By Pelu Awofeso
— Rosemary (@RMAjayi) November 24, 2016
Yes, I have written this piece in response to a nudging by my friend a couple of days back (see tweet above). So here goes…
We are all feeling the pinch—Nigeria is facing one of its harshest economic realities in decades. The Naira has weakened significantly against the dollar. Earlier in the year, the federal government raised the pump price of petrol by some 60%. To cope with the tough times, Nigerians across all economic divides cut down their day to day spending to what they considered most essential for survival; many frequent flyers and holidaymakers have cut down on overseas trips, others who don’t travel that often have narrowed down leisure pursuits.
So with the Christmas holiday season almost upon us, many families are already wondering and planning for where and how they’ll entertain themselves, have plenty fun time and still not bore too deep a hole in their pockets.
Here are my recommendations for what to do and where to go in a recession.
Hint: In many of these places on my list, you get to pay as little as N200 per head as access fee. In some places, gates are free.
Nature calls: Lagos prides itself as the “State of Aquatic Splendour”. While it hasn’t maximized the commercial and leisure opportunities of that natural resource, it has done slightly better with establishing and managing nature parks and gardens around the state. You can visit any one of them (free entry) with friends and family; roll out the mats, unpack your picnic box and listen to music from your smart phones.
At Ndubuisi Kanu Park (Alausa), for example, kids have a dedicated play area with bouncing castles, garden swings and all; there is also a mini ice-skating ring (N1, 000 per half-hour session). Adults have options of sit-outs and several garden chairs scattered about. You can bring your own food and drinks or buy from the vendors in the park. It closes at 6pm.
Freedom Park (Broad Street, Hospital Bus Stop) has become the go-to destination for many individuals who love art, live music and a bit of history (It was formerly a colonial prison and slave holding cell before it was re-designed to what it is now). With an entry fee of N200/ head, you and your family enter a rich world that combines elements that can make a day out worth all the trouble.
There is a food court that serves everything from pounded yam and vegetable and Sharwama to Asun and smoothies. Take in the surroundings: roam the large compound to enjoy the calming atmosphere of the pond while being educated by the culturally-themed life-size sculptures representing tribes across Nigeria. On top of these, there are multiple stages for plays, concerts and poetry performances.
The Family Park (Lekki-Epe Expressway) is one of Lagos’ best kept secrets. Built by the Lagos State government in 2014, it was created to complement the Lekki Conservation Centre, which sits on 78 hectares of preserved rain forest vegetation. Far removed from the vehicular noise on the highway, the park comes with two fish ponds, a beach volleyball court, life-size floor games (Snake & Ladder; Chess; Ludo, etc), vast savanna-like vegetation perfect for picnicking, gazebos and huts which can sit between four and 60 persons and a barbecue spot. If you are in the mood for some adventure, you can take on the Jungle-Gym facility.
Adults pay N1000 and teenagers N200 as entry fee, which covers a tour of the LCC with a guide; an added thrill is walking across the recently installed canopy walkway (only persons older than 14 are allowed and cost N1, 000 extra). At 401km, it is said to be the longest of its kind in Africa.
The LUFASI Nature Park (KM 41 Lekki-Epe Expressway), an animal sanctuary, ecotourism and educational centre situated just a short drive from the Lekki Conservation Centre. Entry is also same as the LCC. Here kids have a bigger playground plus football pitch, while also having rare opportunities to learn about wildlife and endangered species (Donkeys, horses, etc). My favourite spots include the fern garden, Ekki Forest, the green restaurant area and Lake Nora.
Go Gallery hopping. The art scene in Lagos is more vibrant than it has ever been. It appears that no month passes nowadays without an exhibition opening in Lagos. In the last few years new galleries have opened, bringing a certain verve to the artistic climate of the Centre of Excellence. Begin your galleries’ hop at Nike Art Centre (Lekki 3rd Roundabout), a visual delight of four floors. On a good day, the founder likes to dresses visitors in traditional costumes and accessories for fun photo shoots, topped off later with a serving of tea, fruits or drinks inside the Centre’s small but comfy bar—all free.
From there, head to see the Revolving Art Incubator (newly launched art, meeting and work space inside the Silverbird Galleria); Art 12 (inside Eko Hotels and Suites), which currently has a photographic exhibition on. Then move on to Omenka Gallery, Rele Gallery and Mydrim Gallery. Quintessence (Park View, Ikoyi) offers art, crafts and souvenirs, while you can also relax over tea at its café.
Don’t miss the Museums: My top recommendations will be CBAAC Museum (Broad Street), which showcases several objects from dozens of countries which participated in FESTAC 77. The Kalakuta Museum (Ikeja) is worth a visit, if only to see Fela’s colourful collection of shirts and shoes and round off the tour with a drink at the terrace bar (great view too).
Films for free. Courtesy of the Lagos @ 50 celebrations committee, Lagosians will be treated to a weekly feast of films on and about Lagos State. To be curated by ace filmmaker Tunde Kelani, the films will be sourced from archives, producers and organisations.
The first film to screen is Gidi Blues, scheduled for 5th December. Other films on the roster include: Faaji Agba, Maami; Relentless; Lagos: Notes of a City; Head Gone; Maroko; and Fifty, to mention just some. Location: Freedom Park.
To be continued…