By Megan S. Chapman, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria
The footage you see at the beginning of the promo clip for “The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos” showing thousands of people in wooden fishing boats on the Lagos Lagoon watching their homes being burned by the government was taken almost a year ago to the day by my husband. He was with the evictees while tear gas and live bullets were being shot in their general direction to keep them from returning to land.
The man in the second clip whose head was lolling back was Daniel Aya, a young man and Federation member who was hit by one of those bullets in the neck and whose community members were trying to pole him to another boat that could try to take him to get urgent treatment across the Lagoon. I met that boat when it landed 45 minutes later carrying his dead body. A few minutes later, another boat arrived with a young man shot in the chest whose life we were able to save.
The Otodo Gbame community including 30,000 people was violently and forcibly evicted so their land could be turned into a luxury real estate development. It was destroyed violently and ruthlessly despite peaceful protests by thousands of Federation members from the Lagos waterfronts. Despite a court injunction restraining the government from carrying out the eviction of Otodo Gbame and 39 other communities who remain at risk of eviction up to today despite a court judgement in their favour.
This project is born out of the need for alternative ways to get the message out and change these lived realities of the urban poor in Lagos, in Nigeria, and around the globe. There is urgency in the struggle. It is personal to me and to hundreds of thousands of Lagos urban poor who are leading the struggle for dramatic change.
We believe deeply in co-creative processes. These are the key to alternatives we are pushing for the government to take to pursue win-win solutions with the poor instead of violent land grab. But co-creation is messy, is labour intensive and takes time to be done well and be truly co-creative and pluralistic. I both recognize the “essentialness” of this approach and struggle to be patient for the end-product (or mid-stream) tools that will advance the struggle — and hopefully transform it into something that will change the conversation and lived realities of the people with whom my daily life is intertwined.