No, I absolutely do not accept that foot as a monument. Not when you are celebrating a Golden Jubilee of Africa’s commercial nerve centre, Africa’s Big Apple and the most beautiful city in the world with the best balance of happy and hustling humans.
To all intents and purposes, Lagos At 50 has proceeded well. There’s been one party after carnival, project launch after another. If not for anything, I hear it has largely been better than Rivers at 50, which really, you probably didn’t know was also going on till you read it now.
It is easy to appreciate the need to raise statues when commemorating significant milestones. For a similar reason that we remember to renovate our parents’ homes, but only for the comfort of guests who will attend their funerals, we can’t just wake up one day and decide to put stones up for the fun of it.
So, why did someone decide that encouraging youths to “put their best foot forward” would make sense? In the context of ‘My Lagos story’, how does that exactly lead to success? I’ll excuse you to claim it relates to the famous Chinese proverb about the first steps of the Journey of a thousand miles, but tie the foot to a Journey we can all historically or socially relate with, and you would have truly encouraged the Youth.
Here are 4 socially relevant moments in Lagos history that deserve a monument
- Sam Okwaraji’s last game
I begin with this because it will help with damage limitation. Okwaraji died while his foot was in active duty, in a World Cup qualification match at the National Stadium in Surulere. Should there be a need to tie a name to our new inspirational foot, there is no more readily available one. What more? Future generations will see it and somehow believe Nigeria was worth dying for in those days.
- The quick feet of Folashade Lawson
We don’t know where she is today or why she did not become a famous politician, but the then four-year old daughter of the President of the Lagos Town Council, Oba Adeniji Adele, had a moment that we probably should remember more and even raise a monument to. As can be seen in Jide Olanrewaju’s documentary, ‘NAIJ’, the commentator in the scene of the 1956 visit of Elizabeth II to Lagos described her as one who “knows where exactly she is going and means to get there”. Isn’t that better than merely “putting a foot forward”? (It happened before 1967 but still a Lagos moment).
- Mark Zuckerberg’s jogging feet
Is it too early? No. He only recently turned 33 and may not seem “old enough” to be granted a statue in Lagos. For the few days he was here, Mark Zukerberg, the fifth richest man in the world, generated so much buzz that he collided our heads with Ghanaians in an argument over jollof rice. But more importantly, his presence was a real boost to the ‘Yaba cluster’ of emerging techprenuers who found validation in the visit of the Facebook founder. Young entrepreneurs of platforms like Iyin Aboyeji of Andela and Flutterwave, as well as Godwin Benson of Tuteria may become the subject of Lagos At 100 in half a century’s time. We may look back at how much the presence of Zuckerberg helped.
- The Feet of the People: Occupy Lagos march
This one appears a tad too political and some will find it touchy, but nothing arguably united Nigerians more than those protests of January 2012. Ordinary people marched on their feet against a good-intentioned but poorly timed announcement of the removal of fuel subsidies, and forced the Jonathan Government to reverse its New Year’s Day bad news. As Segun Adeniyi noted, that was probably one of the moments that led to the 2015 result coming against the run of play.
About our Foot – What can be done about it now? Demolish? Certainly not, though that would not be a radically different thing to do in a city where buildings collapse at will and illegal Government community-sacks are the order of the day. Let it stand, and be the symbol of how we can have beautiful intentions (policies), but follow it up with faulty implementation that usually doesn’t factor in our peculiar circumstances.