|Busy Lagos Market.
Image: Financial Times
I moved to Lagos in January, 2016, to take a certificate course in Film Directing at Royal Arts Academy. This was a big move for me because I had never lived anywhere but the Northern part of the country and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to acclimatize to the culture shock of the new town. Plus, I had heard so many things about Lagos that convinced me that Éko is not for me. Long story short, the stories are true!
My first two weeks in Lagos were uneventful as I spent most of my time at my friend’s house. I would go days without seeing the sun and I was quite content with that life.
When it was time to finally start school, I knew that my life was about to change. I was tossed into the typical Lagos drama and four months down the road, I think that living in Lagos is toxic!
Here is why I have come to this conclusion;
1. LAGOS IS OVER POPULATED!
I cannot count how many times I had panic attacks being surrounded by so many people! Like, where the hell were these people coming from?! The worse experience for me was when I went to Balogun Market and was almost swamped! While my chest was heaving in pains, my darling friend – Shade Opeyemi – told me that the market was basically empty at that time and that if I had gone there a little earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to move. Well, thank God yeah? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
2. TRAFFIC IS HELL!
As a result of the overpopulation mentioned above, you can imagine the number of vehicles on the road at any given time.
School was at Surulere and I lived at Mangoro. I had to go to Ikeja every morning to catch a bus to Ojuelegba. The traffic from Mangoro Junction to Ikeja can get pretty crazy; depending on when you leave the house. The traffic from Palm Groove to Ojuelegba was also another issue! On a good day, it would take me about an hour to get to school. On a bad day, which was about half the time, I would be on the road for 3 hours!
The return home was not much different. Bus drivers would pass through Mushin and then Ikeja Along towards Iyana Ipaja. The traffic around Mushin can be hell and worse around Ikeja Along.
As a result, I usually leave the house around 7am for my 9am class and would usually get home around 8pm if I leave school at exactly closing time; 4pm.
This made me so tired when I finally got home that I was too tired to be productive!
3. TRANSPORT FARE IS JUST WICKED!
Until I came to Lagos, I had never paid more than ₦100 bus fare for one trip within the town. Here, I pay ₦200 bus fare from Ikeja to Ojuelegba and ₦150 okada fare from Ojuelegba to Ajao road, Surulere. I pay ₦250 from Ojuelegba to Mangoro when returning home. When there is fuel, that is the standard price. Since the fuel crisis began, I have been paying ₦300 from Ikeja to Ojuelegba and trust me, it burns!
The cheapest fare is ₦50 and it is for shortest distance possible.
Before coming to Lagos, the highest I had paid for bus transport was ₦300 for a Kaduna to Samaru, Zaria trip and anybody who knows that trip knows that Samaru is quite some distance away. So imagine what it means to pay similar fees for a much shorter distance!
4. EVERYONE IS ONE WORD AWAY FROM A BLOWOUT!
Bus drivers or conductors are always ready to fight. Agberos too! Passengers would fight each other or fight conductors at the slightest provocation. Conductors will fight agberos over how much money they should pay to the local government. The conductors will even fight passengers who don’t hop off the bus quickly.
One night, I got to a bus and sat sideways. The driver started shouting, ‘If you know say you no wan go, drop for my bus.’ I tried to explain to him that I was not going all the way to Iyana Ipaja so I needed to sit closer to him to let him know where I would alight. He continued shouting until I came down from the bus. I stood by the door so it would fill up and I could take the last seat. Next thing I know, I was surrounded by agberos telling me to either move away or enter the bus. I was scared for my life so I just entered the bus to avoid stories that touch.
I kept asking what it was I did wrong until someone in the bus told me not to take it to heart; that they were high. I will tell you more about this experience a little later in the post.
5. THE STREETS STINK!
Now Lagosians, this is not an insult. Every town has its smell depending on how open it is, the number of people in it, the activities of its inhabitants and how many vehicles are there.
Lagos is a variation of smells! And most times, not so pleasant. This could be a result of the class of each area, the open gutters or moving LAWMA trucks. Ajegunle had a smell that gagged me when I crossed the pond leading to Apapa. When I visited Snake Island (Itu-Agan), the entire water way stank! It didn’t come as a surprise to perceive the smell because I could see waste been flushed into the water and at the Apapa port where we took boats, people could be seen peeing and pooing in the water. Yeah….ewwww!
The only places that didn’t have that sharp, nauseating smell were mostly on the Island, parts of Ikeja and Surulere.
6. MOST PEOPLE WANT TO CHEAT YOU!
My friend took me to do my hair under the Ikeja Bridge. I wanted to plait the ‘kinky’ hairdo. As soon as we dropped from the car, we were swamped by women asking if we wanted to plait our hair. My friend chose one lady, did the haggling and we prepared to do my hair. She told us she would get the attachment for us, telling me it was ₦900 for each one. I gave her ₦2000 because I wanted two. She went away for close to 45 minutes and returned, lamenting that she had to trek very far to get the attachment. She swore by God that they cost ₦1000 each. I believed her. The next time I went to do my hair, I had a similar experience; albeit with another woman.
