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5May

Welcome To Lagos 3: Hope Among Other Lessons

Welcome To Lagos finally came to an end and so has the drama that came with it. Well for now, until the BBC decides to go back in 10 years time. I wonder what the areas they featured would have evolved into and of course, the people?. Where would the likes of Slender, Joseph, Esther and Chubbey be in 10 years time? And would the Lagos State government keep its word to get the place re-gentrified? Well, I hope so…that is if corruption has not swallowed the money meant for the regeneration projects.

For me, Part 3 ended on the premise of hope, suggesting there is more to the lives of the individuals featured than we know about. There was something about it I found comforting, maybe it was Esther’s strength and boldness or the very fact that the common strand present in all three episodes is the very element of humanity, society so desperately needs. All the same, I am still sticking by my first observation that Welcome To Lagos is a good documentary. I may not agree with everything but it is better than the trashy TV we have been bombarded with for years.

I agree with the few people who have mentioned the title is misleading. If the producers had been more direct and put it in context, then people would know what to expect. However, you cannot say, Welcome To Lagos and shows us an aspect of Lagos that does not cover the whole of Lagos. For example, Channel 4 has a series on the slums of India this week and the title is ‘Slumming It.’  At least you know what you are sitting down to watch. That is by no means a suggestion that every writer should come up with a title, which says, this is what you are getting…I just think on this occasion, it would have been more practical to go for what informs us as to what the documentary is about rather then tell  us you are going to show us Lagos but only give the viewers the slums. A friend cracked me up this week as we talked about the documentary. She said she was hoping, as at 20mins to the programme ending, the filmmakers were going to show some other areas to prove the great contradiction within Nigeria’s mega-city but was disappointed that she didn’t see that. I understand what she is saying, she was hoping they would show the ‘classic tale of two cities.’ Hence, I still stand by what I said in my second review that balance and equal representation was missing from the series. Yes, we saw a 20 seconds clip pf Victoria Island but that is not balance in my opinion. The BBC blows its trumpet on the mantra of equal representation and showing both sides of the coin, that was lacking in this series. Yes, the producers can pick the locations they want to show and shoot but they were there for 4 months if not more, I believe they saw other parts of Lagos that was a stark difference to the slums we saw. I have no problems with slums, after all, some of the world’s greatest footballers grew up in the slums of Brazil but don’t draw me in and tell me you want to show me Lagos but only give me one point of view.

The show’s producer in his blog, Welcome to Lagos – it’ll defy your expectations, says, Nigeria and Lagos, have a reputation for corruption, religious violence, email scams among others. But he and his co-producers were pretty certain there was more. “I was convinced there was more to it than that, which is why four of us were heading out there for such a long period of time.” I would like to believe he saw more than the slums presented and how noble that he realised at the end that, “Yes, they may be terribly poor, but that doesn’t stop them being human and, if the films have succeeded, then I hope they’ve succeeded in showing that.” In fairness to him, they showed real people, resourceful, resilient and full of life, hardworking people who do not believe in the easy way out but paying their way through life even if that means going to the bottom of the ocean to get sand. I also bet you that they did not live in the slums while filming.

And for those who have commented that they want the slums to remain the way it, why don’t you pack your bags and leave your western lifestyle behind and go and live there and then tell me, how well you found it. Of course, that is dependent on if you survive the mosquitoes with Marine Seal status. Maybe when they are done sucking your blood and infusing the type of Malaria, which knows no western medicine, you will still be in love with life in the slum. And to the self-righteous arseholes, who thought it was their duty to get nasty and use words that are appalling on my website, do not try it on this occasion, you will be a victim of the arsenal of my words. Take yourself, write your own review in your own space and read what you want to read. I will not tolerate any nasty, degrading or condescending comments aimed at me or other people, who have commented on this website in any form shape or way.  That is not allowed, so I plead with you now, let the last time be the first and last. We are allowed to have different points of views and express it critically but not with abusive language. That out of the way, Back to Welcome To Lagos.

