Welcome to Lagos!
Yesterday, I watched the first two parts in the BBC TV series ‘Welcome to Lagos’. I don’t live in the UK anymore, so I had to rely on the kindness of the folks who uploaded it onto YouTube (thank you MrZbigniewBrzezinski).
Here’s my take on it – I thought it was fantastic and truthful. I realize that many people may not have seen this documentary so I won’t go into too much level of detail so as not to give too much away.
What I found a bit surprising, was that not everyone shares my view. I have heard people say that it was too harsh in its portrayal, and it should have shown all the sides. I wondered about this for a while and thought to myself. What was the purpose of this documentary? The purpose of the documentary was to portray life in a megacity. The very first sentences of the commentator tells us this, by even going as far as to say that in a number of years mankind has evolved into an urban city with more than half of the 7 billion people living on Earth, living in cities – like Mumbai, Manilla, New York, Sao Paulo, to a name a few. Lagos which is the tenth largest city in the world is home to millions of people who have to live in a tiny space. The way they are able to do this has baffled many for years and now the BBC is putting a face to the millions of folks who live in the city.
I was surprised to learn that the State Government had petitioned the BBC in its portrayal and even the Nobel Laureate – Wole Soyinka had weighed in on the issue looking at it as a negative portrayal of Lagos. I think those people who are expressing their anger with the BBC’s portrayal of Lagos in the documentary are missing the point. A better approach would be to carry out a deep analysis of why people would choose to live in Lagos, in the first place when the city is clearly overcrowded and bursting at its seams. The BBC did not make this up. It is the reality. What this documentary shows us is that there are too many people in Lagos, so much so, that there are even cities being created out of refuse sites. People in the higher echelons should examine what exactly it is that is attracting people to Lagos. One theory could be that the attraction to Lagos is for the most part – economic. The business man who is making a living to take care of his family from the things he is able to buy from the dump, compares himself to the other businessmen at another level saying – “the only difference between me and the people in the stock market is the suit and the tie” It is possible that he feels that he could not make a living anywhere else in the country and Lagos seems to be the premier urban center of the country. Maybe it is time for the Federal Government to begin to explore the opportunity of developing other parts of the country so that people stay there, if they don’t more and more places like those that we see in documentary are going to be springing up.
One thing is certain though, the spirit of the people living in Lagos and their unquenchable and relentless quest to live their lives is highly commendable. The people make up the city, the people who make up this city were portrayed as resilient, go-getters who are making a life for themselves in the face of some insurmountable odds. Who would have thought, you could make a living from the blood of cows killed in abattoir. There is a scene in the documentary, where after a hard day’s work – the musician Vocal Slender freshens up to go into town – the transformation is electric. He goes from a disheveled scavenger to a clean and suave looking young man, with no trace of the dump on him and he does all this without even living the dump site.
I am trying to understand what the people who are against this documentary are seeing which is making them so offended. Some have said that the title of the documentary is misleading, I thought about this for a while but then I have to disagree, the places shown in the city are just as much a part of Lagos as the nicer parts and we have to come to terms with that. This is one city, there are many parts of it. I am curious to see where else the series will portray. I can say this much, if the series had taken us to only the posh parts of Lagos which do exist, I would have found it offensive and a slap on the face of the people who live in Lagos.