Friday 16 April 2010

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos - An inspiration

Originally published on Nigerians Talk.ORG please post your comments and views there. Thanks.
Expected little
Having seen the seeming hatchet job on Nigerians in District 9 [1] and only seen the first part of Blood and Oil [2], I was like many others of Nigerian heritage ready to be cynical about the another telescope on Nigeria centred on Lagos.
Indeed, there have been rather unfair and negative portraits of Nigeria by the realities, the poor news research and the acts of Nigerians especially their leaders that any new perspective might well draw broad skepticism before viewing what was to be said.
Expectations of Welcome to Lagos [3] – a 3-part documentary of which the first was shown yesterday was presaged with low expectations and considerable criticism with defensiveness long before it had been aired – the need for balance on matters concerning Nigeria where getting positive perspectives might be fleeting at best is a fervent desire.
Whilst balance is necessary, sometimes the truth is better, the reality is sure and an understanding of the perspective is pertinent – we were told, Welcome to Lagos will defy our expectations [4] from every objective perspective, it did.
I recorded it on my digital video recorder and I would be watching it again and again, it has been set to record the next two episodes automatically.
Beyond the rump of a dump
The producers of this documentary went to observe life in the Olusosun rubbish dump where about a 1000 people live, work and thrive with an amazing spirit of humanity.
People can so easily be blind-sided by the setting and miss the more serious message of people who are resourceful, able, diligent, orderly, respectful, responsible and successful – all that not necessarily the way we would view those attributes.
You had to look above the ground to see beyond the default to another shameful view of Nigeria and Nigerians – this was no window-dressing as we would all want people to see of us, but this life that had much to teach everyone.
The human stories
A number of themes came through strongly in this documentary, people were very hardworking, working all hours with particular aims to provide for their families or in another case to launch a career in music – they gave everything to that vision of responsibility.
At another end of town, a cattle market showed the cattle broker who years ago was a nomadic herdsman from the North and now was the chief broker, speaking 6 languages and making really amazing business deals that could better so-called efficient markets.
There you found an agricultural science graduate who found an opportunity for processing the blood of cattle slaughtered in the abbatoirs for feeding poultry.
Enterprising and improvising
Back at the dump, the waste thrown out by the seemingly well-off found extended usages, better uses or some recycle value that most of the residents thrived on; scavengers at the bottom of the market chain sold to bulk gatherers who sold wholesale to industries – economic laws just worked.
The human interest quality was just exuberant, the bulk gatherer had a very good command of English with an enlightened vocabulary, the scavenger hoping for a music career after working for studio fees had a manicure and when he turned up for his recording session, there is no way you would have believed he lived in a dump.
The sense of community and order was strong, when a fire engulfed the dump, they all gathered with the fire service to quench the flames; when a thief was caught amongst them, I expected the rough justice of a lynching but the culprit was given a stern telling off and banished from the dump.
A community of love and care
The community bond was even deeper as they had a hierarchy built on the democratically elected chairman who was the authority, judge, arbiter and father-figure to the community, when the aspiring artist got into serious police trouble after being charged with grievous bodily harm occasioning the loss of sight in one eye of the victim they closed rank in support.
Having negotiated an out of court settlement with the family of the victim the whole community chipped in to defray of the hospital treatment costs totally and gave the aspiring artist a second chance to redeem himself – our political leaders need to visit this university of commendable leadership.
See the people not the dump
Again the setting of this documentary was a dump but the people were not in the dumps, they were aspiring, amazing people who were optimistic, honest and friendly, they had a sense of purpose that was not encumbered with senseless fanaticism and religious stupidity – they were the salt of the earth.
After watching this, you could only first count your blessings, then proclaim that Nigerians just have the innate ability to make the best of any situation without grumbling, bitterness or rancour.
I saw Nigerians that made me proud and none of them despite where they lived and worked could ever be seen as anything short of a rebranding of Nigeria with values, aims and a driven passion for the pursuit of happiness.
I cannot wait to see the second part of Welcome to Lagos – not the superficial and the mimicry but of real people of substance with their heads lifted up and their feet on the ground. They might have been poor but they had no poverty of spirit, ideas, goals or desires for a better future.
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My reviews of all the parts of BBC’s Welcome to Lagos documentary
Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos III - Welthauptstadt Nigeria

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos II - Beyond Civic Pride

Nigeria: Welcome to Lagos - An inspiration

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