Gangs of Lagos: Nigerians react as Lagos govt frowns at cultural misrepresentation

NIGERIANS on the social media have expressed mixed feelings following the displeasure of the Lagos State Government over perceived ‘cultural misrepresentation’ by the promoters of the ‘Gangs of Lagos’ movie.

The movie which was released on April 7, via Prime Video reportedly ranked in the top 10 categories in more than 30 countries within 24 hours of its release.

Gangs of Lagos, directed by Jade Osiberu, tells the story of three friends, Obalola (Tobi Bakre), Gift (Adesua Etomi-Wellington), and Ify (Chike) who have to join a gang after Obalola’s adoptive father was murdered by a group.

The director used Lagos Island and Eyo masquerade as part of the elements to tell the story.

Other notable Nollywood stars in the movie include: Olarotimi Fakunle, Chioma Chukwuka, Bimbo Ademoye, Iyabo Ojo, Zlatan, Debo “Mr Maraconi” Adedayo, Yhemolee, Pasuma, Toyin Abraham, Tayo Faniran, Damilola Ogunsi, and Funke Williams.

The movie, according to the Lagos State government, purportedly depicted Lagos culture as barbaric, noting that the film portrayed Eyo Masquerade as a gun wielding villain.

A statement signed by the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, said the Ministry, being the regulatory body and custodian of the culture of Lagos State, viewed the film/series as a mockery of the heritage of Lagos.

She further expressed her displeasure with the promoters of the film, Jade Osiberu and Kemi Akindoju, for portraying the Eyo Masquerade as a gun-wielding villain while adorning the full traditional regalia.

The commissioner said: “We are of the opinion that the production of the film ‘The Gang of Lagos’ is very unprofessional and misleading while its content is derogatory of our culture, with the intention to desecrate the revered heritage of the people of Lagos. It is an unjust profiling of a people and culture as being barbaric and nefarious. It depicts a gang of murderers rampaging across the State”.

Akinbile-Yussuf maintained that the Adamu Orisha, popularly known as the Eyo Festival, is rarely observed and only comes up as a traditional rite of passage for Obas, revered Chiefs and eminent Lagosians.

According to her, Eyo Masquerade is equally used as a symbol of honour for remarkable historical events, adding that it signifies a sweeping renewal, a purification ritual to usher in a new beginning, a beckoning of new light and acknowledging the blessings of the ancestors of Lagosians.


Meanwhile, reacting to the development, some Nigerians on the social media have criticized the government’s view of the movie. But others argued that the movie is indeed a misinterpretation of Lagos.

A twitter user, BeksFCB said, “We have seen different Nollywood/Yoruba movies about rituals, heavy witchcraft and charms. You did not frown at all of these but you want to draw the line because they portrayed Isale Eko in GANGS OF LAGOS as a dreaded area in the past. Just look at your priority! Smh!!!”

Another user with Uloma as the profile name, said the content of the statement by the Lagos State Government is just a smokescreen, noting that “their real anger is that certain people were portrayed as drug lords and corrupt elements and that is not good for history”.

“They’re telling us that any art we make that portrays them in bad light will be punished,” she added.

@iSlimfit said the movie carried a disclaimer. “Fiction”.

“Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental. You guys should stop embarrassing yourselves and the entire Nation!”

Ayò-Bànkóle Akíntújoyé wrote: “There are countless movies that portray the US intelligence as corrupt, brutal & fascist – direct opposite of what the US govt wants the world to believe. Heck, there are movies that show the White House attacked & taken down, or Christianity, Judaism, Greek Gods etc as all sorts. It’s creative liberty. Fiction. Govt shouldn’t be policing creative liberty and “cultural representation” in Nollywood when it has buildings collapsing & ravaging corruption & poverty to deal with.

“And what is it with this obsession with “culture” by Lagos state government for Christ’s sake??”

However, a popular musician Ogunmefun Olanrewaju, popularly known as Vector, expressed his displeasure at the ‘misrepresentation’ of Lagos in the movie.

He wrote: “I was born at the Onikan health center, lafiaji, Lagos island and all I have seen during the Eyo festival every time they’re out is, they stop by at ours and prayed wishing prosperity for my family.

“Most of our friends like the Olugbani’s who are direct Eyo Ologede gatekeepers (@hypeengine_mcbalo ) are not gun shooting criminals using culture as a disguise.

“As teenagers, i’ve had friends (underneath the regalia) chase me with the staff (Opambata) because I knew they would take advantage and show me shege lol.

“My idea of what the Bajulaiye is is totally different from murderous criminality.

“Going by what the term gang means, it is disrespectful to define the Eyo in the same light.”

Another twitter user, @LegendaryJoe wrote: “Well, I hope one day our filmmakers will write stories with positive outlook on Lagos and its politics and policies. Or they should weave their stories around Abia, Anambra, Jigawa etc. Appears only Lagos is marketable enough or our film makers are just plain -lazy, there’s a lot to write about Oyo. But I must praise the cast and crew of the movie for it made a near perfect delivery of an action themed movie, to that extent, I stand impressed. But as far as story is concerned, King of Boys appears to have blazed the trail around Lagos.”



    Indigenes petition NFVCB over defamation of Isale Eko, Eyo Masquerade 

    The Isale Eko Descendants’ Union (IDU) have petitioned the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) over alleged defamation of their community and the Eyo Masquerade in the Gangs of Lagos film.

    According to a statement released on Wednesday, April 12, by the Union’s secretary Opeyemi Bakreen, the IDU has requested that the NFVCB withdraw the approval granted to the movie.

    Parts of the statement read: “The Illegal and scandalous depiction of the Eyo Masquerade in the movie is actionable and a petition has been lodged by the IDU with the National Film and Censors Board (NFVCB) including other major stakeholders.

    “The IDU has, among other things, requested that the NFCVB withdraw the approval granted to the movie – Gangs of Lagos and direct the withdrawal of the movie from all viewing channels available to the public. The IDU and other community stakeholders will also be considering legal action for the damage done to the culture, tradition and image of the Isale Eko community and the Eyo Masquerade.”

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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