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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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Friday, March 19, 2010

TWF DIARIES: Okada

Thursday May 21st
The shoot of EKO 4 SHOW yesterday was achieved through sheer will power and determination. I was visibly unwell and everyone was on edge as we had so many logistic problems. The production manager was fired. We finished so exhausted and so late, Chris suggested I slept over at a friend’s home in Lekki so I don’t need to get up at 4am to beat the rush hour traffic into Victoria Island for today’s shoot. A smart decision as I woke up human again; Bayo, Segun and Lawunmi brought over my supplies from my home, everything from under wear to breakfast.


I was so relaxed I arrived late to Terrakulture where a very annoyed Charley Boy was waiting. Let me tell you about Charley. For my first interview with him 5 years ago at NTA, he came complete with a man mountain bodyguard. He was scary, magnetic, funny, nuanced and simply fabulous. We hit it off. Every subsequent interview and interaction has been just as impactful. He is one of my favourite people, deep, intuitive, intelligent, creative, self aware without being egotistical, seemly contradictory but his excesses even one another out. He is also sexy, his body is to die for and he must be the sexiest grandfather in Nigeria.


The one thing l didn’t mention is that Charley is a consummate professional, he is no drama king and once the camera rolls, he is on point. I admit that I would not have his patience and affability if I had been left stranded at the airport, ended up in a mosquito infested hotel room and then kept waiting on location as he unfortunately was. We fired the person responsible for it.

Once we got started, the shoot went great. It was crazy, unpredictable, funny, revealing and good.

I was dressed in a biker’s gear with charley making fun of the “toy bike” we provided him, l simply hung on for dear life as the machine roared to life and down the road.

The plan was to ride down Ajose Adeogun with a few Okadas maybe 20 and film this before we start shooting the actual interviews. The cameras were all cleverly positioned but it didn’t work that way.

Once Charley started riding down the street and people saw him, hell broke loose. It is indescribably magical what happened as okada men started to converge behind him, I saw they drop off passengers half way and give money back just to follow charley. In 30 minutes, we had over 100 okada riders surrounding us. Traffic stalled and built up with the usually impatient Lagos motorists waving at Charley.

Even the traffic warden and policemen stopped to pump hands and chat. Two moments stand out for me. A machine gun wielding lead patrol Mopol who had come to the head of the crowd to disperse and terrorize all on seeing charley simply transformed, dropping all aggression, they pumped hands and then he politely asked Charley to help disperse the crowd. Also I remember the look of utter shock and confusion on the faces of Chris, Brian, Jeff and Mike when they saw the army of okada lead by charley boy with me hanging on to him riding down the street in clear breach of the shoot plan. The shoot was saved by

Demola the Nigerian second cameraman who swiftly jumped on one of the okadas and got most of the footages that saved the shoot. As usual we seem to function best in chaos.

Charley then took charge of the situation and led the okada riders to the huge clearing at Bar Beach, by now, there were over 200 okada riders in the convoy all excitedly hooting and displaying some mad acrobatics. At Bar Beach, the area boys joined us and it all became a huge public complaint commission with everyone trying to air their grievances.

After that hectic session, we shot an interview with three okada riders one of whom had graduated secondary school with 5 distinctions but unable to continue to higher education had taken to okada riding whilst pursuing a part time degree.
Another was a reggae gospel singer who had submitted his demo to his church overseer for prayers ahead of anticipated success.

Finally we shot my interview with Charley, it was one, which spoke to the heart of Nigeria’s challenges and revealed Charley heart and soul, he also told me about Linda.

TWF’s Okada airs on Africa magic this Sunday March 21st at 6pm local time 7pm central African time.
POST NOTE
Since the shoot, I have had time to look at the footages over and over and try to understand why the people reacted to Charley Boy the way they did. It was not just the okada riders but the bus drivers and their passengers, the passengers who got bumped off by the okadas, the men and women driving to work in their cars, the pedestrians, everybody. The more I looked, the clearer it becomes that this is a revelation of Nigeria’s longstanding leadership vacuum. The people responded to Charley not as himself but as a symbol of touchable, people assigned leadership. A fact he is thankfully evolved enough to recognizes. Too often our leaders are forced on us by rigging, intimidation, manipulation or positioning. It is instructive that the okada riders complained about their once feared association being weakened by the impositions of leaders forced on them who had never rode an Okada and thus are unaware of the unique challenges they face. This comes up again and again in many communities we visited whilst filming TWF. It is replicated on all levels across the country, the real reasons for the displacement and lack of ownership of land, self or resources which is at the root of our stagnation and gradual descent into anarchy as occasioned by the Jos massacre and many other worrying developments.

2 comments:

F said...

That must have been such an experience... That is the true Nigerian spirit right there... Just looking for validation; those riders found that validation in the symbol of leadership (as you so rightly put it) that is Charly Boy. I really wish I could watch your show but alas all the good stuff comes on TV in Naija when I'm not there! It is an inspiring effort, though, and you guys should keep it up.

Femme Lounge said...

interesting! i have always admired charly boy. lol@ at him being the sexiest grandfather in Nigeria. i look forward to seeing this episode.