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This is Lagos

Updated on February 5, 2011
Lagos na wa: everyday hustle and bustle, the struggle continues...
Lagos na wa: everyday hustle and bustle, the struggle continues...


It does not matter where you have gone or been in Nigeria. As long as you haven’t been to Lagos, you have gone nowhere! It is a nationwide concept and somehow, a generally well-known fact in Nigeria.

This is Lagos! Oh yes, this is Lagos!

When I mention Lagos or when people mention it, I am always confused because I know that the word Lagos is often construed to mean both Lagos as a city and as one of the 36 states in Nigeria. So please don’t be confused, just understand Lagos as you wish because I know you will still get the photo…

Sometimes, I have even come to view the city/state as a country on its own and I know I am not alone in this thought because Lagos has got what it takes to become a complete country on its own in terms of infrastructural development and the ever-growing large population, come to think of it, the true population of Lagos alone far much outnumbers that of many African countries…but that will be another story for another day.

A first time visitor to Lagos will surely be surprised. Many questions will flood your mind when you behold this part of Nigeria. If you have never lived in a place where there are not so many people, then your first question when you behold the large number of people and vehicles will be like “where do all these people come from and where do they sleep at night?”. That’s the idea.

If you are on a first visit to this wonderful place, there is certainly one thing you must observe: the energy in Lagos. It is so obvious. You see it on the people moving about in the course of their daily business of lives. You feel in the uncountable numbers of vehicles that are always on motion. You feel it in the air too. Everybody is always on the move here. The watchword is here hurry!

A first time visitor is also going to be faced with some form of confusion. It happened to me. I have never seen such a city where you will be automatically assumed to know everything even though you don’t even know the name of the street where you are. It’s like nobody cares which language you speak, where you are coming from, whether you understand the Yoruba that is popularly spoken there, simply put you are OYO: On- Your-Own! Before you arrive in Lagos, most likely, you must have been briefed about the importance of NOT asking many questions. This is the first source of the confusion I mentioned. Why?

Of course, because you expose yourself to a certain high level of risk by doing so. Why?

Of course, that is the easiest way to identify yourself as a JJC: a Johnny-Just-Come…which is just another Nigerian slang meaning that you are a newcomer who knows next to nothing about the place he/she is. The risk here is that you may easily fall into the waiting traps set by numerous personae non gratae you will surely find littered all over in Lagos! So your first lesson/observation is “mind how you ask questions concerning your whereabouts in Lagos.” It almost happened to me.

The popular Lagos Yellow Buses( A common sight): You should have a ride in one of them
The popular Lagos Yellow Buses( A common sight): You should have a ride in one of them

Trust is an issue here…a very big issue as a matter of fact! You shouldn’t be surprised if you ask the person next to you about one thing or the other and the person clam up without even giving you any look as a way of acknowledging that you are speaking to him/her. Don’t be shocked or offended. It is because of fear of the unknown. After all, this is get the idea?

Then you feel the massive bustling business activities going on. The vehicles on the road are so many contributing their daily share of air and noise pollutions to the environment. You will see the BRT buses which have their own special lanes carved out for them for easy transportation aimed at tackling congestion on the road. You will see the commercial cyclists popularly called okada menon their motorbikes plying their daily trade. You will also see the conductors of the yellow commuter buses popularly known as molue used for transporting people from one location to another struggle to outdo each other in their shouting matches and struggle for passengers. You hear them call out the names of their various destinations but a confused first timer like me will always be confounded because you will find it so difficult to connect the names they are calling with your actual destination. Not that I could change that though! It just one of those things.

The various big markets scattered all over Lagos is another thing worth beholding! I had the opportunity to visit the so called “computer village” in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos State! There, you will find lots and lots of electronic gadgets ranging from mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers and computer spare parts on display for sale. It is often argued that electronic gadgets you cannot find for purchase in this computer village, you cannot find anywhere else in the whole Nigeria! Nothing tells you about the huge volume of economic activities going on in this city more than the number of various banks you will observe. In fact, all the banks in Nigeria have their headquarters in Lagos!

Lagos is often viewed as the land of several opportunities for every Nigerian who has got the mind and will to hustle! Lagos as a whole is the market. A city that is populated by many job seekers, numerous small and medium scale business men and women, investors, estate managers, stock brokers, construction companies, bankers, entrepreneurs, many laborers and of course, many civil servants and not forgetting criminals though, is sure to be land of opportunities!

Then I went to Oshodi.

This town can be said to be the interconnecting link in Lagos from where you can easily get buses to any other destination to any other part of Lagos you really want to visit. I was alarmed by the number of people I saw on the cross-over pedestrian bridge there. “My God! Where are all these coming from and where are they heading to?” I was also flabbergasted by the number of traders and shops around. My companion told me that this population of people I was seeing at the moment is nothing compared to what it used to be before the current governor Raji Fashola descended on that area to restore some sense of dignity as well as sanity in that particular busy area. According to my companion, free movement of people used to be as difficult as anything you can imagine but their governor has come to their rescue by ordering the destruction of certain structures which are also responsible for the congestion of people around that area in Oshodi.

I think one obvious problem with this congestion of people as I quickly noticed is the dirtiness and the stench which was constantly oozing out from the open gutters on the streets. I was wondering how people survive the obvious health risks they expose themselves to by living so close to such ugly sights and under such abhorring living conditions but it seemed like the people there just don’t give a damn!

Before I left, I also had the opportunity to visit some other places in Lagos such as Yaba, Berger, Ojuelegba, Surulere, Ijesha  and everywhere you go, you still get the same feeling: the energy, the large number of people and vehicles on the road, the hurry-hurry lifestyle, the constant dirt, the obvious disorganization, plenty mosques and churches, the loud noises, the ever bustling business activities and of course the constant reminder of trust issues forcing you to always be on your guard simply because you never can who is who.

On my way back, I looked up again and I saw that same green signpost, placed high above the road again, which says “THIS IS LAGOS” and I tell myself this is so true.

That simple statement is just like an important announcement, a news flash, a celebration, and yet an obvious warning all rolled into one!


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