What does the ‘Streets’ really mean to its firebrands in the face of Injustice?

This is a wake-up call to demand more from your faves #OtodoGbame

After hearing what happened to inhabitants of Otodo-Gbame, a slummy fishing settlement outside Lekki last week, I began to wonder what happened to artists who have claimed to be speaking for the gritty streets.

A few decades ago, Fela would have been the contact point for addressing issues like this. No one will also forget the incursion of African China, Stereo Man and Ortishfemi amongst others in the violence rife Tinubu-era of the early noughties. These were artists who lived through the turmoil and poverty of the ghetto-life and thus became authentic voices for a lasting struggle. The purpose of their cause is still ever so evident in injustices like the demolition of Otodo-Gbame.

But as it would appear, the new generation neither has amplifiers for the common man’s struggle nor revolutionaries who are ready to damn the consequences and rage against the system.

Over the past year, Otodo Gbame has become the latest target in Lagos’s state’s forced urbanisation campaign to turn waterfront communities into real estate gold. The Lagos state government initially denied any involvement in the destruction of properties in the waterfront community. But authorities from the state reportedly returned to demolish the few homes that survived the first wave of attack earlier in the year. This comes after a court order, demanding Governor Ambode call off the plan to evacuate settlers from the ancestral community.

Lagos has quite a notorious history of slum demolitions. About 200,000 people were displaced from Lagos Island in the 50’s as part of a “beautification” scheme. Some might even remember the state-sponsored eviction in Maroko, one of Lagos’ most visible and iconic slums. They were visited with untold hardship and agony so that their land could be cleared for the erection of expensive new mansions and luxury apartments from the rubble of their homes. Similarly, the residents of Otodo Gbame are being violated of their basic rights.

This wide scale injustice should be a convenient time for artists who are so quick to make claims about their street credibility to prove they really care about Lagos and Lagosians. The continuing silence of Nigeria’s celebrity class however, has only shown how disconnected they are from the common man’s problems. In a fair world YBNL boss, Olamide who has been a beneficent of the state government’s support and perhaps has the ears of the state government, would be a championing voice on the Otodo Gbame tragedy. Yet, the days are counting, the hashtags are leaving social media and the headlines are slowly fading from the front-pages without not so much as a social media comment being made.

Agreed, we’re not supposed to place artists on a righteous pedestal, but basic human decency demands more from the same people who have profited off the sensibilities of ‘streets’ like Otodo Gbame. It’s time we start demanding better from our faves, especially when they are no where to be found when push comes shove.

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