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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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Monday, October 15, 2007

Equal Fingers

What a long weekend. Decided to rest, a concept alien to me as a true Lagosian, never mind all those jaye jaye omo onile (children of the land) all of us na settlers for Lagos bo. I took my daughter, her best friend Yanrinbo and my best male friend, husband to my best female friend and we visited my best man, a certain 68 year old resident of a community near Badagry called Mr. Iyanda.

It had rained a little so we swam to his house and back, the bleakness of the entire place reminded me of the story in the papers of the young man who had slit his father's throat in this neighbourhood a few weeks earlier. Heck I wanted to slit the wrist of whoever is responsible for such degradation until I remembered the pearl of wisdom from of a taxi driver friend of mine. He said, they say fingers are not equal but in Nigeria all fingers are equal o because whether you be rich man or poor man, whether you live for Amukoko or VI, na all of us dey swim enter house, na all of us no get light, na all of us no get water. I am therefore thinking about all the wrists that needs slitting as I read the stories of James Ibori's trial am, no trial am brouhaha. I am liking the stance of Yar’Adua on this and sundry issues more and more.

Back to Badagry, after the love, food and gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Iyanda and the eye candy, we left. Now Yanrinbo is a special child, a fact-seeking missile, lets just say she knows a lot of stuff and if I were ever unsure of any detail, I'd ask Yanrinbo before most adults. Yes she's only seven.

My mind is on the mindless traffic we must endure to get back (yes even on Sundays and holidays) as we leave but Yanrinbo pips up, Baba (to her dad, the best friend) sebi it is in Badagry they have the slave museum and the oldest story building. Can we go there? I groaned but it does seem unfair to deny a child whose idea of a treat is not candy but museums.

So we headed through an unchanged Badagry town. Same roads, same potholes, only slightly deeper in the past 15 years I have been visiting on and off. There are no signposts so we keep asking for directions until we arrive at the stretch of road that houses the "museums", slave port and first story building. As we slowed to a crawl near the gaudy "garden" built around the slave port, we were accosted by a young man who flags us in then demanded that we pay a 200 naira per head fee to park (we could have done so by the road and walked in). He then insisted on taking us round the 150m long stretch mouthing inane information. As we walked Mr. best male friend took pictures and then it happened. Mr. tour guide snapped, ”why are you taking pictures" we looked at each other and slowly mouthed "because it is a tourist site".

My mind is on the news report of some foreigners who are currently on trial for taken pictures in "security areas" "Abeg I no like as you dey take pictures o and why you dey snap the place wey the plank don chop?" This was on the pier that leads into the water, which marks the spot of slave departure, the wooden pier is decayed and looks like it might collapse. The whole place is so dismal that we decided to leave, then Yanrinbo squeals but we have not seen the museum! So we drove round the corner to where the "museum" was padlocked and shut, on Sunday! Soon another "guide" appeared and we cough out another set of fees per head, l refused to go in, as the place resembled a poorly appointed public toilet. The kids came out crestfallen, declaring that it was not nice and there was nothing to see.

As we drove away from the slave port, we noticed that there was a prison on the lot right beside the post office, which had a poster announcing double visa lotteries to America and Canada.

BTW, will tell the last swimmer story by end of week and give update on margerate and the missing juvenile centre. Have a great week.


CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

we all swim indoors? you can say that again.We live in Mende in an estate where the land is traditionally marsh....

childofpromise said...

I was at Badagry over the summer and it wasn't that bad, the musuem artifacts where not maintained but the place was clean and the artifacts were clean too but old. It seemed the staff was doing the best with that they had. We had a guide, who told us about each of the things we saw and the history of slave trade. It was a wonderful experience. No one told us to even pay for any parking, the only thing we paid for was the canoe ride to the point of no return - the beach there was beautiful. We paid the guide, because he spent the whole day with us there, taking us to all the tourist sites and he worked with the museum. Strange that you had that experience and you described the museum as an unkept toilet. I guess it was locked because who visits museum in Nigeria. We took tons of pictures. We also visited the slave market and the first story building, which had the first well and we visted the place Christianity was first preaced, it was great to see so much history, I just wished the history was maintained better, there is so much in badagry that could be used for tourism, the way the Ghanians use their slave ports. If you want pictures, I could actually e mail them to you if i got your e mail address. Sorry you and especially your daughter had a bad experience.

logosian said...

Being challenged for innocently taking pictures seems to occur frequently in Gidi. While Obasanjo was still president I visited Abeokuta with a party of family and friends and as we drove past OBJ's house, a friend happened to still have her camcorder in her hand. It was NOT rolling and anyway there was no notice to inform us of any security issues. Our bus was stopped and she was accused of spying. We handed over the camera to these armed and aggressive men to see for themselves but of course they couldn't work it! Scary, imagine if we were foreign tourists or couldn't defend ourselves.
Another time I was accosted by area boys as I tried to take photos of a statue in Central Lagos - pay up or else no photos!

Sherri said...

equal fingers..
that's profound

Funmi Iyanda said...

@childofpromise, l have recorded our own experience exactly as it happened. A tourist site must be carefully and meticulously preserved and give consistent experience based on a detailed and organized itinerary. It must also be kept open except on dates expressly stated as closed to public. As people who also have more than a surface knowledge of the history of badagry, slavery, and art, the place is a disgrace and the monstruos "art" on the walls is such a disservice to our culture and talent. To access badagry itself isa nightmare because of that horrid lagos badagry express road. l am telling it as it is because l am friends with the current Lagos administration as l was with the last and they know l will say my mind. l know they have a badagry development plan. It is our duty to point out these things so they see the full scope and cover all grouds. Enough of patch patch, idea lo matter schemes. we are better than that.
BTW, putting a prison at a slave port is such a bad idea.

Pumping! said...

I and my siblings went there also like 2-3 years ago and it was not that bad- saw the museum and even went on a boat ride to "the land of no return" to a beach where the ocean is fresh and crabs still crawl to the shore.
Our guide was also good as he told all we needed to know about slave trade and all.
Enjoyed the experience but i agree that something has to be done about the road leading to Badagry and Badagry itself.