THE BBC DOCUMENTARY ON LAGOS
The recent documentary entitled 'Welcome to Lagos', aired on BBC2 in the United Kingdom (UK) on April 15, which portrayed the city as a slum, is in bad taste.
Expectedly, it has drawn the ire of Nigerians at home and abroad. Nigeria's High Commissioner to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, also sent a protest letter to the Controller BBC2, Ms. Janice Hadlow, in Glasgow.
In the letter, the Nigerian government expressed its dismay and disappointment with the first of the three-part documentary, which it regarded as a deliberate distortion of life in Lagos. Government said that the documentary was an attempt to bring Nigeria and its hardworking people to international odium and scorn. It observed that by not airing other aspects of life in the city, the BBC demonstrated a lack of balance and fairness. The letter also criticized BBC's refusal to document the excellent performance of the incumbent governor of the state.
Also, Nigerians in Chicago, United States (U.S.), have urged the government to promote a positive image of Nigeria to change the wrong perception of the nation in foreign media. They said that the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications should embark on a more aggressive promotion of Nigeria's image abroad.
Really, this is not the first documentary on Nigeria in which the BBC specifically focused on the ugly side of life in the country. Though, the BBC has the freedom to report events in Nigeria, it needs to strike a balance in its reportage.
Slums are, by no means, a preserve of Lagos. Indeed, slum sites and ghettos are a global phenomenon found even in London and other cities in Europe and America. People scavenge dustbins in search of valuables in virtually every part of the world. Singling out Lagos for the upsetting scenes has racist undertones. Perhaps, it is another way of expressing the colonialist supremacy myth. It is a thinly-veiled indictment of Nigeria's inability to manage its affairs and environment, 50 years after independence.
It is not in doubt that foreign media, especially the BBC and even the CNN, have not hidden their agenda to always project the bad aspects of life in Africa and gloss over the good ones. This jaundiced practice of journalism does not reckon with fairness and objectivity, which the press must uphold in carrying out its watchdog role in the society.
This tendency to portray what is negative in Africa while ignoring the positive is malicious and ill-intended. A balanced documentary would have robustly captured the good work the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, is doing on the environment. We decry this documentary. The BBC should adopt an objective approach to reporting Africa.
Sadly, Western depiction of Africa has been archetypal, predictive and highly subjective. We cannot take this lopsided reporting and ugly representation of Africa from the Western press any longer.
Beyond the BBC broadcast, the government should view the documentary as a clarion call to duty. It should do all within its powers to correct some environmental anomalies in our urban cities. Some slum areas in Lagos and other Nigerian cities can be worked on to make them habitable. Maybe that was the intention of the BBC documentary.
The only snag is that it was overblown as the true representation of life in Lagos. Those in charge of planning in the country should embark on massive urban renewal, which Lagos State government has commenced.
We call on all foreign media to always balance their reports on Africa instead of their usual slant for what is negative. While not dictating how they should do their work, we urge the foreign media, especially the BBC, to also report the good in Africa.