Nostalgia for the Spirit of Lagos Campaign

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Recently there have been comments in the mainstream media and social media about the need for the return of the Spirit of Lagos campaign. A former THISDAY staff, Mr Azuka Onwuka, in an opinion article recently published in The Punch, entitled: “What happened to the Spirit of Lagos?” elicited reactions from various quarters.

In the article, he asked what happened to the campaign which was already making inroads into the psyche of Lagosians. He noted that as the golden jubilee anniversary of Lagos draws near (May 2017), now is the appropriate time to bring back the campaign by the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration, so as to galvanise Lagosians into changing their thinking about Lagos, taking ownership of the state and working towards making it better by taking simple actions that coagulate into huge mass.

While it was in operation, the Spirit of Lagos campaign, whose central message was “Change your Thinking,” ran adverts and commercials which spoke to the conscience of Lagosians to do the right thing rather than doing things because others were also doing them. For example, there was a TV commercial that showed a woman who had swept her house and was about to throw the refuse into the street, but her inner mind told her not to do so; she listened and dropped the refuse in a trashcan. Another one showed a man wanting to dash across an expressway, but his conscience spoke to him and directed him to take the pedestrian bridge.

The campaign also countered the assumption that Lagosians don’t care about others. For example, the campaign showed testimonial of a physically challenged person who shared his experience of how Lagosians rescued him at his hour of need. The campaign showed that Lagosians actually run to help total strangers at times of emergency or even in simple matters like helping an elderly person or children cross the road, or calling the emergency number when a neighbour’s house is under attack.

One exciting and engaging aspect of the campaign was the Spirit of Lagos Song Contest. It was meant to make the youth to imbibe the message through music. Youths were challenged not only to compose a good song for Lagos but also to sing it. The campaign sought to tap into the creativity of the youths as well as their interest in music as a way of expressing themselves as well as a longing for participation in a worthwhile cause. Participants were directed to tap into the potential of Lagos, especially on the four areas of social justice, citizenship, civic responsibility and good neighbourliness, and develop a compelling song that would become the theme song for the Spirit of Lagos.

Many entries were received. Then a panel of respected music judges pruned down the entries to the best five. The last five songs were posted online for public voting. Mr Amadin Samuel Ihegie emerged the winner. His song was later professionally produced. It was played live at the 2014 Citizens Day event by the composer, backed by known and well established musicians.

These were some of the activities that were carried out by the Spirit of Lagos project to change the way Lagosians think about Lagos and inspire them to play their part in building a new Lagos.

Most times, leaders seek to fight problems from the top by tackling big issues. But it is cheaper and more effective solving little problems that eventually lead to the bigger problems getting solved or becoming easier to solve. Therefore, the effectiveness of how little things can make a big difference cannot be over-emphasized. This was captured through the broken windows theory, an academic theory proposed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982 that used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within neighbourhoods. Encyclopaedia Britannica explains that the theory links disorder and incivility within a community to subsequent occurrences of serious crime.

Author of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, did extensive research on how little things can make a big difference also using the broken windows theory. His words: “Wilson and Kelling argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.”

If people notice that people cross highways without any penalty, that they can drop refuse on the road without any penalty, that they can urinate on the roadside without any consequence, it creates a sense that nobody is in charge, and purse snatchers are emboldened to act. This spreads to other bigger crimes. But when the people and the government work hand in hand to ensure that there is order in society, the people feel safer, happier, and more willing to support the programmes government has lined up to lift the state higher.

By the actions he has taken so far in less than one year in office, the government of Ambode is doing well in revitalising Lagos. But bringing back a campaign like the Spirit of Lagos will even make him achieve more results.