Home > Your say > Opinion: A Caged Lion; A dazzled visit to Ajegunle

Opinion: A Caged Lion; A dazzled visit to Ajegunle

As a little child, I have always been fascinated by animals of different kinds, shapes and sizes. Suffice to say that I loved the zoo. Please permit me to define A zoo as an unnatural and man-made habitat that tries to imitate a natural living condition for animals. For the sakes of this discourse, A ZOO may also be a place of habitat for human beings if the conditions are only suitable for animals.

Every time I visited a foreign country, and by a foreign country, I mean any other country except Nigeria of which I am a citizen???? ( I will come to this later), I always longed to visit the zoo. I love animals I must say again and I love the wild…. to roam free…. no borders between countries, the freedom to go anywhere and the freedom to live anywhere…. (you wish??).

The first animal I visit when I go to the zoo, is the LION. The king of the jungle. Have you seen the children movie called Lion King?? Please do. I loved it. The lion of the safari is very different from the Lion at the Zoo.

The lion at the Zoo is a “Caged Lion”. It has lost the interest to hunt, it is fed in bits and pieces, has no control over how it lives, no control or protection and is at the mercy of its masters.

The caged lion has a drugged lazy look in its eyes….the pupils of the caged lion often look dilated and blank… seeing you but mostly staring at nothing; The caged lion is like a snake without its venom, like an eagle without its claws, like a shark that has no teeth… The caged lion loses its zeal to hunt and ultimately lives an unfulfilled life and dies without ever using its potential or living its life to the fullest.

Enough of this lion talk you might say but life sometimes makes you feel like a caged lion. Do you agree???

Let me tell you a story. I visited an IDP camp (Internally Displaced people) recently but not in the North East of Nigeria or the Middle Belt where the killings are going on, I visited an IDP camp in Lagos, YES LAGOS called AJEGUNLE or AJ CITY as fondly called.

One of my colleagues at work was ill and I felt a visit from executive management would do the trick and give him some encouragement. What I saw about the living conditions cut right into my heart. The stench, the odor oozing out of the latrines, sited in some cases by the makeshift kitchens and the squalor immediately left me dazed but I had to pretend that all was well.

The whole household came out to greet the CEO and his Neighbors also came out to greet me. I called on a Sunday and I immediately regretted. Everyone was at home and sitting idly. Thankfully, there was no road to get there and I rode on an Okada to maneuver me through the rubbish heap filled roads.

It was a mind-wrenching experience and then I looked at the eyes of the people and then I saw it…. the eyes I hear are like a mirror to the soul…. The eyes were dead, looking but not seeing, open but not taking in anything…. the eyes were no longer seeing the Beauty or the potentials that life offered.

The eyes only had the harsh reality that this was a life condemned to the ugliness and sentenced to live in hell.

At Ajegunle the IDP camp, I saw the “. CAGED LIONS”.

I told you that my story was about lions did I not??? At AJ City, I saw a people with so much potential but caged to the sad reality of an unfulfilled life. The children roamed free and played amongst the rats (these were rodents), the rats were big and fearless… they strolled around majestically and did not run from you… these were obviously rats that had defected to be part and parcel of the human race and were accepted as family. This is similar to what you have in Nigerian politics where you have the domesticated rats defecting to the jungle rats and vice versa. Let’s leave those politicians rats for another day.

The children caught my attention… they were oblivious of the life they were living and played football on the makeshift roads. The people obviously were good at one thing; PROCREATION. The average family here had at least 5-7 children. The poor obviously like sex a lot and probably wanted to fulfill the Abrahamic call given by God; “ Go ye and multiply; fill the earth and dominate”, these people were populating and very fast.

Nigeria’s population will almost double in another 50 years and we may overtake India or even China if nothing is done to check our unbridled population growth. In Nigeria, the super-rich are less than 5M people and the “Surviving middle class is less than 20M.

The rest are the super poor. The so-called masses. The average Nigerian is a caged lion. Filled with so much potential, promise, Energy and incurable optimism but yet lives an unfulfilled life. The average Nigerian wants to live and work… Nigerians are some of the most industrious people ever born but due to a failed political class, we merely never even touch the tip of the iceberg.

Most Nigerians die and never fulfill their potentials. This is the Land of a caged people and caged lions.

Please permit me to share something with you that I have taken to study and had a lengthy talk about with a new found friend. I want to talk about DESERTIFICATION!

Has anyone ever bothered to wonder why and what is causing the Famers and Fulani herdsmen clashes???

It’s really nothing new but actually very simple. Unfortunately, our Politicians are either wicked, ignorant or outrightly moronic that they are never able to sit quietly, study a situation well and then provide solutions to a problem instead of looking for quick fixes.

