In this interview with BUKOLA BAKARE, Nollywood actor, Yomi Fash-Lanso, relives fond memories of his trip to Dakar, Senegal
When did you visit Dakar, Senegal, and why did you travel there?
I travelled to Dakar, Senegal, in 2015. We went there to inaugurate the Oodua Progressive Union, Dakar Chapter. It is a social platform for all Yoruba sons and daughters in the Diaspora. We went there in company with the convener, Gani Adams.
What would first-time visitors to the country observe on arrival?
Dakar is very hot and so is Senegal as a whole. If you are not careful, you will suffer from heatwave. I believe the hot weather is what makes inhabitants of the country very dark. Notwithstanding, the people of Senegal are warm and loving. In every country that you visit, we have good and bad people but one doesn’t pray to come across the latter set of people, so you can only wish that your visit would be as memorable as possible. Thankfully, it was fun all the way during my trip to Dakar.
Did you try out their local cuisine?
We ate Nigerian food all through our stay in Dakar because most of the Senegalese dishes lacked spices and you know those of us from Nigeria cannot do without it. We love spices in our meals, especially those of us from the Yoruba race. I love spices, so we had to order food from the Yoruba community there as we couldn’t eat Senagalese food.
Did you experience any culture shock?
Yes, I did. It was my first time in Senegal and I had watched a lot of things about the country on television, so, I wasn’t quite surprised by all that I saw there. What I found most shocking was my visit to Goree Island in Dakar. It is also known as the House of Slaves. The Island used to be the transporting point for slaves and lies off the coast of Senegal.
What were your thoughts when you visited the place?
I don’t want to begin to describe my thoughts but let me put it this way: I read that a white man once said, ‘‘When white people wake up every morning, they should kneel down and thank God that the black man is not thinking the way they are.’’ Why is that? If the black man thinks the way the white man thinks, it would be a different kettle of fish. Black people are very emotional, pardonable and loving. They don’t avenge wrongs as such because they are very accommodating and that is why some of the atrocities that the whites committed against our forefathers, we are not taking it out on them. If anyone visits Goree Island, even if that person is insane, in his state of insanity, he’ll become very emotional. That person will shed tears, no matter how stoic he is. When you see a lot of the relics, history and hear authentic stories about slavery, you will become emotional. Goree Island is an Island in the middle of the sea and it was shark-infested back then so most of the stubborn slaves were thrown into the ocean and sharks fed on them.
How does Senegal compare to Nigeria?
One cannot really compare both countries. In recent times, I don’t know how we found ourselves in this pitiable state. Nigeria is the giant of Africa and it is not by co-incidence, it’s by hard work. If you check the map of Africa and turn it upside down, it is shaped like a gun and Nigeria is like a trigger on the map. Go and check it out; it was Nelson Mandela that gave that insight. Whatever good thing that comes out of Africa starts from Nigeria. Sadly, I don’t know what has happened to us that we’ve now become totally different.
What lessons can Nigeria take away from your trip to Dakar, Senegal?
Of course, there are lessons. One of the things that will blow your mind is the constant electricity supply in Senegal and I don’t know what is happening in Nigeria that we cannot replicate same here. Our policymakers are not thinking in the right direction. My discovery is that Africans are hard-working people and we are not lazy unlike what some people portray us to be out there. We are independent and don’t depend on anyone. However, when you don’t create opportunities and enabling environment for us to work again, what do you think people would do? Let there be constant power supply in Nigeria and you will see things happen. We have a lot of artisans who are ready to work. Yet, we seem to be breeding miscreants because the opportunities are not there. I think our policymakers should wake up and do the right thing.
What’s the best travel advice that you can give?
It always helps to read about any place you plan to visit. Know more about the people and the culture even before you embark on the trip. That way, you won’t be caught off guard when you get there. More importantly, always be security-conscious wherever you go and move in groups, if you are in company with people.