Photographic memoir from 2017 Lagos Biennial, an art exhibition where young and vibrant artists from different parts of the world converge to display their various mind-blowing artistic creativities. The exhibition holds in collaboration with Legacy Museum, Nigerian Railway Compound, Ebute Metta, beginning yesterday and continuing till 22nd November, 2017. Artists from Rwanda, Ghana, Portugal, US, Kenya, South Africa and many others came with their unique works of art that can richly be appreciated when the artists take you through the ideologies and thoughts behind them.
I am, in material particular, so elated and impressed that Legacy Museum and Lagos Biennial 2017 could, through art
exhibition attract such unprecedented human presence to the belly
of Nigerian Railway that now is nothing else but a lamentable dung of abandonment and symbol of Nigeria's monumental and
unpardonable cruelty to itself.
Apart from the art exhibition that primarily attracted the teeming art enthusiasts and collectors to the 119-year-old public enterprise, the deafening silence and the excruciatingly dysfunctional state of Nigeria's oldest parastatal as typified by its vast but moribund assets that lie in every inch of space earn the attention and candid lamentation of the gathering.
Nigerian Railway, older than Nigeria by 16 years, whose internally generated revenues were used to birth other national parastatals like Electric Corporation of Nigeria ECN ( now unbundled and sold as GenCos and DisCos) and Nigeria National Shipping Lines NNSL (now metamorphosed to NPA, NIMASA and the like) to mention a few, declared its last and concluding profits in 1964 and just before the Nigerian Army began to arrogate political governance to itself through such inglorious escapades of military coups which started in 1966. Since then, Nigeria as a nation and Railway in particular have been seized in the jugular and conscripted into the rank of failed projects.
From then on, Railway has journeyed through thick forest of vales and hills and what now remains of it is the carcass within which the art exhibition holds. As questions are thrown at the artists and all very perfectly answered, questions wanting to know how Nigeria could climb out of its abyss of backwardness, economic paralysis and decadence without a functional railway are also asked. No artist, not even me a railway man of almost 20 years standing, attempts any of the questions on the ruins in Railway.
Before the entire Nigerian Railway is, once a pride of the nation and treasured inheritance from the selfish and crafty British colonialists, stripped of its remaining riches and shared by the vultures we have as our politicians and ruling executhieves who, only in 2013, grabbed the Power sector and sold it to themselves and cronies, I so wish the Nigerian people and concerned opinion leaders can insist on transparent and extremely honest concession of the sleeping epicentre of our wobbling transport economy.
The hasty drag into concession has begun on Nigerian Railway to a private monopoly whose comparative advantage and proficiency is never in railway operation. A date has been fixed for take over. The government has not deemed it sacrosanct and honourable to address some evolving questions that, like art, will catalyse our humanity and society into egalitarianism.
As we wait wailing on the government to do justice, I share in the sentiment of rationality to endorse the art as an instructive instrument through which our thoughts and yearnings can be furnaced and inspired for the continued integration, growth and development of our society just as effective and efficient railway will do!
By Comrade Segun Esan