The onset of Yuletide was meant to herald good tidings. However, for many chairmen of local governments and the state government in Lagos, it was time for the Christmas blues.
As early as late November, banners came up at entrances of streets announcing the commencement of street jamz, a carnival where every illegal conduct, from drugs peddling, gun-running, rape to binge drinking, became legitimate. Next, youths form cults to extort money from road users by blocking roads and pathways in aid of the Xmas jamz. And from Christmas Eve on December 24th to New Year’s Eve on December 31st when the neighborhoods revel in the festivities of the season, police had a hard time quelling gang wards amidst scores of how many have been shot by rival gangs.
By 2011, it was no longer possible for governments to ignore the jamz. To save innocent souls, governments at local and state levels moved in to engage the youths and regulate the jamz. In Ejigbo LCDA, a carnival allowance was set up to entice organisers to register their jamz and sign undertaking to be of good behavior.
The above story now sits comfortably in our history books, a reminder of what Lagos neighbourhoods used to be during festivals.
How? Begin with the introduction of the Countdown in 2012. Set up to ensure Lagos joined New York and other international destinations which mark the event, the Countdown ran for 21 days every year. In 2013, it peaked with an estimated 200,000 people and netted N1billion in the last 10 days. But it was a one-venue event, held at the Bar Beach, Victoria Island and drew a a big hole in the government’s purse. Its primary aim was to market Lagos as a global tourism destination.
In 2015, different concerns and a new vision re-defined the event. In April that year, Lagosians trooped to the polls to elect All Progressives Congress, APC governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode as their first citizen. Brimming with ideas garnered over 27 years in the public service, Governor Ambode pledged to run a government of inclusion which would leave no one out. This singular perspective re-arranged every other action of the government.
The Countdown was the first to take the shine. Its one-venue character failed to feed into the vision of inclusion in a state that runs on the five divisional system, 20 local government and 37 Local council development area structure. It was only logical that the excitement be decentralized and the impact on the local economy be democratized.
The argument for divisional equity gave birth to the enhanced concept of One Lagos Fiesta, a bold re-branding of unity in diversity, launched with fanfare in December 2015.
It turned out, that there was more to the OLF than the spread. Take, for instance, crime prevention. The upsurge of crime following the emergence of the new administration was worrisome. Yet, the soft impact of entertainment in delivering leisure and pleasure meant that its patrons come from all walks of life. To prevent the Devil from hiring idle hands, the expanded entertainment jamboree provided an amusing distraction for many youths.
A welcome victim of the massive OLF extravaganza is none other than the hood jamz. With the top label artistes and popular disc jockeys on the bill of the OLF, the neighborhood carnivals shrank as most youths began to move to the centres – Bar Beach, Ikorodu, Agege, Badagry and Epe to catch their fun. Commending youths for the massive turnout, the Commissioner for information & Strategy, Steve Ayorinde said: “It is a fiesta that has provided direct, indirect and induced jobs to more than 6,000 people like musicians, dancers, technicians, stall owners, brand ambassadors, food and beverage sellers as well as security guards and transport service owners”.
According to records, no fewer than 300,000 participants were recorded daily at the five locations where the event held this year. Security was so effective and efficient that no conflict or death was recorded. In addition, over 50 billion naira boost was recorded during the period.
According to police sources, the OLF has led to better crime management. According to the police, due to the influx of people into the state during the festive period, there is likely to be criminal elements who may want to take undue advantage of such to perpetrate crime but efforts have been made to nip such incidents in the bud.
A novel feature of the OLF is the LAGOS GROWS TALENT competition which has brought to the limelight up and coming comedians and musicians. This year, 10 –year old Opizzy, ( real name: Shola Idris Opeyemi) beat others from Epe division to the finals to clinch the handsome prize of N1.5million. For an orphan, the lucky break has changed his life for good.
By moving entertainment to the communities, Governor Ambode has walked the talk that earned him the people’s mandate in 2015. Doing it again in 2019 will surely be an easier ride.
By Kehinde Bamigbetan