Monday, January 5, 2015

Lagos: City of Hustlers, City of Dreams

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!! DING DING DING!!!

So, as we roll into this new fabulous year, I'm thinking of better ways to improve my profile... nyeh! Not really but hey... sounds good on the Resolution Sheet.

Anyway, I'll try to blog more often. I bet every slacking blogger says this. But wo, my own... eez condition that use toh make crayfish bend oh jere.

I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year holiday? Well, I did. It was sooooo chilled out and I ate like food was going out of fashion. Nobody told me to carry my trainers and enter road... biko... I don't wanna 'add'. lol Honestly that expression cracks me up... 'ahn ahn... you've added oh!' Added what? Awon mathematicians!

Anywayzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz today's blog post is something I wrote for my non-fiction class last year. We were asked to write a psychogeographic piece about a place we're familiar with. So, I wrote about Lagos. I woulda written about Ilorin but... nyeh.. I think I have spent more time -- cumulatively in Lagos than out of it. plus I was born there. Hehehe. Lagosian by Origin. Ogbomoshoan by Heritage. Of which my progenitors are even confused as to where they're from sef. Some say my Grandpa migrated from Ilorin to Ogbomosho. My own is... which state is giving bigger Bursary? I coulda claimed Niger State. In Law School northern states were paying big time... Oyo State only gave us 50k. I don't know why my papa didn't just stay in that his born and bred Niger State. We for dey claim home town - Kagara - by now.

Hey... see how I have digressed!

Oya let me paste the Lagos article. I hope you enjoy it. Please read, share and leave a comment. Yes, this is a new year of blogging...I gast be doing what other serious bloggers are doing na.

Ngwa byeeeeee

Oh and yes, I want to start coming out of the comborduu small small ... so maybe I will start putting my picture on the internet *shudders* okay maybe not now.

