Welcome to Lagos is a three part observational documentary series, which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos produced for BBC2 by Will Anderson. Aired in April 2010, it depicted life in Lagos via the eyes of well, Will Anderson! I tried to blog Will Anderson to find out who he was, his profile, his politics etc etc, but I came up short.
Anyway, Nigerians ‘angry reaction to BBC’s Welcome to Lagos documentary is a great lesson on always aiming in achieving balance in life. For instance I suppose if God made me a deciding factor in creation, I will either limit the effect of the sun on the earth or not create it altogether. That way every single day on the earth will be cool. But, where will that leave the daylight or photosynthesis?
Furthermore, I will create all females to look like Liz Benson, all men will speak like Wole Soyinka, all men will be charming like Bill Clinton, every earthling will have the calmness & mannerism of Queen Elizabeth….I bet a lot of people reading this will think what a strange person I am! But face it, every individual thinks if the world was one way or another, things will be fine. But the reality of life manages to force a sense of balance in each earthling. It may be the degree of balance that varies in each.
Now where was the balance in the BBC film? Nobody denies the slums, squatters, some bad roads, decaying infrastructure or none at all, nonexistent social services, scavengers, and malnourished children… every nightmare of the average westerner about Lagos or Nigeria was confirmed by the documentary. Nothing was spared. Now nobody denies the things depicted exists, but is that all there is to Lagos? But I suppose BBC documentary could have asked why the Lagos state govt is delays in making those areas same like the wonderful new Oshodi; afterall the old Oshodi was actually worse than some of those places depicted in the BBC commentary. And they could go further to include in the documentary how places like the Oshodi; Mushin, Orile areas etc have been transformed. That is balance.
Is it true that, “The Nigerian obsession with image often approaches neurotic proportions? What people think of us appears to take manic precedence over who we really are”. I have often heard this aired and said. But in this global village world where a picture can beam to a billion viewers in 200 countries, in a single minute, shouldn’t one be concerned about a false image? Considering the herculean task to correct the falsehood, if at all? A careless picture beamed on the web could well cost a career or to be modest, some lost opportunities. Try seeing how far you can go at a job interview with a careless image!
In actual fact, the world has a right to know that what Lagos is, isn’t what the BBC’s documentary depicted. Sure that may be part of Lagos, but what about the rest of Lagos? Is that all there is to Lagos? What of the lush greenery now bordering the highways at Adeniji Adele, Marina and elsewhere, the epic transformation of national stadium area at Surulere?
Dora Akuluyi’s rebranding project seems to have hit a brick wall, not many Nigerians believed in it or gave it a chance anyhow. It was destined to meet the fate of all similar govt funded project, a lot of people concluded. Whatever the fate of Dora’s govt driven rebranding project, that shouldn’t stop the civil society from embarking on things similar. In fact part of our problem is that we often seem to want to pander to the west’s idea of how we should be instead of how we are.
Obi Nwakanma,in the Sunday vanguard of April 22,2012, opined how difficult it was to get your books published or recognized by the west, how much more win an award if it didn’t follow the path of ‘voyeurism of the largely predetermined western mind or reader’. Of course this translates into a preconceived notion of Nigeria (read Africa) being a venue of corrupt and sadistic rulers; stolen and abandoned children; failed states and societies; a place of incessant wars and riots; of rife occultism, magic and barbaric practices! Any wonder people protest when they see a different image of themselves reflected from a supposed mirror and beamed to the world?
Is the depiction of Nigerians as criminals and cannibals in the movie District 9, colossal failure of the leadership and Nigerian 419 kingpins, all there is to Nigeria? Sure it may include some of that, but that is not all there is! Everyday Nigerians all over the world are busy setting positive records in all human endeavours, I need not mention, it is widely known. The fact is, we Nigerians are very conscious (even ‘over-conscious’, just pick the average Nigerian newspaper and all you read is criticism of the system!) of all the wrong things about our country and we surely don’t gloss over it! Pick up the mainstream papers and you see it there. Soyinka (very recent past named as one of the 10 smartest people in the world by MSN) was on CNN at a time, effectively tackling the former AG Aondaaka on thelate President Yar adua saga. What we don’t do, is join the unbalanced commentary portraying to the world that all the unfortunate things that occur in Nigeria is the true Image of the country. The Christmas day bomber is not the Nigerian image as the some will want the world to believe. Every country has its own share of sadists, murderers, reprobates, degenerates! A John Elton song says ‘don’t tell me what to do, when you been doing it too!’ Yes in this age of the “world’s transformation to a global village”, image is everything!
Ask me and I may tell you, generally all Indians Lebanese Chinese or all Asians by and large are crooks because of my experiences with some of ones I’ve had to deal with, but that cannot be true could it? I look in any edition of international Time magazine and I see their achievements in software creation, technology & medicine celebrated regularly and I wonder that they must have good PR. Personally, an Indian expatriate had been key to my career progression at some point, for which I will be eternally grateful!
End note; We must all take the rebranding project as a compulsory course if we are to effectively tackle the misconception about the average Nigerian. This would mean tackling all unbalanced information or half truths about the country, its govt and its people. We must insist on balanced reporting! We must protest loudly like then Information minister did at the Film release of the despicable District 9! If that documentary, ‘welcome to Lagos’ had been balanced as anything coming from a supposedly professional organisation like BBC should be, you wouldn’t get the barrage of angry commentary that trailed it. Lagos state knows its challenges and I’m certain it is correcting it. Nigeria knows its challenges and am sure with enough will power, we will correct things.Like the Yoruba say, alatishe lo matishe ara e (the owner of the issue best knows how to correct it).