FFK will fail like others before him: A rejoinder to Femi Fani-Kayode’s ‘Lagos, the Igbos and the servants of truth’

by Sam Eleanya


One thing is certain. FFK will fail. In this venture. To divide another generation of Nigerians the same way his generation was divided – and so has become a liability to their nation. Just like others before him with even greater convictions and motivations – did. Fail.

(Before I sleep) I read Femi Fani-Kayode’s slew of articles in the past one week and Love and well, embarrassment – on his behalf, propels, compels and impales me to respond.

Because, it is important.

You see, I am now a father of many including a beautiful one year old girl whose grandfather recently retired at the highest level attainable under Lagos State government – level 17 – after raising so many young persons as a classroom teacher. A remarkable feat considering he had before then served as a captain in the defunct Biafran army. It would be nice if my daughter ever comes across that Fani-Kayode’s article, in my lifetime or thereafter, – that she should find something else from her dad – to salt back reality into her worldview as to the intrinsic worth of the quiet contribution of her grandfather to Africa’s most populous city: Lagos.

Yes, I do have an eye on posterity. It matters. That Fani-kayode does not steal that from my daughter. Small ambition – but still very important. I owe it to her. My father did the same for me – for as long as his life lasted.

First, the insignificant issues raised by that article (since the insignificant here are usually the things that sets us against each other
once they are repackaged in ethnic or religious get-ups).

The claim that people with ties to the Igbo socio-cultural heritage helped to develop Lagos” is not “hogwash”. To say or even think otherwise is what is: that is, hogwash. Lagos, warts and all, is one of the greatest cities of Africa. And like all great cities, its arms have always been open to creative energies from any place in and outside of Nigeria.

Many dead and living persons of Igbo descent have provided that energy. Some of them are notable. No, don’t ask me about names. I won’t give you. The reason is good for your health. For, it is the contribution of the anonymous city-builders that truly really matter – in quantity and quality. Their feats, good or bad, shorn of the shadows of their names, allow beholders the privilege of reveling in the most earthy rhetorical question on earth: who could have done this?

Great cities – like the Great Pyramids of Egypt and other so-called physical wonders of the world – have always been built on the back and brain of anonymous people. The only wahala is that they do not get or care to tell their story which is then hijacked, garnished and called history by story tellers. And as Chinua Achebe pointed out so poignantly in Ant-Hill of the Savannah, the story-teller is the King. And kings like to play the hero.

Yes. Anonymous persons, dead and alive, with direct or convoluted ties to the Igbo cultural heritage helped, significantly, in the development of Lagos. As have Itsekiris, Hausas, Fulanis, Ijaws, Efiks, Idomas Tivs…so-called inter-ethnic half-castes…Chinese, Lebanese, Koreans, Americans, British nationals and of course so-called international half-castes. The list of sovereign or ethnic nations and other groups that have invested in and continue to invest in the development of Lagos is beyond the capacity of Fani-Kayode – or Albert Einstein – to understand. And it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an honour due to God which He would not share with anybody.

This much is self-evident, at least, until Guinness Book of Records comes in with a contrary verdict: the development tapestry and trajectory of the ever evolving city of Lagos is not the 8th wonder of the world started and finished, exclusively, by the first ethnic group to be connected to its swathe of lagoons, creeks, islands and marshes. Lagos is not even built yet. Lagos is, as Governors in Nigeria like to say during the first two years of their term in office when they have messed up their state capital with various unseemly construction projects that may never ever be finished so as to recoup election expenses, Lagos is a perennial construction site. Which also explains why there are many characters on “site” who may not be to the liking or approval of the principal or lead engineers.

To think otherwise dignifies nobody: the thinker, the very set of people the thinker set out to benefit or the very people he set out to slight.

Yet, it is possible to forgive FFK, “the beloved of the Lord” and privileged scion of a notable family originally from Ile-Ife. It’s possible
that he could actually have a genuine basis to hold such an opinion of Lagos’ development. In these days of creative thinkers who can think outside of the box to the point that thinking-outside-of-the-box becomes a box, it is possible. Or, it may just be that in spite of his very distinguished education in Britain right from childhood till he graduated as a lawyer from the same law school his grandfather and father attended that FFK is genuinely hampered by the trendy-ignorance of the ivy-leaguer.

And that is also forgivable.

Lagos, like the elephant, is not a lore to be told by visually or experientially challenged folks who had been groomed and sealed for the
head section of the elephant. The sky-scrappers, bridges, roads, toll-gates, mansions, shopping malls, stadiums, galleria, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Banana Island, Victoria Garden City or Alausa do not make Lagos Lagos. What does are well, too marvelous to be told: they can only be lived. And most of it are Lagos’ underbelly which can only be experienced. And it is easy for privileges to make one blind to Lagos: to hate the real face of Lagos; to refuse to engage and help to grow Lagos; to become frustrated by real Lagos and ultimately to inspire a destructive urge to bleed Lagos of whatever does not to conform to a phantom and test-tube image of Lagos – starting from the dislocation and afterwards relocation of the very weakest: the so-called destitute, homeless, vagrants, and mentally
unwell. But make no mistake, it is only the start.

I know. Go into any little library with any material in it of historical worth and you would see the same pattern everywhere, all over the world: it is a kobo, a dozen. Blindness by virtue of privilege and the bubble of living within the corridors of powers (I know, I have been there) is not unlike real blindness. I rephrase, it is more dangerous than physical blindness. For it puts the direction and tenured destiny of a whole city, state or even a country in the hand and mind of persons who are habitually blind to the estate they lead. Persons who do not know the stakeholders of the city they lead or who even if they know – have decreed their own version of test-tube stakeholders – whatever the realities on the ground are– and have committed to realizing that phantom stakeholders at whatever cost.

