Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo
I received phone calls and was ‘instructed’ to switch on the TV and navigate to BBC2 because of a documentary on Nigeria; Lagos to be precise. I told a caller that I could watch it later on BBC iplayer (online) or on my cellular phone. Out of curiosity, I decided to switch to BBC2 in order to watch Louis Theroux: Law and Disorder in Lagos last Sunday night.
Investigative journalist Louis Theroux was bold enough to interview gangs that are part of the union of transporters in Lagos. He interviewed Tawa, the female leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in Eyo area of Lagos. She is the queen of the motor park with a tomboy physique. He also interviewed a deadly gang led by a young man called Raji. They had fierce scars on their faces and bodies. Afolabi Martins took Theroux to the gang’s den.
A gangster with the nickname Cross and Die may make you wonder how many people he has killed so far. You wouldn’t want to cross his path, would you? It was pathetic when members of the gang claimed that they were jobless and had no other jobs to do than to be hired as union fighters. Would job creation keep them out off the streets, blood letting and underground politicking?
Theroux later caught up with the Lagos State treasurer of the NURTW, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya aka MC Oluomo, who had just won a local solidarity election. There was a fracas between warring NURTW factions and Theroux was safely led away in a car by MC Oluomo’s aides. He initially abandoned his driver in a traffic jam just to witness the dangerous scene that left trails of blood wound on the floor.
Power of the union
It is unnecessary but it was a pity that Theroux did not travel to the ancient city of Ibadan in Oyo State to compare the transport union with the Lagos branch of NURTW. It could have helped him to further understand the importance of the union in state political elections and why there are regarded as a necessity. Sections of the government use the union because it is powerful, especially in the mobilization of voters and supporters.
Oyo state politicians seem to depend more on the union than their Lagos counterparts. A good governor who has the backing of the people is unlikely to depend on the union. The recent bloody fracas between Lateef Akinsola aka Tokyo and Lateef Salako aka Elewe Omo’s supporters left the transportation network in Oyo State literally paralysed for a few days with about 25 people dead .
In the UK, the votes of the trade unions such as Unite Union, Unison and GMB helped the younger brother of David Miliband, Ed Miliband to win the Labour Party leadership election by a little margin. Maybe David should have stepped down for Ed as soon as the trade unions gave Ed their unflinching support before the election. Moreover, trade unions are so powerful that they can reinstate some dismissed employees in Britain.
In Nigeria, the state transport workers are getting more powerful than the Labour Congress. They could become very powerful and determine who governs specific states, especially some Yoruba speaking states. The ‘danger’ lies in the power shift that could select political touts as gubernatorial candidates in future elections.
‘King’ MC Oluomo
I never knew that MC Oluomo lived like a king until he was featured in the documentary. All Lagos transporters in the local areas have to pay ‘illegal’ fees to NURTW on the days that they work. Theroux was stunned to discover that Oluomo had more control in the area than the police. The essence of paying a toll fee to NURTW was to avoid police harassment and Oluomo is in charge of collected fees as the union’s treasurer.
Theroux wanted to interview Oluomo one-on-one but Oluomo’s spinmeister Mammok refused to translate but speak on behalf of Oluomo. Oluomo said it was better that way as he listened to the interview. When Theroux asked a tough question, Oluomo became uncomfortable and walked out of the living room. Theroux asked if Oluomo was controlling hoodlums and hooligans in Lagos as wildly believed by the masses. Mammok said the area boys were nothing of such and that area boys live in areas and are therefore called area boys.
The truth is bitter and it is very difficult to separate the activities of vagabonds that are also members of the union from allegations of hooliganism or thuggery but not all the boys are hoodlums. Nevertheless, Oluomo is the king of area boys and area boys are associated with violence.
Theroux took a tour around Oluomo’s flamboyant house and wondered why he needed so much security. Oluomo’s job is a deadly one. He may be attacked by opposing factions at anytime. According to media reports, he escaped an assassination attempt on his life a few months ago and the assassin’s bullets led to the untimely death of his driver. He probably lives big because it is not easy to predict the next day. As a matter of fact, the former Lagos State caretaker committee chairman of NURTW, Alhaji Saka Saula was assassinated in 2008 at the age of 45.
Theroux saw the photographs that Oluomo took with popular people like Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State and a former beauty queen. Oluomo’s assorted Italian shoes may make you wonder if his heroine was former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcus. He did not have a shoe rack but his shoes were neatly assembled on his bedroom floor. The sparkling shoes that he wore to a ceremony were expensive. It was stunning enough to make Imelda Marcus jealous of her hobby as a shoe collector with a shoe museum.
Mammok the interpreter
The part of the documentary that made me laugh until tears fell from my eyes was when an old man challenged Mammok and the BBC for filming the area without a 'permit'. The man said he worked with the local government and Mammok told him that he worked for the National Assembly. Were they bragging like Fela Anikulapo Kuti's song Sakara Oloje?
The man accused Mammok of ‘selling’ Nigerians by media exploitation to white foreigners. The man and Mammok spoke Yoruba which is a language that Theroux did not understand. Theroux demanded to know what the argument was about. Mammok claimed that the man was mentally imbalanced and was begging for money. It looked like a nincompoopish prank on Theroux because the man was not mentally ill but it was unclear whether the ‘permit’ signified money.
Drinking on duty?
Some policemen and a senior Kick Against Indiscipline (KIA) officer in Lagos were filmed with bottles of alcohol. A KIA officer drank chilled beer in uniform. Law enforcers should not consume alcohol on duty. A 'new' paramilitary task force like KIA should have shown a better example. Well, there is no restriction on alcohol and young children are allowed to buy alcohol on behalf of adults in Nigeria. Nobody really cares if the kids buy and drink alcohol in secrecy.
Some lawmakers are busy making money rather than making laws. Can you believe that the lawmakers in the National Assembly have just resumed lawmaking after over a three month recess? The masses are probably visualized as dimwits that cannot hold legislators accountable for lapses and laziness. Louis Theroux: Law and Disorder in Lagos is worth watching. It is currently the most blogged and talked about documentary among Africans in the Diaspora. 'Unknown' to MC Oluomo et al, Louis Theroux is the son of famous American novelist Paul Theroux.
Louis Theroux with Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officers