Can I advice then, that you open your mind :-)
    And if I may ask, what do you know about the likes of me??? Or what others think because you seem to know what we all think????

    I do have to say, you are right about this: ‘It is up to us to build our destiny and correct several injustices in society.’

    Thanks for the comment though :-)

  9. Hans Schippers says:

    @k.dot: nobody said or implied anything about wanting the poor to go away. However, it is all about making poverty go away! Documentaries like this one are about balance. Obviously, the worst that could be done is show a documentary about the rich areas of Lagos and then portray it as if it is representative.
    On the other hand, showing only the poorest areas without attaching any political conclusions is dangerous as well, especially if you are going to call it “Welcome to Lagos”. I know some people who will watch this documentary in the same way they would watch a hamster running up and down its spinning wheel: “Look at these silly poor people who are obviously incapable of building a decent society, but still they are laughing and dancing while leading their worthless lives”. That’s not the message we need, right?
    So when you show poverty, also show the causes of it, show that the government is NOT representing the people, and that the West is actively working to keep it that way. Show that, even though colonialism has officially been abolished, a much more subtle form of economical colonialism is still firmly in place. Make the West see the truth, and their own foul role in all of this. Unfortunately, that’s not what this documentary will do. Then again, I doubt the BBC would have wanted it to…

    Apart from that, try to adapt your writing style when talking to a Lady next time ;)

  10. Sir K. says:

    I am a Nigerian, and I think this was a fabulous piece of work. Yes, I am very aware that there are other parts of Lagos with multi million dollar properties and people living as though they were in any modern metropolis. This though, is the Lagos I could not have captured, and as much as I want to feel sorry for the folks at Makoko, a part of me says not to, because I envied how they lived with the barest of needs, and always have a smile on their faces, a sense what family and true community ought to be. It would be much better for the Lagos State governor to keep this people and their community in tact, while putting some simple guide lines in place for refuse and pollution, etc. These people should never be displaced!!! I would rather be around them any day, than the fake life of V.I and Ikoyi’s of Lagos. Well done BBC!!

  11. The BBC should be banned from filming in Nigeria but oh no it wont happen because those wimpish, souless and currupt politicians in Nigeria have got to take a bribe from Mr White so at least they can live better than Mojo Black in that false paradise V.I, Lagos. The name British stinks of colonialism and racism but dont mention this because if you do your’re black power and lest we forget Whites dont have power,lol. It is the weak system in Nigeria that allows a foreign media with a reputation for bias, British Biased Corporation(BBC) to walk into Nigeria and film Africans as savages who feed off filth. No question asked, no please dont bother because they are White and moreso British. You might upset the Foreign office. Immigration has gone to sleep here. Balance the keyword missing in ”Welcome To Lagos” is a language least understood by the BBC and thats why Zimbabwe please not Mugabe had banned them from operating there,even Iran would not allow them to cover their election. The damage done by that documentary to the Image of Nigeria is enough to summon the British envoy but it wont happen because the BBC is an independent Media, an advocate of freedom of speech or so they say, and, hang on a second, Nigeria has not got an elected leadership so who is gonna do the summon? The BBC is becoming less relevant today, unable to justify its licencing fee. Shame it has to indulge in dirty propaganda to win viewers.

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