If all the view that Fani-Kayode has of Lagos is the one he got when on holidays from Britain, as a young very privileged man moving in privileged circles, then he is Lagos-blind. If all the view he has is the one he gets from his window seats on his many frequent plane flights, then he is still Lagos-blind. If all the view he has of Lagos is his frenzied looks through the tinted glasses of heavy jeeps in presidential convoys moving with feather-light speed during his time as a Presidential aide or Minister, or from the tales of his father and grandfather by moon or bulb lights, or even from well-researched books and travelogues on Lagos in the Libraries of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, well, he does not know Lagos. He is still Lagos blind.

He is still a Jambite who has not been matriculated into the earthy and ever changing smell and face of Lagos. Does he know Dustbin Estate in Ajegunle where kids and goats play, eat and sleep on rubbish in a well-ordered community where survival has demystified tribe and ethnic group completely? Or does he know waterfronts of Bariga where naked children play perilously by deep canals overgrown by water-hyacinths whose survival depend solely on the speed or reaction of other children no matter their ethnic group. What does he know about Apapa where young men from every part of Nigeria straggle in daily to lend their shoulders and back to
uphold Nigeria’s maritime industry that defines Lagos. Does he know Nollywood built by talented people from every part of this country that has and continue to put Lagos on the global culture map and entertainment. How about Lagos’ many tertiary institutions that sloughs through strikes and strikes and yet somehow manages to keep supporting the industrial complex of Lagos. Does he know the roll-call of staff and students? Does FFK know the markets of Lagos – large and small where the living (and some whisper, ghost) of every tribe congregate to provide the consumption that gives Lagos the highest slice of Value Added tax in the country. Does he know the bukkas, cafeterias and hotels of Lagos which cuisine have such established Lagos “delicacies” which origin are traceable from as far away as Owerri, Calabar and Rivers state.

Has he ever galloped through Lagos on the equine back of a molue or its modern BRT version? And seen Lagos people? Or has ever gone to any of the Marriage registry and seen Amaka happily wedding Oyebode without any relation except Akpan as best man and Aishat as maid of honour? When fifty  okadas stop to support a colleague – right or wrong – who is involved in an accident, those he know their ethnic make up? Keke Marwa and NAPEP has become another massive feature of Lagos employing hundred of thousands of
young men and providing food for almost as much agberos free-riding on their industry. Does FFK know the real names and birth place of driver and agbero? Has he ever felt the adrenaline of hope of the million of young and old that come out every morning in many parts of Lagos with various implements of trade hoping to be hired for just enough to feed their families and bodily frame. Does he know the source of the onions and sweet potatoes and the men who sell them – except on Fridays? Or does he know the landlord tenants dynamics of Lagos – in face-me-i-face-you or even in the luxury condos of Lekki phase one?

Or has he entered any of the big houses in Ikoyi after the master has gone with the big car leaving the big house for the plenty small people of different ethnic stocks?

Does he know the professional circuit of Lagos that continues to make Lagos the leading voice in Africa on various issues. Or does he know the famed Lagos media and civil society network stands as a bulwark against tyranny in Nigeria? That stood as a buffer for Lagos State government when the tornado or is it the hurricane of the PDP led federal government came leveling every state in Nigeria’s south west axis save Lagos? Does he know the intricate make-up of Lagos’s nonprofit organisation that continues to lead the rest of Africa on several topical and unique initiatives? Does he know squat?

Has he taken stock of the names of streets and highways in Lagos and seen the real Lagos? The mini-Nigeria? The most advanced testament to the latent changes happening across every corner of Nigeria while the FFKs of this world continue to recalibrate their political reinvention on a diabolical evil which vestigial outgrowth continue to draw worshippers.

Reading Femi Fani-Kayode’s smug article and the trophies of “shares” and “comments” he is getting, it is very easy to forgive him happily. The joke is on him. He does not know Lagos: especially this Lagos of 2013. It is not a no-man’s-land. It is a State of over 15 million persons each of who owns a piece of this place in their heart of heart. And not a billion Femi Fani-Kayode can take it away from them no matter what diabolical sentiments he appeals to. Even if he tries to justify his vacuous claims with an ignorant statement by one of the greatest mis-adventurist on Nigeria’s leadership plane – Orji Uzor Kalu – whose governance of Abia State for eight years gifted Africa it’s worst kidnapping nightmare in recorded history and even a worse successor – who also happened to have served as Orji Uzor Kalu’s Chief of Staff.

One thing is certain. FFK will fail. In this venture. To divide another generation of Nigerians the same way his generation was divided – and so has become a liability to their nation. Just like others before him with even greater convictions and motivations – did. Fail.

Fail very well FFK.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (9)

  1. Oh my God, this article is it. There are reasonable in Nigeria oooo… I feel proud been a Nigerian once again.

  2. Finally, some reality check. Spot on! Proud of my country and people like you!

  3. Whoever wrote this just made feel even more proud of NIGERIA and LAGOS. This so-called deportation is highly over rated. #datsall

  4. Femi Kayode is a childish Yoruba irredentist. He was not sure of what he was writing.He only wrote to win admiration of some sentimental Yoruba guys. I sympathise with his ignorance.His ignorance is forgivable because he has not been in the country.He was just writing as a hired cognitively impaired person. I pity him!

  5. sensible people still exist. Nice article…nice response.

  6. Bravo…. Tell him what he doesn’t know , you write from the heart unlike those who choose to write because they feel they have the previledge to write and yet when they write there is no atom of patrotisim in them…

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cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail