Arts  

Lagos at 50… Eko and artistes are twins an a pod

Ebenezer Obey

Lagos and artistes are interwoven. From Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Agu Norris, Rex Lawson, Tunde Nightingale, I.K Dairo, Herbert Ogunde, Victor Uwaifo, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, Baba Sala – they all made it in our Lagos. Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, is a pure Warri boy and we nor dey come last! He is an artiste’s man and from his relationship with artistes of all shades, he has done great.

However, my only fear is that some civil servants and some commissioners working with him may scuttle his big plans and even make him seem tribalistic. But my answer is that Warri boy will always lead. One of his seniors, Prof. G.G. Darah, is very proud of him; he only hopes he won’t be misled. All the new generation artistes still rush to Lagos from all parts of the world, even from the states to savour the friendly atmosphere, hospitality and tolerance Lagos offers everyone. The unfortunate position, however, is that some people are so self-centred, short-sighted, they misadvise anyone with genuine intentions. I can guarantee that with Ambode’s programmes on cinemas, clubs, exhibitions, concerts, beaches, camping, Lagos is only regaining its pride of place, as a city to visit or stay. So artistes need to celebrate Lagos@50 and beyond.

With the dynamic leadership of Ambode, Lagos has scored 60 per cent with the artiste community but not so President Muhammadu Buhari’s Federal Government, which has scored zero per cent so far. This means that the new Directors-General in Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), National Film and Videos Censors Board (NFVCB) have their jobs cut out for them: they must salvage the mess. Minister Lai Mohammed doesn’t seem to be making any headway in culture sector management.

Lagos has always been a cosmopolitan place, starting from its origin as a post for Benin Empire warriors on military expeditions of conquests. That is the concept of Eko.

However, in this full year of celebration, there is still no special place reserved for history. I am sure that real Lagosians still remember the Lovers Garden, now MUSON Centre; Ikoyi Park, now sand filled as Park Lane, and the bridge crossing some part of the Lagoon. These are histories that beg preserving. The Commissioner for Arts and Culture should know these things and intervene during a celebration like this, with historical centres like a museum and Halls of Fame like the one I have established that preserve the past for the present and future. Where is the house Herbert Macaulay use to live in near Tinubu Square? When last did Lagos remember to celebrate Fanti and Abe, which the Brazilians brought to Lagos? People call Lagos ‘no man’s land;’ this is true because it was a trading post for the Portuguese, who were called Potocrick in those days. The Sierra Leoneans are the Criyos or Saros; Epe was known for fishing ever before the celebrated Argungu Fish Festival began.

I created the Film and Music Hall of Fame for history, education, and entertainment. Many of our new generation artistes don’t have anywhere to study, learn or be informed about the past. It is something that Lagos State should embrace and host. But will those around Ambode allow him? I gather he has been told that government should not deal with private people. Instead, they are angling for contracts to build the proposed theatres and museums in parts of Lagos. I ask them, what will they hang in these museums and theatres? Maybe their famous invention – Area Boys o! After May 27, when Lagos@50 is finished and forgotten, a good historical Hall of Fame and other Archivals will stay – that is what forward-looking people think about.

After all the celebration, I want Governor Ambode to remember this advice: that India earns 45 per cent income from films; so, they seriously protect the movie Industry. France earns 60 per cent of her foreign cash from lawn tennis (Roland Garros), Tour de France, Monaco grand Prix, Paris Jazz Festival, the popular Cannes Film Festival. I understand that Lagos State went on another Jamboree to Cannes festival this year. It’s a waste of solid cash they could use here. They ought to invite people with reputation for joint production and investment. With 180 million people in Nigeria, 20 million in Lagos alone, who needs oyibo market?



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