Tuesday, June 1, 2010
WELCOME TO LAGOS, THE BBC SLUM DOCUMENTARY, GOOD PR FOR NIGERIA?
Can good and bad co-exists or necessarily be found in the same thing; not if you are a literary scholar and familiar with irony, oxymoron and paradox? Sometimes, a good thing be found and taken out of a bad situation, such as in this attempt by the British Broadcasting Corporation to give Lagos a bad name? A more functional government that has its acts together and which has a well oiled public relations machine could have turned this seemingly bad press of BBC, which portrayed the slums of Lagos, into an asset - showcasing honest people making earnest income in the spirit of the new green themed world of recycling? For any discerning mind which is not particularly yoked in by the apocryphal trouncing-about of some government officials over the BBC documentary, the said documentary did Lagos and by extension, Nigeria, one heck of a big favor! It showcased a Nigeria with Nigerians that are not fraudulent and criminals; a Nigeria which like every other given society, has its highs and lows; a Nigeria which like any other country, have its good, bad and ugly; admitted the ugly and bad among them get all the prime-time and front-page coverage in the foreign press/media? Icheoku says, literally speaking, there is nothing wrong with recycling, or is there; so why the ruckus generated by 'Welcome to Lagos?' 'Welcome to Lagos,' the documentary, showed to the world that within the Nigeria society, a society long suffering from battered image as a nation of 419, criminals and fraudulent people, are still found some characters that are very decent, honest and hardworking! 'Welcome to Lagos' is ironically speaking, a very good expose` for a Nigeria's image that has been in the toilet for so long, as it shows that many Nigerians are good people, earning honest wages from decent work; admitted they were not wearing ties, suits and starched shirts? They are exhibiting industry and the inexhaustible length the human spirit can go to get water out of a stone, making money out of other people's refuse? 'Welcome to Lagos,' the story of a dump-site somewhere in Ojota, a Lagos suburb where some enterprising Nigerians have turned a smelly stinky refuse dump-site into their own version of an oil well; and a cattle market where different young entrepreneurs emerge daily as well as the Ajegunle slum yard, where the Micheal Jacksons of Nigeria are constantly molded? It is a documentary as soul-searching, riveting and as is very instructive. For those who have not seen the documentary, Icheoku recommends you go see it; and for those who watched it but without an open mind, please go watch it again but this time, with an intellectual mind to assimilate the real subject matter of the documentary and not join the political leadership in harpooning the BBC for exposing their under-belly, creating such untold hardship in a country that is supposed to be awashed with petrol-dollars, sufficient to go round? The dump-site is not necessarily the story in this documentary but the prowess and ingenuity of a humanity eking a living from the discarded of others; and which have taken the word recycle and green environment to another level? Think of it that what are in the landfill came from some peoples households and individuals, who threw them away as garbage; but which to the trained eyes of these slum-dogs, translates to money? To them, the dump-site is an oil well, their own allocation of the Nigeria oil wealth which provides them with something to hold unto while looking into their future and their children's future? It portrays the resilience spirit in Nigerians and shows that not every Nigerian is a criminal or 419 operative or a corrupt oil bunkerer? The dignity of labor of honest wages for honest job is what this documentary is about? The message of the documentary is the dexterity of the human spirit, where from a refuse dump have arisen entrepreneurs ranging from food vendors, manicure and pedicure providers, retailers, wholesalers of salvaged articles as well as 'love-nests' where couples are moulded with many having emerged and living happily ever after? The message also include orderliness, community organizing, dispute settlements, family values, utility of extracting copper from wires by burning and quenching cables, democracy in action and the rule of their own law; wherein an elected dump-site chairman rules for three years and hands over peacefully to the next elected chairman in a free and fair election, devoid of thuggery, rigging and brigandage? A chairman whose final word is final regarding any disagreement or disputation arising among his subject and fellow dump-site dwellers and workers? Analyzing the documentary, Icheoku have categorized it into three principal tiers - love, family and industry as represented in Joseph, Slender and Eric. Icheoku have seen other similar documentaries of other neighborhoods of the world including the 'Slum-dogs of Delhi,' the 'Cemetery dwellers of Manila,' the 'Fevellas of Rio de Janeiro,' and the 'Hurricane