Esther is one intelligent lady and given the opportunity could well make a great inspirational speaker, motivator, business woman and whatever she sets her heart to. She articulates what she needs to say without difficulties. I say, Esther has got potential and would make a good journalist.

I think the main reason I like her is the very fact that she is comfortable in her own skin and her environment. She has a great outlook on life and for a society where women are still heavily repressed in more ways than one, she breaks that mold that most women are expected to fit in. She speaks her mind, something a few people older than her would and still struggle with. My world, the scene with the Mothercare catalogue, where she talks about the fact that if a man is seen carrying a baby the man in the picture was, the wife would be accused of turning her husband into a woman was hilarious. It is in her body language, tone and the way she expresses herself. It was also interesting to see the way she was advising her pregnant friend about her health.

But she has a heart and that is clear for all to see when she is praying over the little baby. I love the community life they have and the way they help each other. Her daughter is cute and has her own personality. The modeling scene, so cute! (dem for try wear the small girl top na!)

She is a pretty determined young lady with a great focus. She sure would make a fine journalist and that she knows. She is good at talking, if she gets the skills needed, she will be fine!

My, my, my, those  text messages are classic and Esther is a clown. “My husband wants to go and test her puss. My own is not sweet. Her own has some honey, some lemonade, some sugar…some seasoning and some Maggi, so, that’s why he wants to go and try his luck with her.” Talk about metaphors of the highest order. Nothing, beats the imagery she presents in my book, you cannot make that up people.  Segun’s explanation after he is busted is just lame. Where was God when he was getting text messages from other women? Didn’t God tell him it was wrong to have a wife and be accepting such text messages from other women.  Silly prick.

Esther sure knows herself, “I only know I am tough, I’m not harsh. Tough but not harsh, maybe I’m harsh a little bit but not hard. ” Come on, I love this girl. I wish I had that outlook when I was 24. And then she puts him out. Darn! Girlfriend has got mojo! How many women can say, no more of this nonsense in an economy like that? I am certain, the number will be few and in-between. While I am not advocating walking away from your marriage. You do have to ask yourself the amount of shit you need thrown at you before you realise you are dying on the inside, and make the choices that will keep your mind at peace. In the words of Chubbey, when people have poured enough shit on you and you become Dundee United…Esther was not having it.

Okay, that whole line about the single mindedness of women was going well until the narrator said, ‘not only do they all pop out babies’…he has been doing okay with his narration but that, hmmmm, not sure…yes, women give birth but ‘pop out?’ Colloquial yes, but it just does not sit well with me on this occasion. And wow! The way the lady is throwing the new-born baby in the air, try that in London, that will be baby-abuse.

The church scene the beach reminded me of Wole Soyinka’s, The Trails of Brother Jero, the whole play took place on the beach. Life is interesting, it sure repeats itself in cycles.

I was saddened the way the task force went about demolishing people kiosks for trading without a plan for the people who will be left destitute. It was even more annoying to see the way the members of the task force treated people, women, men and children, just bang out of order, talk about abuse of power. The task force officers may not be mean people but the way they treated the traders was scary. It is rather sad that the government has great plans for Lagos State but no plans for the people that its mega-city vision leaves in limbo. However, I am so with the plan to get rid of area boys, their nuisance is crazy. I am not sure about the method of policing and beating people up but then again, that is Nigeria’s Police and the way of any task force.

In episode three, we see some glimpse of the other side of Lagos with scenes shot in VI and my world, the clear roads on environmental sanitation day is a stark difference to the the gridlock on working days. A plus to see people doing what is needed to keep their environment clean and seeing Third Mainland Bridge that free on the environmental cleaning day is a huge contrast to the usual gridlock.

My favourite lines from part 3 is, Hammer head of horror’ and ‘In case of any in-casity.’

This edition leaves me with hope and I most certainly want to see Esther flying with her dreams.

So, what have we seen from all three episodes, that the human will to get on with the business of living and making the most of it does exist.

