When you see Kaye Whiteman, you will understand what it means to age gracefully. He was 77 on March 9, yet strong and feels 20 years at heart.
Though a Briton, Kaye is one man that is white in colour but black at heart. Of course, he has the right to call himself a ‘Lagos Boy’ because he knows Lagos more than many Nigerians born and bred in the ever-busy city. His consistent delivery of quality articles on his back page column in BusinessDay Newspaper endeared him to many fans. The column has over time become a reference point and platform for the discussion of socio-economic development issues in Lagos.
His passion for the African continent and the black race dates back to 1964 when he first visited Nigeria. “In 1964, I flew in from Kano onboard a British Overseas Airways as it was then. They had to stop in Kano but they couldn’t do local flights to Lagos. So, I went through Kano, Kaduna, and finally to Lagos. So, my impression of Lagos was pretty different. At that time, the lagoon stopped at the Marina,” Whiteman recalled.
He arrived as a journalist with the West Africa magazine, began writing for Daily Times, and has continued since then with BusinessDay Newspaper. That singular visit made him fall in love with Nigeria and ever since then, he has made Lagos his second home as he has not stopped visiting the country.
Explaining further on his early experience in Lagos, Kaye noted: “A lot of people took me around to different places. I went to the parliament. I heard debating on the press bill. I went to the Island Club, which was then a booming place where all the social elite were there. I went to nightclubs. Above all, the focal point of where I was, the Daily Times, which was then the biggest newspaper. They were the people who really showed me around. There was the editor, Peter Enahoro. I had one friend called Tunde Animashaun. He also took me to Ibadan. It was a remarkable city. I enjoyed it.”
Then, he was everywhere from the remotes slums of Ajegunle to the rich neighbourhood of Ikoyi meeting every Nigerian he came across on a personal level. He enjoyed the self-introduction to the city because it made him more inquisitive and adventurous. That paid off with his great wealth of knowledge of Nigeria, particularly Lagos, to the level of speaking and being consulted on issues bordering on Lagos and Africa at large.
His vast knowledge of Lagos is what probably inspired the writing of his recent book Lagos: A Cultural and Historical Companion”, a 230-page book that recalls Lagos in the past, explores its present development amidst challenges, and mirrors into its beautiful future that is far from a mere dream. “Yes, Lagos must work,” he insists.
The book seems to be the best birthday gift for the Briton while its launch at MUSON Centre was a welcome party for him. All his friends were around to celebrate the one and only ‘Lagos Boy’ to the city he has always loved to live in.
At the book launch, Frank Aigbogun, publisher of BusinessDay, a very dear friend of Whiteman’s, did not hide his respect for the vast knowledge of Lagos shown by a man he described as a distinguished journalist who has found home in Africa.
“Whiteman is not tied to Nigeria simply because of journalism; he loves Nigeria. His love for Nigeria and Africa is beyond what he writes in his column. He knows Lagos more than I do. Even when he relocated to the UK, he still finds time to come to Nigeria,” Aigbogun said, maintaining that the author, whose works have brought tremendous value to Nigeria, has also been the most consistent columnist with BusinessDay spanning over a decade.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola and the people of the state will ever remain grateful to Whiteman who chose to write objectively about Lagos there are many negative literatures out there trying to undermine the efforts at developing the state.
For Kaye Whiteman to feature on the ArtHouse Forum, a day after his book launch, at Freedom Park Lagos means those he mentored through the years and through his regular column have grown to appreciate him.
Marva, his wife of 50 years, was in Lagos with him to see how much her husband is loved by Lagosians. Her only regret, however, may be that she did not sojourn so long in Lagos to feel the city the way her husband did.
For the Whiteman, Lagos has changed so much in the last few years. That is to confirm Governor Fashola’s ‘Eko oni baje’. “So who’s writing the next book on Lagos?” Whitman asked rhetorically in his closing remarks at the ArtHouse Forum.
Kaye Whiteman autographing a copy of his book