By Olamide Babatunde
As part of the activities lined up for its 21st convocation ceremony, the Lagos State University performed the epic play, The Spirit of Lagos, at the University Auditorium to retell an important aspect of the history of Lagos and join the rest of the world in celebrating Lagos.
With poems, performances, all dedicated to commemorate the existence of the state in the last five decades, The Spirit of Lagos became the rightful choice by the university and its Theatre Arts and Music department to not only reenact Lagos under colonial rule of Governor Clifford in the 19/20th century but to also to share in the success and add to the conversations about the struggles and triumps of the State.
Written by Akinwunmi Ishola, directed by Sola Fosudo and produced by Lanre Fagbohun and Leke Fakoya, The spirit of Lagos is set in the yesteryears of Lagos where the struggle for leadership between the Oba Of Lagos, Esugbayi Eleko, son of Oba Dosunmu, and British Administrator of the colony, Governor Clifford, culminates into a tussle that leads us from the past to the present day Lagos.
The play dramatises the sources of strength and boldness of the founding fathers of Lagos in the face of Tyranny. It captures the effective, selfless, upright and meritorious leadership qualities of the illustrious fathers of Lagos which has kept it from falling apart and still maintains that trait which is exemplified by the present leaders.
The period was a decisive one for the residents of Lagos whose majority pulled their forces together in spite of their differences in religious, social and cultural backgrounds to fight the perceived enemy, the British administrator of Lagos colony, who had allies in a handful of the local foreigners. Determined to protect his people from the imposition of water levy, women taxes and other outrageous demands the Oba Eleko became a target of deposition and exile to Oyo.
He insightfully agreed to prevent bloodshed. Unanimously, in one spirit, Macauley, supported by other prominent inhouse chiefs and the Iya loja, Jumoke Obasa, all stood with and for their king. When the legal battle Macauley had instigated made the Colonial Administrator reverse his order, Eleko safely returned to his people, to Lagos.`
Fosudo and his crew used this drama to tell a tale of unity amidst tyranny, the tale of African women, their social and political roles and that of the Cultural values of loyalty, faith, courage and resilience. With over 120 cast and crew members, the story was well executed
Through the use of songs that told stories in itself, the chants for Lagos, the land of wisdom, the land surrounded by water, rented the air at the end of each scene leaving the audience to sway and bob heads before the next action began. All of these added up to give it a contemporary feel, carefully taking the audience through the old and new turns and twists of the performance.
The hot exchanges, the dances, outburst, dialogues and interpretation illuminated, as well as the performers, the message of the day that finding a common ground to from which to fight is the basis of peace and progress for any society.
Having emerged a mega city from concerted efforts from past and present leaders, the wakeup call is served to all modern day residents of Lagos to be passionate, patriotic and unwavering in the creation of one Lagos for all.
Previous performances dedicated to the Lagos at 50 celebrations were 50 Poems from 50 Poets held at Freedom Park, Lagos, and Isale Eko, a play inspired by Ayo Badmus and directed by Williams Benson.