Letter from Lagos

Greetings from Lagos in Nigeria. We have had a productive week here. We are being hosted by Adeboye Ola and his team at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in a suburb called Ogba on mainland Lagos.

Above: Downtown Lagos on Lagos Island is surrounded by a ring of highways. The longest bridge in Africa, Third Mainland Bridge, runs between the mainland and Lagos Island. The central business district is located on Lagos Island and many government ministries are on Victoria Island

Many of us almost did not make it with authorities at the various Nigerian consulates around Africa setting up all manner of hoops to jump through. All but one got here in the end. Early in the week Adeboye organised for us to get official media accreditation by the External Publicity Department in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. This has been very helpful in getting us out of some challenging situations and allowing us to work freely.

Above: The Nigerian flag flaps in the breeze at Bar Beach on Victoria Island, Lagos

With 15 to 20 million inhabitants, Lagos is an incredibly alive place that provides rich soil for cultivating all manner of fascinating features. Its often gridlocked traffic has meant the 12 radio journalists and 12 photojournalists have had to work hard to get their stories together. As in Ghana, the cell phone networks dominate advertising and MTN Nigeria is certainly making the most of its sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on billboards and banners all over the city. Sitting in traffic the inhabitants of this great city certainly have the time to contemplate the message.

Above: A group of Nigerians from Ikorodu on the outskirts of Lagos tussle for the ball on Bar Beach. The white sands and turqoise sea attract the Nigerian middle class on weekends

But the stories are also just around the corner. On Friday evening I went for a walk and ended up at “Clean Cut” barber shop with enthusiastic soccer fans crammed into the little venue watching television with Hungry pipping favourites Italy to the post in a dramatic overtime derby at the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Egypt. The intensity of emotion when Italy equalized within a minute of Hungry scoring in overtime was thrilling.

Above: Lincoln Coker looks up briefly at the television screen while cutting a client’s hair during the 2009 U-20 FIFA World Cup match between Hungry and Italy while his friend Johnson Marthew stays glued to the set. Hungry won over favourites Italy in overtime in a match that saw a number of Italians sent off the field and even their coach bannished to the stands

Today is match day. Nigeria plays Mozambique. They have to win to even be in with a chance, of participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa next year. Their fate, however, is also in the hands of Tunis who have to lose to Kenya today for Nigeria to go through. Whatever their fate today, we are all looking forward to the passion of 15 million football fans!

Above: The Nigerian Institute of Journalism has acted as our base here in Lagos. Their field plays host to many football teams in the neighbourhood