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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

IN THE CITY OF GOD

I arrived Lagos last night struck once again by the total chaos, dirt and darkness but enthralled by the sheer energy and spurred on by the anticipation of a return to the people who love me the most. I have a love hate relationship with Lagos as do most true Lagosians. I love her energy, her warmth, her diversity, her resilience and her pseudo cosmopolitanisms. I however detest her dirt, chaos, pollution, crime and sometime bloody-minded sheer callousness. Most of all I am often stupefied by her mind bending indifference to the level of human degradation in shameless display all around her.

Picture this. Two Thursdays ago l am doing my morning dash from school run to studio praying that the black market fuel in my car doesn’t cause any havoc. Ikorodu road is a madhouse as fuel queues stretch in all directions and vehicular movement slows to deep shoehorn curve crawl. Young boys peddling fuel in dirty beige jerry cans weave a heaving tapestry around the cars and commuters wait for non-existent busses to ferry them to work.

I am reading my show run down and research papers at the back of my air-conditioned car, barely allowing the throbbing humanity around me penetrate my consciousness. The first show is on the Boxing Day vandalized pipeline explosion that killed over one hundred people including children. As we crawled into Fadeyi area l noticed smoke rising from the distance, as we crawled further l realized that it was a smouldering corpse, most likely a pickpocket who had been dealt the usual Lagos fast jungle justice. I did not flinch but look almost clinically at the human waste, ash falling into off his back, l noticed his erect phallus. About a hundred meters down the road, there was another young man, apparently burnt earlier for his fire was completely dead as he wore his macabre vehicle tire necklace. As l looked l noticed children walking casually by on their way to school, edging around the corpses. So did the hawkers on the highway, the black market fuel peddlers, the stranded commuters, the people in the cars and busses. Slowly, l hear my mind finally screeching in horror at the utter madness of it all.

How in the name of all that is decent and human can we all just carry on our normal routine in the face of such complete insanity?
I wanted to get down and start shaking everyone out of a collective coma but l am aware that it is that very comatose acceptance or denial that keeps us going. My driver mutters the usual refrain, “na God go save us for this country o”. This is the city where l witnessed my first extra judicial street burning from capture to last writhe at age seven. I have witnessed many since, in fact, last year an 11 year old boy was accused of kidnapping a child, beaten and dragged bleeding over a 2 km distance to be incinerated in full daylight. It was recorded by an eyewitness and broadcast on local TV.

At the studio, l send a cameraman to take pictures of the corpses (changed my mind about posting it them) and the show starts. The government official denies the death toll from the pipeline explosion; he calls the oil scavengers greedy and labels me emotional for asking for deeper non-symptomatic evaluation of the entire issue. He is cagey and defensive, the expert is non committal, the journalist is frustratedly trying to report what he witnessed and l am walking a fine line trying to get a semblance of the truth out fully aware of the shadow of the censors at my back. If l asked the sort of questions l want to, the show will be axed.

Seven hours later l drive by Fadeyi on my way home, the corpses are still there, the smouldering has stopped, but humanity continued to heave distractedly around them, accustomed as she is to seeing very little good in a city with so much God.

15 comments:

Naija Vixen said...

Another thot provoking post Funmi...i have found that switching off from certain situations is what makes us(Nigerians)go on...in times of utterly depressing actions or deeds our survival instinct kicks in and we find a way to make ourselves happy...guud work Funmi!

bleue said...

my sentiments exactly. i was in nigeria for about a month this past december and i know exactly what you mean. i love nigeria about as much as i hate her...it seems the two states need to somehow co-exist for me to bear the sheer lunacy and for me to keep returning to this strange cesspool of negligence and resilience. in nothing else, nigerians are elastic and we expand to accommodate new lows...

Daddy's Girl said...

It truly is sad to think of the things we have become desensitized to.

bibi said...

damn!! i havent witnessed any before...that would be terrible to see.. nice blog by the way

Violet said...

