There is hardly a day that passes by without me seeing a new impressive product, service or initiative started by another hard working and enterprising Nigerian. In the recent past, I have paid more attention specifically to people creating original Nigerian content that tells true stories of the reality around being a Nigerian, and can be consumed by the rest of the world through the internet. This is not isolated to articles, or traditional rich media (audio and video), but interesting things like video and/or photo documentaries that complement unique stories about the realities of a Nigerian both home and in diaspora, applications that attempt to solve our unique societal problems and other ways through which the Nigerian story can be told using technology. That leads me to our subject.
You’re probably familiar with Humans of New York, the fantastic and highly successful photographic project that tells the story of regular New Yorkers going about their day-to-day. It is a concept that has inspired other photographers and storytellers to launch similar projects in their own hometowns and countries, which is a positive development, especially from the perspective of enabling empathy. One of the people who was inspired by this project to create something similar for the city of Lagos was Tochi Ani.
Tochi is a photographer and web developer who is currently also a student of the University of Lagos, Yaba. He started the Humans of Lagos project inspired by HONY, in order to capture and tell the stories of regular Lagosians going about their days as usual in Lagos, one of the most populous cities in Africa. Reading the newspapers, it is easy to start thinking of Nigeria and a cesspool of internet scammers, poverty, hunger, environmental problems stemming from the oil industry and extremist insurgency. However, in Lagos, the largest city in Africa with over 17 million (yes, 17 million) people, A project like this enables me see Lagos again through the eyes I did when I lived there over 7 years ago.
The Humans of Lagos project gives insight into life in Lagos, and the stories of people who don’t end up in the news. You should take a look at their Instagram profile and their website. Below are snippets from their Instagram profile that I particularly liked.
"I'm taking time off work to relax with this financial help book a friend gifted me. I made that decision to become more aware and careful of my expenses when I started work 15 years ago. It was challenging in the beginning; learning to say no, delayed gratification, not buying things on impulse and other tough decisions but looking back now, it's the best decision I've ever made. Many people don't know the key to success is been financially disciplined. Most Nigerians are waiting for a windfall of sort, people need to realize becoming rich is a gradual process and you don't have to wait till you hit millions first, no amount is too small to invest on something. If you don't manage the small money you have well then there is no difference between you and those who don't have at all."
"I think it's pride that stops so many people from getting rich, lots of people don't want to get their hands dirty and work or the fear of what people will say stops them from doing things that will better their life. It's even in the Bible that pride goes before a fall. During my school days, I survived by packing sand from gutters whenever it rains and sold them from that I went into diving. I would go to Onne and join the stockfish divers. It wasn't an easy job but I was making my money and payed my way through school from that. If I didn't get my hand dirty and did these things, I wouldn't have been where I am today.
"I nearly quit my job when I first started, then I thought to myself; If I get my married and have kids, is this how I'm going to abandon them if they misbehave or stress me? Teaching kids is not easy, they almost drove me crazy in the beginning but now I can't imagine myself doing something else, I've had opportunities but I just can't imagine not been around these kids. They've taught me so many things; how to be patient, forgiving easily, you might see two kids fight this minute and the next minute they are laughing and playing. They are also very sensitive and sometimes behave like adults, like when my relationship ended and I was going through a difficult time, I don't know how some of them noticed I wasn't my usual self then came to ask me why I'm not happy, played with my hair and did funny things to cheer me up"
"It took me 6 years after my first degree to discover myself and what I really wanted to do with my life. In that 6 years I was trying my hand on different things but never found fulfillment in any of them till the day I dropped my kids off at school then spent the entire day helping and talking to the pupils in the school. Nobody sent me to do it but it made me happy and I knew that was it. The next step for me was to get a degree in Psychology education. The people around me did not understand why I would abandon my first degree in chemistry for that but I found fulfillment in mentoring and helping kids and that's all that mattered to me."
"She reminds me of my younger self, there are some things she does and I immediately remember doing them exactly like that when I was her age like how she always says 'let us pray' when we are together that was my thing as a child and she got that among many other things from me. it's just like I'm reliving my childhood through her. For her school's end of the term party, I dressed her in the same dress I wore for my traditional marriage. She just finished her presentation and she was outstanding. She is such an intelligent child and I can't wait for her to grow up and take over the world."