Katrina exposed Ward 9 Parishioners of New Orleans?' So in fairness to the British Broadcasting Corporation, it did not specifically single out Lagos Nigeria for ridicule; and in any other event, showcased only what they saw existing on the site and did not in any way manufacture or make-up the story of a sordid human situation living in abject poverty and from dump-site to mouth? But as any discerning mind would, the documentary could be turned around for good and used for the good in it - its beneficial purpose:- the honest and decent Nigerians happily earning honest living! Of particular interest is the character, Eric aka Slender who is tirelessly working to earn money to pursue his musical career - take his demo to the studio and take a photograph that will adorn his upcoming album? His travails were also seen when his gang beat up Kazeem, who lost one of his eyes in the altercation and the negotiated settlement for compensation; after he was suspended from the dump-site for several months? He made a come back after his suspension and successfully had his album completed and DJs playing his song on radio, a triumph over adversity? For anyone who knows Slender, Icheoku is offering to assist him to the tune of thirty thousand Naira towards his album project, except if our offer has been overtaken by events or time. Slender is our dramatis-persona in chief as he was focused, goal-directed, always fully well that the dump-site is just but a means to an end and not necessarily an end. Then enter Joseph who met and married his wife of 'Christian marriage' from the dump-site and the couple's two beautiful children. A watcher of the documentary was taken into their expectations for their two lovely girls as well as the anticipated preparation for the second girls' forthcoming birthday which shows that humanity everywhere, despite their class or finances, expects the same good qualitative life for their family? Joseph, the dotting loving father of two who assiduously worked overtime to make enough money to host his daughter's birthday and the rest as they say, is now history and those who watched it have their opinions and those who have not watched it are advised to do so, but with an open mind and not the rash patriotism with which those condemning the documentary saw it? Icheoku defers to the chairman of the dump-site scavengers union for his wisdom of Solomon, with which he saved the freshman scavenger from the northern part of Nigeria from an imminent death, when he was caught pilfering other scavengers' trove and would have been lynched. In the infinite wisdom of the chairman, the boy was asked to go and never come back and sin no more; which judgment, Icheoku hails as well considered and meritorious! The whole rung of workers, from the foot-soldiers scavengers to the buyers to the bulk buyers who finally sell to the shippers, it is a beehive of well choreographed symmetry of activities, where individuals orderly wait for their turn. It shows that discipline is not dead in the Nigeria society but for a thuggish political class whose tragic failure to instill it within the broader society is the reason Nigeria is in comatose today. The documentary then parleys to the slaughter premises where the personality of the Fulani boy comes to light - a boy cattle-rearer who accompanied cattle to Lagos from his rural village in northern Nigeria and stayed back in Lagos - welcome to Lagos. He rose within less than ten years of his arrival to a major cattle broker and speaking five languages, four of which he learnt within the short period of time, interacting with cattle merchants and locals? This cattle broker makes 100 Naira on each head of cow he consummates its sale, and sometimes when the 'Mr Biggs' meat-contractor comes shopping can sell about 20, 000 cows in one day? For Icheoku, this Fulani cattle boy turned cattle broker is the best example there is of the 'Lagos Dream' - a progressive rising through honest decent work and enterprise among these class of decent and honest Nigerians. It is equally instructive that despite the crime wave in Nigeria that those armed robbers avoid the cattle market like a plague, fully aware the fate that will befall them should they stray into the market; and hundreds of millions of Naira exchange hands there daily. Nigerians' infatuation with European soccer was equally obvious as people debated and made bets on Arsenal and Manchester United football clubs and their chances with the European championship. We were also introduced to Eric, the cow-blood processor, who gathers cow blood and cooks them until they become solids which he in turn sells to fertilizer and animal feeds producers? It is instructive to note that prior to the agriculture (animal science) graduate arriving to the abattoir and cornering this niche of business for himself, that such cow blood were spilled into the grounds as waste and later hosed away into the drainage; which showcases the enterprising spirit of the average Nigerian Joe, if only they would have some motivating political leaders to bring