In the past two decades, Lagos State has pursued a relentless agenda to make a mega-city out of this small patch of the wider Nigerian landscape. This has involved a deliberate channeling of resources into upgrading infrastructure to serve its 20m residents and woo global brands to keep the state’s unmatched status as Nigeria’s investment hub.
Parallel to that is the ambition to improve on the profile of Lagos as Africa’s entertainment capital. Both the Nigerian style of Afro-hiphop and the local film industry — affectionately labeled “Nollywood”— nurtured in Lagos, are not only commonplace on the continent but are now a major fixture on the global filming circuit.
One thing is missing though: filmmakers the world over have overlooked the many ‘filmic’ sites that abound in the “Centre of Excellence” as backdrops and location for their works.
Many landmarks in cities around the world have become familiar and famous because they featured as backgrounds in films, especially if the films become blockbusters. From the Empire State Building (USA) and Trafalgar Square (UK) to the Eiffel Tower (France) and the Taj Mahal (India), these monuments have become magnets of sorts, pulling travellers and tourists by the millions.
Lagos has its own variants of these global darlings: historical, cultural and religious places that will be perfect settings for films of all genres.
The options are endless really but here is a quick list, taking a site or two from the state’s five broad divisions: The Oluwo fish market and the resort (Epe); Ijede spring and Oriwu College (Ikorodu); Topo town and ASCON premises (Badagry); city mall and Idejo statues (Ikeja); Tinubu Square and Lagos Motorboat Club (Lagos Island).
This is not to forget the kilometres of beachfront (and beach houses) that stretch along the city’s coastline and the several parks and green areas across the local governments and LCDAs. That said here is a select list of sites that’ll add some splendor to future films:
Ikeja Division, which host’s the state’s capital, has countless film-worthy landmarks. The relatively new sculptural pieces and installations (Airport Road, Allen Roundabout, Ile Zik, to mention just three) are a good place to begin. And not forgetting the brand new JJT Park, opened to the public in 2018.
The Idejo Statues: Affectionately referred to as the ‘Three Wise Men’, this larger-than-life statue on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is the first public art that welcomes road travellers into Lagos. It shows the three stages in the greeting pattern of Lagos white-cap chiefs when they salute the king. Relocated from their previous locations twice before, the three installations now sit in the middle of an expansive green area
Simbiat Abiola monument: The monument in her memory tells two stories: one of oppression and suppression, and the other of victory and freedom. Dedicated “to the martyrs of the epic struggle to give liberty, justice and democracy true meaning”, the monument is seen by several thousands of motorists on a daily basis, located as it is at the tip of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Ikeja Golf Club: The 10-hole Ikeja Golf Club is tucked away on Works Road, off Oba Akinjobi Road in the Ikeja GRA area.
The LASU Ethnography Museum is situated in the Agege area, at 50-54 Oba Ogunji Road. Housed in a colonial-era bungalow, it has four small galleries: Terracotta, Old Lagos, Masks & Masquerades, and Obaship/Throne of Lagos.
National Theatre: it is heartwarming that this architectural masterpiece of the 1970s, neglected for many years, is soon to be renovated by the Lagos State government. In spite of the rot noticeable inside the building, the exterior has never failed to charm residents and visitors alike. The swathe of lawn encircling it is a fitting complement and the Lagosians who throng it daily will easily pass as on-site extras in any film shot in the premises.
Jaekel House, Railway Compound: Driving around the headquarters of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) in Ebute Meta, you get the feeling that you are travelling back in time. It is almost a city within a city, a world all by itself and the sheer number of colonial-era buildings still standing is awe-inspiring. One of them is the Jaekel House, built in 1898. In terms of architecture, there are fewer places in the country suitable for films set in pre-Independence Nigeria.
Iddo Terminus: No-one will deny the fact that the story of rail travel in Nigeria is not inspiring; but an inspiring story can be set inside and outside the terminus at Iddo station, which currently processes hundreds of thousands of passengers daily.
Movie buffs will have watched scenes in films by Bollywood and Hollywood set in a coach, on a moving train or at a crowded station; Nollywood can take a cue from this, creating scripts that puts characters in that environment. Who knows: it might just be the tonic the Corporation needs to rouse from its sorry state.
Kalakuta Museum: Formerly the home of one of Nigeria’s biggest cultural exports, the late Afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who passed away in 1997. Fela’s story and music continues to interests fans worldwide and his popularity has increased even in death; the building’s terrace is a must-see.
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