Funmi, doesn't these things make you feel a little helpless because you can't do anything to stop them from recuring? I am getting frustrated because I know that tomorrow, I may come across another burning corpse, and walk past it like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. See what Lagos(and Nigeria) is turning us into? I fear that soon, this jungle lifestyle will become a way of life for us and worse, for our innocent children. I feel inadequate cos I haven't the faintest idea of how to put a stop to such things happening around us.Abeg, Nigeria pass me!

Toks- Boy said...

Funmi. To retain sanity in lagos\nigeria one has to shut out reality. There is only so much input the senses can take before short circuiting. I used to go and watch the executions at Bar Beach after school at ADRAO when I was growing up. It was only later in life I realised that not all school children had the plerasure of this "after school club".

Check out my postings on my stay in lagos and abuja this past week.There is insanity all around.

Bluntremi said...

Great views on Nigeria...
Its very sad and disheartening to hear that htings arent getting better, but are getting worse...

I intend to visit Nigeria soon, and I wonder how I will explain something like that to my 4 year old who will be visiting for the first time. I dont know how you do it!

Thanks for sharing, it just makes me value where I am even more and wonder what its going to take to effect positive changes in Nigeria.

Wundagirl said...

Oh my goodness, I saw the corpse on Ikorodu during my last trip to Naija. If I remember correctly it was on Thursday, Jan 11th. It was a sick scene and you are right everyone just continued their daily business. I can't believe things like that still go on with people taking justice into their own hands.
We need serious help in Nigeria.

E-gobetta said...

HELP !Most areas around Lagos are now classified as 'black spots' following the recents attacks on people going about there normal duties . In the last one week , loads of people have been attacked on slow moving traffic especially around APONGBON area . Infact a young promising lady who is a project manager in ericssion was attacked and she died 2hrs after in the hostital yet during the just concluded PDP rally 20000 police offiers were deployed to Lagos alone . What exactly is happening in the CITY OF GOD

Remi said...

I feel your pain, sis. Actually it is our collective pain or ought to be - particularly as you put it, in this city of God. My take is this: the Nigerian condition is spiritual, difficult to believe as that is for intellectuals like you! And you can only solve it spiritually. We have to pray that the right people find their way into leadership at all levels; we have to pray that when they get there they do not become as emotionally dead as those they will replace. No kidding. i know a couple of theories to proffer that will excite you and members of the blogging community, but I tell you something i 've seen great ideas flounder again and again in many cities, of God or not!

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ all, since l have no answers myself, l revert to the perrenial Nigerian palliative. E go beta.

Uche said...

I just read this post and my mind immediately went to one of my aunts, whom i'm always trying to convince that Nigeria is so much better than here in the states. If she read this, i know what her response will be. But all in all, it's still my country, and i still love, but at the same time my heart bleeds for all persons who are victims of this 'jungle justice', did they really deserve it? Is their crime worse than those of our leaders? Did God not say if ye who is whithout sin should cast the first stone? Its sad how Naija with its millionth mushroom churches and those claiming to be the way to Jehova, how can they all sit silently and while this type of justice is being rendered on human beings!

I can ask too many of my collective questions from now till kingdom come, but the answer is never there.

Na only God go save the struggling-class people of nigeria (Does working class exist there anymore??)

I'm very touched by this, cos reading your account i feel like i was driving with you. ***Sigh**

OmoIbadan said...

I wonder if I will ever go back to Nigeria...attimes

Rabi said...

I remember the first and only time I saw jungle justice in action.. I was holidaying with my grandmum and they set a man accused of stealing 5000 naira and a VCR ablaze. As i watched and cried, the militants sang the national anthem and threatened to set me ablaze as well as I might be an accomplice.
I know that there's a future for Nigeria and I'm currently talking in professional circles in West U.S to sensitize African youths to the role they have to play in building Africa. The west will never come to our help, It's our duty.
Good job Funmi.

Dupe Olorunjo said...

I enjoyed reading this beautifully crafted piece. But the issues you raised are so painfully true. Nigerians adapt so badly to the worst conditions and it is in almost every aspect of our national life. However, I believe that if the few who believe shout loud enough to their neighbours in as many concentric circles as they can reach there can be a change. One of the problems we have is that many who see stop at complaining and never stop to think of what they can do to make a change