In the summer of 1975 when General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown as Head of the Nigerian State he drew from the words of William Shakespeare. He alluded to the transience of power and its limitations that even with the abundance of petrodollars. However, I chose today to use my recent visit to Nigeria over the Christmas period to draw on the emergence of petrodollars and its raining on and into the economy, linking it into this is the Lagos social scene and the appearance and location of power within it.
I must confess that one of the activities or pastimes I enjoy is observing fellow Nigerians and drawing useful deductions from them. I admit the possibilities that sometimes any such deductions drawn maybe flawed or simply bother on the hilarious.
I lived in Lagos on and off for 23 years and in that time Lagosians have impressed me with their resilience as a people of many diverse backgrounds and the ability to partake in ‘enjoyment’ of unparalleled levels. They love a party and when this is combined with the Christmas season they are presented with a perfect excuse for an explosion of parties with such regular regularity, to become the routine. Senator Wahab Dosumu adds that:
“Lagos had always been a melting pot in which all Lagos had always been a melting pot in which all Nigeria’s ethnic groups melted harmoniously due to the unparalleled hospitality and open-mindedness of the mainly Yoruba ethnic indigenes of Lagos.”
I illustrate this with reference to an estate in the Lagos area where I was privileged to attend a few of such events ostensibly to celebrate the Christmas season. I was particularly struck by one party, where the occasion was graced with an array of the high, mighty, movers and shakers in some sectors of the land, the Lagos economy. Entertainment was by a band called ‘Treasures’. It initially began with a fine rendition of classic gospel melodies before gradually descending into music of the Juju and highlife varieties. As the night progressed into morning the music played was manipulated to induce the celebrants to part with their hard earned nairas.
At one point I was bemused by a song, a parody of ‘Holy Ghost Fire, Send Down Fire’ which he decided to ‘creatively’ alter to ‘Send down dollars’. The more the song was rendered, the more the singer moved towards his benefactors, to the extent of sitting beside them, the dispensers and owners of wealth showering them with copious amounts of praise persuading them to deliver on to his shoulders nairas of various denominations. The singer’s call for ‘send down dollars’, did not, however, produce any rain of dollars, merely nairas emerging from deep pockets and placed on his shoulders.
Another feature of the Christmas party was the copious consumption of beverages, of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties with bottled water for show. A number of bottles of red wine, of a height of about two feet and three litres called ‘Monterpulciano D’Abruzzo Doc’ were served liberally to all and sundry who desired to partake in such activities.
If one was searching for evidence of a global credit crunch in the land at the Lagos party there was no evidence of it. Excess appeared to be the order of the day, it is also interesting to note that many of those partakers claimed to be Christians of the ‘born again/Pentecostal’ type.
However, as I was forming my conclusions for this article, in another of the parties what I stumbled across brought forth a revelation. The revelation was that there is more to Lagos than the indulgence in wine, beer and spirits and the sending down of nairas. I was with men who under the guise of a party were engaged with serious and analytical discussions of the matters of mutual concern. They were interested in progress and speaking truth to power. I saw in these men, patriots, who usually give up 12 hours a day to better themselves and their families.
Another instance of their being more to Lagos other than show is a man named Raji Babatunde Fashola SAN, the governor Lagos State. Credited with wonders and action is his password. Where other governors concentrate on their skin tone and appearance he devotes his time to the appearance of Lagos and its infrastructure. Multiple road constructions are the order of the day, transport systems are being revitalised and the face of Lagos is changing by the day. The motto ‘Eko Oni Baje’ is no pipe dream but becoming a living reality.
In the Business Day online of 1st of January 2009, the same Fashola when further to give assurance, stating that:
“Infrastructure development is the foundation to achieving our aspiration. This is the way we see it and this is fundamental on whose behalf we hold authority,” he said, while informing the investors of the opportunities available in electricity generation, road construction, which could be tolled, bus and taxi franchising, car and bus assembly plants.
He described the Lagos State economy as one that is dying to be served, asserting that he leads a new generation of young Nigerians who believe Lagos can be the model mega city for Africans.”
Yet this is in a state know more for its ability to revel, if great things can come out of Lagos, how much more could emerge from other parts of the federation with the right person in the pilot seat.
Faced with the realities of many of our leaders devising new and novel ways to loot the treasuries in sight, many around at home and Diaspora may have given up hope in the project called Nigeria and labelled it a basket case, heading no where. However, Lagos is and can prove them wrong, it can speak truth to power and could be the engine that propels our nation forward into the 21st century.