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FRANK OFILI

THE LAGOS EXAMPLE

By Frank Ofili

How could one ever be bored, given the existence of the social media beer parlour called Facebook? All sort of characters has found their way to Facebook. Some are there for serious business, some for fun, some to socialize and make friends (or find a spouse), some to fish (e.g., fraudsters, harlots, hookers and whores), some to contribute to community, national, regional or global discourse; while others are there to market their services, including but not limited to native doctors and assassins.

 There are other reasons people join Facebook. For me, I joined Facebook principally to learn, to contribute and to share information and ideas. The original behind the invention of Facebook was to find and possibly reconnect with friends with whom you have lost contact. But nowadays anyone who can afford a smartphone quickly finds his/her way to Facebook, some with all sort of fancy names different from the one their parents gave them at birth. No wonder some people believe, erroneously, though, that Facebook is nothing but “fake-book” and everything in it is fake.

 

But it is not the Facebookers themselves that are interesting. It is their posts and comments. And they range from the sublime, serious and lucid to the most disingenuous, inarticulate and ridiculous.  Any time I am in a not-so-pleasant mood, I pick a book or turn to Facebook, not to make post or comment but to read what others have written. And then suddenly I would find myself upbeat again. I have learned quite a few things in facebook too. And those things are not fake. Some people’s Facebook page is like a book. There is always something to learn from there.

 

But Facebook now has a rival in the mega city called Lagos. By Lagos, I do not mean the fancy metropolis of Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, VGC, Ikeja and the like. These areas are not the quintessential Lagos. Anyone born and bred up in these areas of Lagos would never be street-wise. The real Lagos is the likes of Ajamgbadi, Ajegunle, Shomolu, Mushin, Oshodi, Bariga, Ketu, Ojota, Iyana Ipaja, Idumota, Ojuelegba, Lawanson, Aguda, Ijesha, Orile, etc. These are some of the areas where you get to feel the real Lagos.

 

A leisurely stroll on the streets of Lagos will convince you what I am talking about. Everywhere you look news, everything interesting – from area boys to young hippies showing off their swag with their trousers well below their buttocks. Kid Street traders, LASTMA officials, street corner “aboki” shoe shiners, Baba Ijebu bookmakers, Agbo and Alomo vendors, danfo drivers, keke and okada riders with their foolhardy dexterity on the road, echetaram echetaram also play a big role in the quintessential Lagos. Even beautiful young ladies take delight in showing off areas of their body that God Himself destined to be hidden from public view. It never ceases to amaze me that nowadays men who have nothing to hide are better clothed than women who have everything to hide. The creativity, ingenuity and, I dare say, obscenity with which some women market themselves these days is worrisome. Everything is over the board.

 

Activities as simple as brushing your teeth, or chewing a stick in the morning is something else to some people in Lagos. If you happen to be passing by in the morning and a typical Lagosian is brushing his teeth or doing it the African way with a chewing stick long enough to whip a horse, you would think his life depends on it. You would wonder why on earth anyone would have the toothache, with so much energy put into it. Everything Lagos is different, not necessarily better, but just different. Even politicians and men of God are not left out. One man of God claims his name is Reverend Sign Fireman and that his God is the God of Dollars.

 

But in spite of all these, and challenges of daily survival in Lagos, Lagos is fun. Everything appears to be tailor-made to provide some comic relief. Even the constant power outage in Lagos has been turned into some sort of fun as nobody cares anymore. When it comes to a power outage, or traffic jam in Lagos, social status matters not. Both the high and the low suffer it. Even the siren-blaring government big man now struggles for space in Lagos traffic as no one bothers anymore to clear for him. You can commence and conclude business or be shopping in Lagos traffic. And if by chance someone invites you to a pepper soup joint within the precincts of army barracks, you would be inundated with accounts of exploits in a war the story tellers never fought.

 

Lagos is a city for all where everything and anything are possible. The rate of social mobility is so high that you wonder if truly New York, not Lagos, is indeed “The Big Apple.” You may be sleeping under a flyover today and find yourself in a mansion in VGC tomorrow. A friend who was a mere accounts officer in The Guardian in the year 2000 is today contesting for the Senate under APC, having gone through Lagos State House of Assembly twice and the House of Reps once. No matter your social status and the level you are in, there is always a way for you to keep body and soul together at your level, provided somehow you manage to solve the critical issue of where to lay your head at night. Lagos is a city at war without a war.

