By Adeola Aderounmu.
I lived in Festac Town from 1977 to 2002. I attended Central Primary School, 5th Avenue and later Festac Grammar School, 41 Road. From 1978 to 1989, I had my primary and secondary education in this once beautiful village called Festac Town. Festac Town is now a rotten place. Like everyother thing in Nigeria, it was not maintained!
There is a lot of history behind festac and there is a lot that can be highlighted regarding the rise and fall of Festac Town. One thing that struck me recently is the local and international reputation of Festac Town as a 419 town.
In 2006, I was driving in my 1986 Honda Civic along the streets of Festac with some friends and they were quick to point out that I didn’t get stopped by the police because of the number plate of my car. How is that, I queried? They told me that if my car plate number was FST and if the car looked very new, the police would have stopped me on the suspicion that I was a 419 perpetrator. FST as I came to know was the preference for the “yahoo boys” to show that they live in Festac Town.
Actually, I had seen images of Festac Town and yahoo boys on the internet in connection to a TV programme that ran on ABC television in the US. So, in a way, getting on ground in Festac myself and having life confirmation from my friends was not absolutely shocking.
I realized before I travelled to Europe in 2002 that while I’d spent many years studying at the University of Lagos and labouring afterwards as a humble teacher to lead a normal life, many young people around me were taking the fast lane. Many young boys and girls did unthinkable things to acquire wealth. 419 was the non-violent part of these unthinkable things.
I will not dwell so much on 419 because it is a dubious process that involves 2 or more parties. The greediest member of this party is the man or woman (not in Nigeria) who wants to reap where he/she had not sown. 419 is a fraud made famous not by Nigerians but by their greedy preys abroad.
In a recent radio programme that I stumbled on in Sweden, they are running a series on Lagos. The next programme will be on 30th June 2007 and they will talk more about Lagos. They have described Lagos as the most dangerous city in the world and Festac Town as the headquarters for 419 activities. Lagos is an issue on its own and the okada and the crazy transport system in Lagos really needs to be treated. I don’t know if Lagos is the most dangerous city in the world. I told my wife that maybe it is New York or Johannesburg-places I haven’t been to!
419 is not a good thing but it has solved the problems of many unemployed graduates!!! It may have disrupted the future of many youth as well. I know a boy who dropped out of University to concentrate on 419 activities but I heard he is really broke now.
The underlying issue really is that the government in Nigeria has neglected the issue of state welfarism and many Nigerians just devised whatever desperate means of survival that they can pull together. In a society where corruption is tolerated and the public servants enriched themselves to the detriment of the society at large, what do you expect? People have resolved to self help and then, anything goes.
Imagine the ongoing case of the former police boss. Wherever the case terminates will not be the issue, the crux of the matter is that the entire system called Nigeria needs a cleansing. What about the out-gone thieves called senators and legislators who bought houses that belong to the government of Nigeria? How did they have so much money in 4 years? Did they save all of their salaries? Didn’t they spend that on something to keep life going? Where will the new and in coming thieves live?
Festac is my base and I feel so defenseless on this 419 issue because I know it is true. But what has the local, state or federal government done in the last 20 years for example to prepare for the future of this generation of internet rats? What have they done or what are they still doing other than stealing, looting and gallivanting like nonentities?
May the Glory of Nigeria come, soon!
This short story was published in the Guardian June 20, 2007.