I met the Vice President at a function and I thought a cerebral help will be provided to balance the Buhari Government but I guess power gets to you anyhow. The Vice President obviously has been militarized and does not know this is a civilian government. He stays in Abuja and has been issuing several decrees to the tanker and trailer drivers to vacate Apapa roads. He got tired and finally came to Lagos to find out why his orders and ultimatums were not been heeded but alas…. it’s not about orders or decrees… it’s about the need to carefully study the root causes, look for alternative options, draw a roadmap to plan and finally, carefully execute it. But that will be the day when issues are carefully thought out in Nigeria.

We decree solutions or leave it to God by praying and supplication to solve man-made problems. The sad reality of a nation of caged Lions.

Let’s talk about the issue of desertification, The Issue has had several reports put together.

The LAKE CHAD is drying up and control of water resources is a potential red flag. Wars have mostly been fought about resource control. The Fulani people are nomads who value their livestock more than their own lives.

The cow represents the lifeblood of the Fulani people. If their cattle die off, the Fulani people become an endangered species.

Desertification, reduced rainfall, lack of arable land, the shrinking Lake Chad and the Almighty Global warming due to greenhouse gases have all contributed to the problem.

The Fulani people are moving southwards and mind you that these are not just Fulani from Nigeria…. from Mali, Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon… all see Nigeria’s Middle belt as the savior of their race. Unfortunately for Nigeria, we now have a Fulani as a President.

I feel for General Buhari…. he is caught in between the act of being a President of a nation in disarray and the obvious love of his kind. The Fulani are a loving people who protect their own kind. They will do anything to protect each other. What we fail to realize as Nigerians is the underlying factor…. WHO IS A NIGERIAN???

These people do not know any other nation but the ideals and norms of their kind. They will protect their own. The Fulani from the entire Northern Africa are eyeing Nigeria as their new home and mark my words, they will come for it as the desertification grows and pushes them southwards.

This is not a religious war. It just so happens that these people are Muslims and the middle belters are predominantly Christians. This is a war of RESOURCE CONTROL.

Any Solutions??? The Federal Government to forestall an impending all-out war in Nigeria must immediately and dispassionately set up a very high handed committee of people and include foreigners if possible..  technocrats and not some political jobbers looking to be settled with a very minimal time frame to come up with a solution centered around SOLAR POWERED WATER PUMPS.

There is an abundance of sunlight and what we need is the technology to commence a large scale land renewal irrigation scheme to bring back the pastoral lands of the Fulani.

If we can do this, the Fulani nomads will start to migrate back to their own lands and peace will return. It only needs dedicated and committed political leadership.

However, I suspect that some people in the APC government want the President to fail and hide under Buharis lack of foresight to engender a political crisis, start the making of a religious war and push the middle belters out of their land. Nigeria is a very complicated place and you are never sure of the people you are sitting with or talking to.

Everyone has an agenda and unfortunately, these agendas do not include a United or stable Nigerian polity. It’s all about selfish and clannish gains. For all it’s worth, I believe that the Solar Powered Water Pumps and a large scale land irrigation project will help the Fulani nomads settle back into their own land.

If we won’t do it for them for sakes of what has happened, let’s do it for them because of humanity.

I dare say that the middle belt of Nigeria is a potential war zone for the future.

Please also let us consider that in the South-South of Nigeria, Crude Oil Production and drilling is largely moving to deep offshore due to the criminality of both local gangs and the military men empowered to protect lives and property.

Investors prefer the deep offshore because at the sound of trouble, they can always pack up their rigs and move on. The shallow waters and onshore drilling is now mostly in the hands of local oil merchants who are greedy, lack technical knowledge and capacity to invest in proper ecological and environmental studies.

These new merchants are using political will and might with proper government connections to buy up oil acreage in onshore and shallow water drilling. The likelihood of an environmental disaster is real and at some point in time, the waters of the South-South will become poisonous and the land uninhabitable. Where do you think the people will migrate???

The Middle belt of Nigeria and the South West of Nigeria are the most peaceful and stable parts of Nigeria and also is the potential flashpoints of the future.

I am not an alarmist but pure and passionate deduction show this as a trend and in Nigeria, we rarely look at trends. We wait for it to all go wrong and then we blame our political enemies or blame God.

These are manmade problems and require well thought out man-made strategies to combat them.

I do not think all hope is lost but I too feel like a caged lion. My businesses are located at Ijora in Lagos. It is halfway to the epicenter of the Apapa madness. I see law enforcement officers using sticks and cudgels to beat tanker drivers who are merely trying to provide food for their families.

They live on the roads as their trucks are parked on the roads. They bathe on the road and relieve themselves on the roads. The tanker drivers pay as much as N20,000.00 to the groups of law enforcement officers on the Apapa Road to gain passage. The Government has created a monster from another monster.

Caged Lions feed on each other for survival. When you are a caged lion, “ You get all you can, and you can all you get”. This is a land of the “CAGED LIONS”.


Theo John Phillips, CEO, GoldFire writes from Surulere



Idris Aina
Idris is a media and communications professional with keen attention to details. An entertainment enthusiast, he is an ardent fan of the team from the Red Side of Manchester with love for football banters. He tweets with the handle @arlomah.