the best out of their ever fertile minds. Icheoku highly recommends this documentary, "Welcome to Lagos" as a standing-up tall for Nigerians gig, and which shows that not every one of them are thieves, criminals and 419 operative. Nigerians should watch the documentary with their heads high and be proud of what it showed - the spirit of human enterprise from nothing to something! As Mike Rowe of America's hit show, 'Dirty Job' would say, it is a dirty job and someone gonna do it in order to make city-living, livable? The last time Icheoku checked, recycling is in and one of the medicine 'Doctor Environment' ordered and prescribed for mankind's ailing global warming. These dump-site dwellers/workers have answered the call to recycle and whoever says anything to the contrary is mistaken and not really attuned with what is current. Icheoku advises that the government of Lagos State and Nigeria, instead of agitating that BBC did a documentary on some honest Nigerians earning honest living, should find a way to harmonize the operations of these dump-site recyclers and help them work in a better mechanized environment? The government should help develop the facility and explore harnessing green energy therefrom, as methane gas are abundant in such places which is the root cause of the frequent fire which starts therein. The government could also invest in the recycle by building a recycling plant to process these scavenged items into reusable materials; and also convert the organics among them into fertilizer and composts? But should the government, because of cheap oil money not be interested in harnessing what is abundant in the dump-site, they can at least help these dump-site workers work in a better environment - build convey belts, storage bins, transportation and dwelling shacks with plumbing and electricity to enable the dump-site workers and dwellers operate in a more livable environment? But Icheoku strongly recommend that government explore the gold-mine that is dump-site instead of allowing Indians and Lebanese to poach these product which they buy for peanuts and ship them overseas where they make a kill? Metals, copper, aluminum, silver etc could all be melted back and reconfigured back into unending uses; and so also are paper materials that could be turned back to reusable paper products; while green energy could be harnessed from the abundant methane gas and fertilizer from the compost-ible materials? But nay, the government are busy protesting that their dirty backyard was showed to the world and that such a searchlight was unbecoming of a "colonialist" news media? Icheoku says, really? In conclusion, Icheoku recites the song of the excited father planning a birthday party for his daughter:- "I will dance like a genie; I will dance like the Indian; Patience happy birthday, my daughter!" What a very good documentary for Nigeria, 'Welcome to Lagos' is for any country that knows how to exploit a given situation? A country that is better known for its criminality of 419, fraudsters and corrupt polity, where elections are hijacked by a lawless class of brigands masquerading as political leaders had such a God given opportunity thrown at their doorstep by the BBC documentary; and they are busily distracted, casting aspersions on the BBC? A good dynamic leadership would have converted the situation into a positive to show that Nigerians are fully engaged in green initiative of recycling; and that many Nigerians are decent and honest people who make honest wages. That admitted the government is slow in joining this initiative and have not fully recognised and invested in the dump-site yet, they will get to it? That Nigeria is not the only country in the world with such bottom-feeders on the totem pole of the society, taking Ward 9 New Orleans courtesy of Hurricane Katrina into advisement. Overall, 'Welcome to Lagos' was a good documentary; at least for a change of discourse on who an average Joe-Nigerian is - not necessarily a 419 operative or a drug-courier but honest green recycling hard-worker? Moreover, the documentary specifically stated its focus was on a dump-site and not the entire city or state of Lagos or Nigeria, as was being portrayed by those alarmist politicians seeking cheap publicity? Icheoku was lost in their crying of wolf - whether their beef with BBC is that the situation does not exist or that it should not have been exposed; or simply an attempt to sanction and censure what the BBC can run or not run? But unknown to these politicians who have shut down every attempt at enacting the freedom of information act in Nigeria, the BBC as well as majority of foreign media enjoy unlimited liberty with what they take to the air; and the Lord of manor at Aso Rock's approval does not have to be first sought and received? Either case, Icheoku calls on the government and its vain-glorious politicians to just get over it and face the business of solving the myriad of problems bedevilling the Nigerians society chief among which are power, security and good roads! Get it Nigerian political leaders?