Daily Mail

Palin’s legendary charm is pushed to the limit by the chaos of Lagos

- CHRISTOPHE­R STEVENS Michael Palin In Nigeria (Ch5)

Who would win a fight between a crocodile and a Python? Michael Palin wasn ’ t sticking around to find out, at a festival in Nigeria.

Standing in a colourful crowd watching men running knives over their bare skin in an ecstatic frenzy, the Monty Python veteran turned to see a young chap with a croc slung over one shoulder.

The reptile’s mouth was tied shut. ‘It’s taped up, it’s not going to bite me,’ Michael shouted over the din. Then the man undid the knot. ‘oh, it is going to bite me . . .’

In fact, the animal was let loose in the square, where it charged around pursuing the festivalgo­ers. Clearly, the West African magic that prevents knife blades from drawing blood was not proof against crocodile teeth.

This attraction to the bizarre and lurid has always been what sets aside a Palin travelogue from the usual escapades of a come - dian abroad. he has always been drawn to the surreal, and Michael Palin In Nigeria is no different.

on an empty beach in Lagos, he perused a placard proclaimlo­cal

ing the local bylaws: no fighting, no stealing and no weapons . . . nothing odd about that.

A speed limit was imposed on horses of 10km an hour , or about 6mph. Drones were dis - couraged, as was the smoking of Indian hemp. And there was strictly ‘no homosexual­ism (gay or lesbianism)’.

‘I mean,’ he marvelled with a mischievou­s grin, ‘ how can you enjoy yourself here?’ P erhaps that’s why the place was deserted.

It must be the only spot in Lagos that isn ’t heaving with people. Already Africa ’s biggest city, it is predicted to be the most densely populated in the world by 2099, with a projected 88 million inhabitant­s.

Currently there are more than 16 million, 60 per cent of them aged 25 or under — and 70 per cent of them living in slums.

Sir Michael toured one of the illegal settlement­s, a floating suburb called Makoko, where most residents have no electric - ity. his guide was the son of a chieftain with two wives and 34 other children.

he was surrounded by throngs of people jostling , pointing and yelling, ‘oyinbo!’ (which means, ‘White man!’ — or, literally translated, ‘Peeled skin!’). The P alin charm is legendary but even his patience was starting to fray ... and that was before heflew to the war-torn north of the country.

‘Lagos is not for the faintheart­ed,’ he declared. ‘It ’s like having 3,000 volts put through you. The people are very welcoming, but you can tell that things aren’t working perhaps as well as they should.’

This is prime Palin understate­ment. What he meant was, ‘Good God! It’s sheer chaos.’

he did meet the daughter of Nigerian superstar F ela K uti, who is still revered almost as a god nearly 30 years after his death from AIDS in 1997.

Michael admired a video of Fela on stage in his prime, dancing half-naked. ‘In the 1970s,’ he sighed, ‘I only took my shirt off for medical examinatio­ns.’

WAG OF THE WEEK: Alison Hammond was settling into her role as successor to the late Paul O’Grady on For The Love Of Dogs (ITV1). A gentle brown spaniel reminded her of a Disney mutt, she said — and added, ‘Hold on! If she’s Lady, what does that make me? A tramp?’

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