One day, my friend came home looking angry. She told me that the attachment were ₦700 each! I was shocked! So in addition to the exorbitant bills I was charged for the plaiting, the women still had the guts to cheat me?! I went there a third time but to a different person. Before going to the shop, I looked around for where to buy my own attachment. Turns out the hair shops were just adjacent the salons I had visited. You can imagine the stink look I gave the women who had braided my hair the first two times. That was when I swore to never do my hair under that Ikeja Bridge again!
In another instance, I went from Ikeja under the bridge to Shoprite and paid ₦100; as everyone else did. When I was returning to Ikeja under bridge, I gave the conductor ₦200 for Shade and myself. The guy kept quiet until Shade shouted that the fare was ₦50. The guy returned my ₦100 nonchalantly like he wasn’t just wrong. I just shook my head and sighed.
7. THE PICKPOCKETS ARE LIT!
I was hanging out with a friend, her fiancé and her brother when I received a call. When I was done, I remember distinctly keeping my phone in the side pocket of my bag. Next thing, I started looking for my phone. We searched for this phone and even got the waiters to help us search. The phone was gone. All this happened while we sat at a table waiting for our order of fresh fish pepper soup.
We called my number and had our hopes up when the phone was picked and the person asked us to come get it. That was the last time the person picked the call.
Till today, I don’t know how that phone was taken. I cannot explain it at all!
8. THE BEGGARS ARE….ARE THEY EVEN BEGGARS?
I was in a bus when this clean guy came and spoke in English, asking that we help him with transport as someone had just stolen his wallet. My heart tugged and I took out money and gave him. Some of the other passengers gave me this queer look but I kept my I-don’t-care-what-you-think mug up. I felt satisfied that I had helped someone who was in a dire circumstance. Well… I was satisfied until the next day when I saw same guy at the same park with the same line. I was shocked! Dude scammed me!
If you see him at the Ojuelegba Park, don’t be fooled; DUDE IS A CRIMINAL!
You see people like that almost everywhere; Costain, Ikeja, Agege, Maryland or any major bus park. Some are well dressed, some not so much. The common thing between them is that they have a well-rehearsed sob story, a pity-inspiring demeanor and the easy use of the ‘Aunty, help me’ line. Ha!
9. LANDLORDS AND HOUSE AGENTS ARE CRIMINALS!
Not only is rent very expensive, the other charges are just wicked! A friend paid for a house in Ikeja worth ₦380,000. When she was done paying service charges, she had spent ₦600,000. In the North, I know that agent fees are 10% of the rent and in some cases, you can get away with less than that but in Lagos, to get house na wire!
I know that there are cheaper house around Ketu and Ikorodu but if you work in town, you will be spending the exact same amount of money on transport.
These are examples of some what I have personally had to deal with and this is what it is doing to me;
a. I am almost always tired from dealing with all the traffic stress;
b. I have tried to maintain my calm and not fight anybody but I am gradually losing that ability. Back to my story about the driver who wanted me off his bus. When we set off, he kept mumbling until we got to my stop. I told him I wanted to get off the bus. He didn’t answer. I said it again. Same response. I told him the third time. He started shouting, ‘this no be your bedroom oh! Open your mouth talk!’ I lost any decorum left and shouted right back at him. When he saw that I could be as mad as he was, he quietly parked his bus and I alighted. The general rule here is that being a quiet person means you are a fool and trust me, I cannot be no fool to these crazy people and I definitely don’t want to become the stereotypical angry black woman to get by every day;
c. I am gradually losing my sensitivity and empathy. When a beggar walks towards me, I don’t even wait anymore to hear whatever it is the person is saying. The other day, I saw a fatal accident where the victim was torn apart. I was shocked that I didn’t throw up or feel giddy. There seem to be one accident or the other happening in this town. And when I see people fighting or arguing, I just ‘face my front’ and continue what I am doing. In Lagos, just respect yourself and mind your own business;
d. I have never been more depressed. People with less passion (it seems) are making more money and I keep wondering how I can foot my basic needs talk more of wants. I met some people who reminded me that I can be rich if I just forget my principles and believe me, nothing is more depressing than putting in lots of work and not getting the reward you know you deserve.
But in spite of all the problems one can associate with living in Lagos, it is one of the best towns to live in Nigeria. There are as many opportunities as there are problems and it might be back breaking work but the chances of really making money or fame or whatever it is you are looking for is greatly improved. You have to realize however that you will deal with a lot to achieve what you want.
Is Lagos a town I want to live in for a long duration of time? I will wait and see.