 

Right now there is a war silently going on in Lagos – the war of campaign posters. Lagos Signage and Advertising Agency, LASAA, which hitherto had been strict in the regulation of unauthorized printed advertisements has suddenly lost its teeth. It can no longer bite in that area. Kilo happen?

Okada too are also now back on the main roads from which they had been previously banned.  In fact, I saw not less than ten on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way today. Yesterday, I saw over 20 on Ikorodu Road. Both routes were part of the routes from which okada was banned. So what has happened that okada now freely plies those routes? They are even now flying APC banners and campaign posters. Is it because it is election time or has Lagos State Government suddenly found out okada has its own nuisance value after all?

 

The war of posters currently going on in Lagos, as with every other thing in Lagos, has introduced an interesting angle too. On my way to Ikeja today through Agege Motor road, I came across two separate groups mounting governorship campaign posters of Jimi Agbaje of PDP and Akinwumi Ambode of APC. Curiously, instead of being in competition, these two groups of young men and women appeared to be actually in the alliance.

 

First is that they move together on both sides of the dividing culvert. Second is that everywhere the Akinwunmi Ambode group place their poster, the Jimi Agbaje group will also place theirs – exactly at the same spot – and vice versa. They place it such that the posters are beside each other. And they make a huge fun of it too, enjoying themselves with jokes, banters and chants.

 

The posters themselves are impressive in their own way. Take the Ambode poster for instance. It carries the message “Another Fresh Star”. Jimi Agbaje’s poster counters with the words “JK We Know, JK We Trust”. Now, what is being insinuated here? Meanwhile, the politicians themselves are unrelenting in their hustling, practically begging people to vote them. Of course, we all know what would happen after the election.

 

Aside unfortunate shooting of a supporter of a political aspirant, the governorship campaign in Lagos state has generally been peaceful, devoid of calumny. There has been no incident of political assassination as was the case in previous elections. Honestly, this year’s governorship campaign in Lagos should be a model for all. It is issues-based, civil and with respect for each opponent. In one of his campaign speeches, Ambode referred to Jimi Agbaje, his PDP rival, as “Uncle Jimi.” There are no name calling, abuses or insults that have unfortunately come to characterize PDP’s presidential campaigns. The two major contenders – Jimi Agbaje and Akinwunmi Ambode – appear to command a good doze of self-discipline and a respectable respect for each other. So far, only Governor Fashola’s comment on Agbaje appears to be off the mark, and somewhat comical too.  Hear him:

 

“….. in 2007 when I took over governance at age 44, I could count the number of gray hair on my head, but today at age 52 I am counting the number black hair on my head……..Akinwunmi Ambode is the man that can do it. If you put an old man there, he cannot do it. If you call him in the night, he may not pick your calls.”

 

Fashola was referring to Jimi Agbaje who at 58 he considers too old to be governor of Lagos State.  Haba Fashola!  How on earth could that age be considered too old? How old was Tinubu when he became governor of Lagos State? How does one reconcile this statement with the same Fashola’s support for 72-year-old Buhari for President of Nigeria?  Politics! By the way, I support General Buhari, not because he is APC but because, for me, he has better leadership qualities than his opposite number in other parties.

 

In his characteristic manner, Agbaje did not utter a response to Fashola’s hypocritical statement. He simply ignored it. His campaign promise to provide free internet service to Lagosians is, however, curious. Somebody should please tell him that what the ordinary Lagosian needs most is not internet service but affordable rent and an opportunity to be able to still enjoy his daily ration of Agege bread with ”ewa” and “agoyin” stew. Make life easier for Lagosians and they will provide the Internet for themselves. Also, Agbaje’s promise to unban Okada on Lagos roads may just cost him the election for the simple reason that since Fashola placed a limited ban on Okada, armed robbery has reduced drastically in Lagos. If Jimi Agbaje wins the governorship election, I hope he will retain the “Eko ni baje” legacy of Raji Fashola. In spite of criticisms, Fashola has done fairly well.

 

The campaigns in Lagos State have been intense but peaceful. The emergence of a good number of politicaI aspirants from the across the Niger contesting for political office in Lagos State is also an interesting development.  This is commendable. Perhaps Fashola has atoned for his sins in deporting some Igbo indigenes last year.

 

All in all, I commend other states to emulate the Lagos example.