We have also seen how people can form heir own system of government which has nothing with the way the nation or state is governed and they do better than the recognised system of government in the nation

We have also seen the poor way of life people live because they have a system of government that has failed them and is not aware of the shit in their backyard and even if they do, they have chosen to ignore it and pay lip service when it comes to their attention that their backside has been exposed to the world

The Editor-in-Chief of ThisDay Newspaper, Nigeria, Simon Kolawole in his weekly colum,  Simon Kolawole Live! said, “Nigerians have been protesting a documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on the squalor in Lagos – and, by extension, Nigeria. BBC showed us naked – the way we are – despite the billions of dollars we make from crude oil every year. I’m sorry to say: I’m not offended at all. We are always so eager to patronise international media and pay millions of dollars “to project” our image, while Nigerian media businesses get just a fraction of this huge budget. And while we’re obliged to paint our country in good light and report “positively”, the foreign media have no such stake here. In fact, they collect our money easily (it’s so easy for a “small” CNN reporter to interview a Nigerian governor and do an expensive “special report”) and then go back to ridicule us. Serves us right!” The man sure has a point. Serves us right because we have become so passive aggressive in our attitude and outlook on life, and in demanding better governance, that we take the shit thrown at us by our leaders, year in and year out.

Wole Soyinka too has weighed in on the documentary. I am of the opinion, he is entitled to say what he wants to say, after all, he is the first to tell the Nigerian government to piss off. All those who disagree and have decided to use rather nasty words, shame on you that you cannot read between the lines and see where the man is coming from. I read his interview with the UK Guardian, Wole Soyinka attacks BBC portrayal of Lagos ‘pit of degradation’ and picked this out, “What I saw I found very unjust and sensationalist. What I saw was not an honest reportage. The problem is the title – it programmes the mind of the viewer in advance and sets the overall context.” I agree with the issue of the title that he is talking about as previously mentioned.  He also said, “One could do a similar programme about London in which you go to a poor council estate and speaking of poverty and knifings. Or you could follow a hobo selling iron on the streets of London. But you wouldn’t call it Welcome to London because that would give the viewer the impression that that is all London is about.” I get his trail of thoughts and can see where he is coming from.

EstherFor me, I liked the human element of the series, their heart and spirit is like no other. The characters are all very interesting people and if they had a chance, would do amazing things. While the issue of gentrification is clear for all to see, I think its patronising for the BBC or the Independent film company to claim they were speaking for people and giving them a voice. So, I ask, did they write a letter to the Lagos State government when they were done filming? Did they think about setting up some NGO or Independent body that would help fight for the rights of those who stand to lose their homes when the task force finally decides to come in and demolish their tents? They sure succeeded in showing the sharp end of things and how resourceful people get when living with very little but do not claim you are giving them a voice because your programme serves your company and agenda not the agenda of those you interviewed. If in 10 years time Slender become exceptionally successful, Esther becomes  a journalist and Chubbey’s family is better off, then you can make claim to have given them a voice. Until then, see this is film-making and nothing more.

Organic it was, gritty and real yes. Succeeded at showing Lagos? Hell to the no! But good documentary? Hell to the yes!!!

Image of Esther in front of her tent: BBC Pictures

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4 Responses to “Welcome To Lagos 3: Hope Among Other Lessons”

  1. Hans Schippers says:

    That Esther eh, if not as a journalist, she might just as well make it as stand-up comedian 🙂

    It was indeed shocking to see the govt’s methods of “cleaning up” the city. All the ppl who become homeless in a matter of hours should unite and occupy the presidential palace until an alternative is provided to them!

  2. Tyson F. Gautreaux says:

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  3. Balkane says:

    hm…I have to agree with this “bias” approach of the producers to dedicate the show to the residents of the poor neighbourhoods, as citizens with money can voice themselves everywhere they wish, anytime…although, yes, in this way the title is misleading! And I do agree, Esther seems like a beautiful woman, I was impressed by her strength and wish her all the best…:)

  4. Balkane says:

    but is the title misleading if three-quarters of Lagos residents live in slums?! 🙂

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