BY PRISCA SAM-DURU
In an event well attended by mostly, Lagos Literati, 77 year old British journalist, Kaye Whiteman, was the centre of attraction as the writer and former editor of the West Africa magazine, was last Thursday, hosted by the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA).
The event which held at the Kogi’s Art Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos served as occasion for conversations around Whiteman’s book titled, “Lagos: A Cultural & Historical Companion”, with the likes of Taiwo Ajayi Lycett, Dejumo Lewis, Odia Ofeimun and Toyin Akinosho of CORA, Keith Richards, the former Guinness Nigeria MD and currently the MD of Promasidor Foods Nigeria limited, etc in attendance.
Kaye’s book which documents the history of the city by exploring its founding stories, founders, tradition, lore and culture of the people, is no doubt, a master piece that would remain a reference point for so many years.
Kaye Whiteman arrived Lagos in 1964 as a journalist with the West Africa magazine and began writing for Daily Times. That singular visit made him fall in love with Nigeria and ever since then, he has made Lagos his second home as he has not stopped visiting the country.
He is currently a columnist with Business Day newspaper. With a Master’s Degree in Modern History from the University of Oxford, Freedom Park, which was a former colonial prison, the writer showed his value for history when he insisted that the programme be held at same venue. On this, Jahman Anikulapo, a co-founder of CORA, said, “Freedom Park didn’t feature in the book yet Whiteman insisted that the event should take place here”.
During a session moderated by Deji Toye, a lawyer and poet, with Tolu Ogunlesi, Toni Khan, and a Dutch journalist, Femke Van Zeiji , Whiteman, led the audience into what he called his Lagos, from the year 1964. He showed no challenge while mentioning prominent areas such as Ajegunle, Amuwo-Odofin, Surulere, and Tinubu Square. The British Journalist at the end, emphasised the need to renovate and preserve historical landmarks in Lagos.
An excerpt from “Lagos: A Cultural & Historical Companion” which was read by Deji Toye, did justice to reminisces on late Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Niger Delta activist, playwright and novelist. The portion Toye read featured a conversation between Mr. B and Alali, two characters of Saro-Wiwa’s ‘Basi and company’ on the challenges of living in Lagos.
Commenting on his reason for authoring the book on Lagos, Whiteman said, “I wrote the book on Lagos because I was asked to do it and I liked the idea. I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t lived here. You have to live here to understand it” he said adding, “I can’t say that I understand Lagos but this is my book of my Lagos.”
“I have found more fulfillment in finally being able to write the book that I have written, I have written so many articles in some publications but now that I have done this book, I feel able to do more. I can do two, three more books. I have my memoirs to do.”
He told the enthusiastic audience about his interview with former military president of Nigeria, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. According to him, “He is a very charming man, but, I had to ask him each question three times.”
One unforgettable experience for Whiteman is night life in clubs such as Kakadu Nightclub. “I have never seen anything like it. It was an open air nightclub.”, he said and to buttress this, he composed a song about Lagos nightlife titled Oyinbo, where you dey go? with Tunde Kuboy
He said the ‘Oyinbo, where you dey go’ is “repeated three times and before the answer, ‘Na Peoples Hotel for Ajegunle.’
The discussants also debated on the choice of the cover of his book which is a picture of old Oshodi, featuring Molue buses, which is almost going into extinct. Lolade Adewuyi, of Lagoscityphotos. blogspot.com, explained that the book’s publishers contacted him for photographs and it was from the collection that the image was selected. He however opined that he would have preferred it if the publishers use a picture of the Lagos Marina skyline on the back cover as front cover photo as it was more contemporary.
Whiteman’s book was launched at the La Scala Restaurant, MUSON Centre, Lagos on Wednesday.