Two journalists map a smart city’s cultural, political, business landscapes
• Challenge colleagues on life beyond the newsroom
The city of Lagos continues to receive a boost on the creative front with the addition of yet another cultural landmark to celebrate its 50th year journey as Nigeria’s smartest city. A new coffee table book, Phenomenal Lagos: 50 Iconic Places in the Centre of Excellence, written by two culture journalists – Akeem Lasisi and Kabir Alabi Garba – has been added to the ever-expanding narrative of Lagos, ‘City of Aquatic Splendour.’ The hardcover, all gloss, and colourful book was presented to the media in a close ceremony last week in Lagos.
Unlike most of other books of its nature, the authors, Lasisi and Garba, have brought their own creative enterprise to make the book unique. There are the beautiful photographs, largely taken by Ayodele Adeniran with a layout that is aesthetically designed by John Nwaehike. But these are not all there is to this incredible book. Both Lasisi and Garba took steps to make the book even dearer to whoever would own a copy.
While Garba took care of the prose narrative to give readers insight into the iconic places captured, Lasisi did the accompanying poetic interpretation. Combined, the ingenious narrative styles from the duo, who are masters of the respective formats, give the book a perfect rendering and a treasure to proudly own.
According to Lasisi, the idea for the book has been simmering in their minds for a while, but it found a ripened moment when Lagos@50 celebration was announced last year and they set to work with greater vigour.
“It’s an idea we’ve been faithfully developing over a year ago and Lagos@50 made us concretise it,” Lasisi said. “Our hope and aim were to do it as part of the big Lagos event. We wanted to identify 50 biggest, iconic places in Lagos, write about them, make photos of them and do poems about them as well. Ordinarily, it was conceived as something that would outlast all the entertainment noises of Lagos@50 celebration.
“And we wanted the iconic places to spread across the five divisions in Lagos, otherwise known IBILE – Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu, Lagos Island, and Epe. We wanted a fair representation of the political, cultural, religious landscape of Lagos. We also wanted something that would appeal to the arts, culture and tourism sector, the political, and the business sector as well. We wanted iconic places that must be big enough to attract attention and also give value. We aimed for a very high quality that can be presented in places that matter.”
But more instructive was that both Lasisi and Garba took the opportunity to challenge their media colleagues to be more creative and adventurous with their writerly and presentation talents and deploy them effectively beyond the newsroom and broadcast experience. With the massive lay-offs that recently characterised the media, both print and electronics, being a reporter alone was no longer enough to give both financial and journalistic satisfaction, the two told their colleagues.
According to Lasisi, “We cannot just be reporting events alone. The reporting we do goes with the wind. Where are the reports I did for Comet newspaper? Where are the stories we did five years ago? So, some of us are developing the idea of doing books. My friend, Anote Ajeluorou, has something coming for all of us. Our friend here, Henry Akubuiro, has a novel, Prodigals in Paradise. That is the way we must all approach our job for us to stand out as true culture journalists.”
Also for Garba, there are lessons to learn from the book enterprise, which he advised journalists to commit to heart. As he put it, “The major lesson we learnt was that nothing is impossible and for us to participate in any event, we must come up with something important. We need to thinking creatively beyond the newsroom and start managing our lives properly and creatively.”
Both authors agreed that financial setback needed not be an excuse for failure or defeat, saying they also experienced financial difficulties in a most excruciating manner while producing Phenomenal Lagos: 50 Iconic Places in the Centre of Excellence. They stressed the need for journalists to be more collaborative in their ideas and efforts so as to come up with winning ideas.
Videos of the poetic performances on the various iconic places have also been made to accompany the book to make it more memorable. The book and videos are already in bookstores.