Gangs Of Lagos: Splendid Movie With Unforgivable Blunders


It is so easy to get carried away by the brilliance, beautiful plot, top notch special effects and the cinematographic excellence of the film Gang of Lagos. I got carried away myself.

But when you consider the historical and cultural import of the film, and the setting in which it was made, the producers did a piss poor job. 

Gangs of Lagos’ depiction of Isale-Eko as an enclave of crime, violence and hotbed of murderous gangs is not only in bad taste but an uneducated attempt at rewriting the history of a people and their culture. Yes, the Eyo Festival which was vilely depicted in the movie as a gang is a proud heritage, of not only Isale-Eko people but the entire Lagos Island people.

The movie got off to a bad start with the monologue by the principal character, who in his attempt to chronicle his life in his own concocted Isale-Eko described the noble Eyo Festival as the first Gang of Lagos. 

Eyo was never a Gang but a congregation of different cultural groups belonging to different traditional chieftaincy houses or Igas (Chieftaincy family palace). Each chieftaincy family in Lagos has its own Eyo group with its distinctive hat (Aga). And Each has its own enclave or Agodo at the premises of the family.

The Eyo Festival otherwise known as the Adamu Orisha Play is a cultural festival with spiritual dimension. The leading 5 Eyo Groups are the Adimu, Okolaba, Oniko, Ologede and Agere Eyos. These Groups are known as the Eyo Orishas (Eyo Deities) and their duties are spiritual in nature as they are charged with spiritual cleansing of Lagos Island.

On the Eve of the Eyo festival they perform some certain rites to consecrate the land. Same applies on the day of the Eyo festival as the deities of Adimu, Oniko and Ologede go around to bless the people, having done some spiritual cleansing of the land.

After the Orisha Groups, there are probably almost 80 Eyo Groups belonging to different chieftaincy and prominent Lagos families, which include the Akarigberes, the Idejos (landowners), the Ogalade and the Agbagbon classes of chiefs.

There are other fancy groups belonging to prominent and chieftaincy families, mostly in the Popo Aguda areas of Lagos, that is, Lafiaji, Okepopo, Ologbowo, and other areas outside of Isale-Eko.

Second blunder: The setting of gang of Lagos is not Isale-Eko

The setting of the film which we were made to understand is Isale-Eko is not actually Isale-Eko. Isale-Eko comprises areas stretching from the Lagoon by Adeniji Adele through the Oba of Lagos’ palace on Iga Idunganran to Reclamation down to Idumagbo. Technically, Isale Eko begins at Adeniji Adele and terminates at Idumagbo. The Idumagbo strip which forms the boundary of Isale-Eko runs from the Adeniji Adele end to Nnamdi Azikiwe Road, bifurcating to Tom Jones, which is not part of Isale-Eko.

The area in which most happenings occurred in Gangs of Lagos, Ricca Street is not in Isale-Eko. Ricca is a popular street in Okepopo in the Popo Aguda area of Lagos Island. Ricca runs through to Odunfa with Joseph, Okepopo, Carrera, and others as adjoining streets.

You cannot from Isale-Eko proper see the skyscrapers of Lagos Island as we saw in the movie. You can only see that from the Popo Aguda areas as seen in the movie. This is the Ehingbeti where modernisation came to meet the aboriginal settlers of Lagos Island.

Third blunder: Poor research and affront to the Akinsiku of Lagos

It is inconceivable that film-makers like Jadesola Osiberu and Kemi Lala-Akindoju would produce a film with a cultural heritage such as Eyo Festival without consulting the custodians of the culture. The most important figure with regards to the Eyo Festival is the Akinsiku of Lagos, the Olori Eyo which is the Chief Mourner, because Eyo masquerade was primarily and spiritually assigned with the responsibility of accompanying the soul of a deceased king to the great beyond.

The Akinsiku should have been consulted and carried along for proper guidance. Even the geographical perspective of Isale-Eko as portrayed in the film is all wrong.

The nobility of the Eyo masquerade

The Eyo masquerade is deemed as a spirit who blesses and wishes everyone who comes in contact with it well, hence the greeting upon meeting an individual is “Moyo fun e, moyo fun arami” meaning “I’m happy for you, I’m happy for myself.

Although the Eyo carries staff (Opambata), it is not intended to injure but to correct those who go against the rules of the festival. Of course, there are always bad eggs in our society who maliciously stretch the rules to satisfy their sadistic yearnings.

To maintain discipline each Eyo masquerade must possess an emblem that identifies the family group to which they belong, for identity and to guide against any criminal act or tendency.

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