In the meantime... manage my Cheerios and M&Ms
To imagine that I can write comprehensively about Lagos is to assume a certain arrogance which is uncharacteristic of me so I won’t attempt to do that. What I hope to do with this piece is to give you but a tiny glimpse into the city of my birth – a place I call home.  It is fondly referred to as Eko Akete – Ilu ogbon (translated to mean, Lagos, the city of wisdom); or Las Gidi by young people (The origin of this word is rumoured to be from the American city, Las Vegas. It is often shortened to ‘Gidi’ – depending on who is speaking).
When you land at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos, the first thing that hits you is the pulse of the city. Your measure of the vibe is one thing that doesn’t change, irrespective of the time of day you arrive. If you land at night, the view from the sky is a large sprawling sea of darkness with little specks of light from buildings – in no particular symmetry.  Nigerians refer to it as the scourge of NEPA. NEPA is an acronym for the Nigerian Electric Power Authority; or in less formal circles, Never Expect Power Always. The battle with random power cuts is a protracted one in Nigeria. It has formed the basis of many election campaign promises; and with every new regime or political dispensation, visitors to Nigeria are welcomed by the absence of consistent power supply.
Lagos State sits on the edge of the Atlantic on the west coast of the amazing continent of Africa. It is this special location that made Lagos commercially attractive during the colonial era. The sea and air ports therefore made it a magnetic hot pot for Nigerians from every corner. Lagos is the city of dreams; it is where Nigerians from all over Nigeria come for hope of a better life. Lagos is the city of firsts! Either with new music or a new fashion fad, residents of Lagos are always in the know.
Lagos was also the political capital of the country until the mid 90s when the seat of power was moved to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. There is very little evidence of the Federal government’s operation in Lagos, but there are various liason offices at key locations because old habits die hard. People expect to come to Lagos and get things done.
With respect to property in Lagos, the houses are made of stone, blocks, sand, and cement. An aerial view of the old developments will reveal brown corrugated roofs, but as you go on to the newer developments, you see more modern red roofing sheets.  Presently, Lagos does not boast of having any specific town planning. Areas designated as residential by the colonial masters have all become industrialized; houses, schools and churches have sprung up in the last 20 years in areas that were designated to house businesses and government offices.
Loosely divided by a 10KM bridge built in the 90s, under the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Lagos has its ‘Mainland’ and the ‘Island’. On the Mainland, we have Ikeja, the State capital. The local and international airports are situated in Ikeja. Ikeja is also home to Governor’s office.
There’s not one unifying style of buildings, as houses of all shapes and sizes spring up on that side of the Lagoon. It is rumored that real estate is cheaper on the Mainland. However, that is debatable as rent in the old Government Reserved Areas is just as high as on the Island. The valuation of property in that area runs into hundreds of millions of Naira. Personally, I believe that Ikeja GRA is the home of ‘Old Money’, while areas like Lekki and Ajah are the being touted as the place to be for the upwardly mobile young professionals – New Money.
As with other parts of Nigeria stricken by the plague of bad leadership, there has been very little infrastructural development in Lagos.  However, it is notable that with the commencement of the current governor’s administration, poles with street names were installed, and lights were fixed on major highways within the State.
Public transportation in Lagos was traditionally via black and yellow buses locally referred to as ‘Danfos’. With the new government came the introduction of a better mass transit system called the Bus Rapid Transport or ‘BRT’ as we Lagosians call it.  The colours of the busses were an indication of the route they plied and they had specific bus stops – this was a welcome development from what we had when the Danfos ran free without any form of regulation or restraint - not to mention conductors dangling from open doors. Speaking about transportation in Lagos will be incomplete without the mention of commercial motor bikes locally called “Okada”. Residents of Lagos are heavily reliant on these bikes because they run routes that are not catered to by the ineffective bus service. They also are a welcome respite from the heavy traffic jam situation that is characteristic of Lagos. If you have an important meeting to get to in Lagos, you have to be open to the idea of getting out of the comfort of your air conditioned car, into the hot sunny afternoon and getting an Okada to take you to your destination. They’re guaranteed to get you there faster than your car or a taxi. The State government is trying very hard to eliminate these bike riders, however, in the absence of an alternative; Okadas are in Lagos to stay. 
One important aspect of the history of Lagos is the hub of the slave trade in Badagry.  Badagry is a quaint little town very close to the border of Nigeria and Benin Republique. Badagry is the home of the slave museum. Relics of the horrific slave trade that took place in the 1900s remain till today – shackles and cages where people were kept pending their transport.  A lot of Lagosians who live there now have Portuguese and Brazilian heritage, as their ancestors were returned from slavery in Brazil. They now have Portuguese names and eat Portuguese food. This is an area of Lagos called the Brazilian quarters.
On the Lagos mainland, we have a certain group called the Ilaje people. They live in houses built on stilts by the bay of Makoko. The Makoko is a site of heavy pollution as the people live, feed and defecate in the stretch of water. The residents of Makoko get about in canoes and from an early age, their children are taught to fish and fend to for themselves within the constraints of this water. {You might find the BBC Welcome to Lagos Documentary interesting}
Many of the young professionals in Lagos, who can’t afford the steep rent on the Island live on the Lagos Mainland and commute to the Island for work. The Island is also home to the rich and vibrant social life of Lagos. It is commonly said that “There’s no party like a Lagos party”.  This is very true. Our love of the champagne fizz as well as our loud music is well known.
Although Lagos Island is home to one of the oldest cathedrals in West Africa, it is also home to the future. The architectural advancements are quite daring especially given the below par infrastructural development. Real estate on the coast of Lagos is valued at hundreds of thousands of Dollars with more and more foreign investment being pumped into the development of the skyline of the Lagos Island coast. Yachts litter the coast of the Lagos Lagoon as well as speed boats for affluent Lagosians – as will be seen in any coastal city.
With the completion of the Eko Atlantic City – the proposed business capital of Africa – Lagos is set to be the Go-To place for business in the next decade.
The streets are narrow, and where they are wide enough to give access to dual carriage of cars, there is often double parking and street trading. Street trading is an essential part of the geography of the city. It is right there along with the incessant traffic congestion.  Someone is always selling something. It is called The Lagos Hustle. If you’re not careful in Lagos, someone will sell the air you’re breathing to you. There’s a running joke that you can buy anything, from pots and pans, to fruits and vegetables, on the streets of Lagos.

Being able to navigate the roads of Lagos is a skill one learns from having lived there for decades. It comes from knowing how to avoid the thick bottleneck traffic as well as the pickpockets.  Sometimes, life in Lagos can get really hectic; from spending hours in traffic, to not being able to find a restaurant with good customer service. However, whenever, I get away from it and think I really need a break from it all, I find myself wondering why everything else is so slow. I wonder why I have to go a long distance to find someone who is proficient in repairing phones or even a good hair dresser who knows what style is in and hip. The pulse is unmistakable, it is a lifestyle.  It is in the air and it says “You Snooze, You Lose!”

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