Disclaimer: The encounters may not be so great but Lagos is a great place. This post is not to bash Lagos and its people but simply to share some encounters I’ve had in Lagos especially as a sort of newbie.
NYSC was definitely an interesting year for me and the first time that I can say I truly experienced Lagos. I properly experienced Lagos transportation, dealt with agberos/area boys and went to the market randomly. From that year alone, I have a lot of stories.
The first time I can recall boarding a bus in Lagos was when I was in secondary school. It was either the time I begged my aunt because I really wanted to experience it or the time the car we had then broke down close to my aunt’s house. It was definitely different from the red buses I was used but it wasn’t bad.
During my law school externship, I was still acting bouji spending a lot more on taxis than necessary when I could have taken two short bus rides, two or three roundabouts to the law firm I was attached to. My uncle, who I was staying with during that period later told me that he used to laugh at me wasting money on cabs instead of the bus. It’s not as if my aunt and cousins hadn’t tried to tell me. When it was time for NYSC, it was either get a lift or embrace Lagos transport. I didn’t live near anyone going in my direction and lifts aren’t always as straightforward, which I learnt the hard way. Being A JJC (Johnny Just Come – newbie), I had to learn how to navigate Lagos properly, however, the JJC was still rearing its ugly head. I was the loud person on the bus; or the person who slept on the bus leaving my laptop and belongings exposed; or the person who held their Samsung out on the bus reading Stelladimokokorkus’ blog without a care in the world.
The funny thing about moving around in Lagos was the issue of how I as acting. That was a concern of my aunt. “Be careful of how you move about! You think you are still in London.”. Lagos gave me a thick skin and I was not afraid of anything (at least not most of the time). In fact, I got too comfortable at times. Market traders would tug at my clothes and I would use my best Matrix moves to swerve them. People (mostly men, if not all) would insult me and I would be ready with a reply or someone would try to cheat me and I would stand my ground. I thought I would list four of my Lagos encounters. Some may not have been funny at the time and one was really serious but I can look back at them and laugh.
1. The Burning Bus
I wrote about what happened to me when I was on a bus that caught fire here. I was on my way home from work on a rickety bus that caught fire when the driver was struggling with another driver for right of way. When other passengers were planning their escape, I was too busy reading Stelladimokokorkus with my phone in my face as usual. By the time I had realised, some people were already off the bus. Luckily the person at the end had already broken the window and I was the third person to climb out. But before I did that, I made sure to launch my laptop, bag and other property out of the window. I made it out with one shoe. Luckily, the other one was returned. I can look back on it and laugh but my dad can’t.
I don’t mean President Buhari’s type of change but the change you’re meant to get from the conductor. I once paid 500 Naira for a bus ride. It’s not like it was from Ajah to Iyana Ipaja. It was short. Surulere to CMS short. The conductor and driver drove off with my money after I had gotten off at the last stop. I was confused for a few seconds but I laughed after. What could I do?
3. Computer Village
Computer village is an area in Lagos where all types of electronics are sold and things can be fixed. I went there to fix my phone screen which wasn’t completely necessary but I wanted a clear screen. The single lined crack was messing with me watching the shows that I had downloaded. A former colleague had told me about a cheaper alternative which he had taken to fix his phone so I decided to do the same. The cheaper alternative ended up costing 33,000 Naira when it cost, at the time, 25,000 Naira to fix it properly. That’s a different story entirely.
Something else happened while I was there. I was walking to pick up my phone and as usual, market traders were grabbing. I hate this. I get why they do it but I hate people being in my personal space. The responses I’ve gotten from swerving or telling people to leave me alone have included:
“Will someone not marry you one day?”
“Are you gold?”
“You are stupid!”
Every. Single. Time. I responded. In all of these situations, it was men and regardless of this, I responded. I was (and still am) of the mentality that no one should touch you another person without their consent especially as a female being grabbed by men in a market. I mastered the art of swerving but the way that markets are set up with the crowd, it’s not always possible. The irritation that I got from being grabbed dulled the tiny thought I had at the back of my mind that one of them could knock my lights out. A man in Lagos may look slim but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a mean punch. My mouth can run but I can’t fight. I’m not so good at running either.
So, there I was walking through computer village and I was grabbed. I turned and snapped “Get off me!”. I continued walking. Unfortunately, an agbero decided to take panadol for someone else’s headache (made someone’s problem his own) and thinking I was talking about him, followed me for a few seconds while shouting. I turned and stood looking at him as he was coming towards me. On the outside, I was fearless and strong. On the inside, my heart was beating like a drum at carnival. It was like a scene from one of the popular tv shows where everything moves in slow motion and you can hear the heartbeat, boom boom… boom boom. I did tell him I wasn’t talking to him. He was nice about it and calmed down immediately, luckily for me. I could have left at that point but the JJC in me took it further and said he should apologise, which he did and I accepted.
The typical person won’t bother apologising. It’s basically, chop your insult (take the insult) and walk away. The apology will come like a cold day in hell.
4. The time my phone was borrowed…
…without my consent and wasn’t returned. Don’t get me wrong, in London people do steal. I was at uni and before a lecture had started, my laptop was stolen. Luckily, I got it back the next day. On this occasion, I had finished work and was waiting for a bus. I think it was during the time of fuel scarcity and around a month after I had spent a lot to fix my phone screen.
I was waiting for a bus and eventually one came along. As usual everyone was rushing to get on. There was a person who was invading my personal space. At the time, I thought it was just the usual rugby scrum for a seat not knowing that someone had seen me put my phone in my pocket and had pretended to rush for the bus in order not to arouse suspicion. The thief actually got on the bus and got off.
By the time I had realised my phone was stolen, the guy had disappeared. I went to speak to a nearby police woman/traffic warden and they told me to go to the police station. I actually asked how far the police station was before I realised, it would be useless and they wouldn’t be able to do much for me.
I have so many stories I can share about life in Lagos that I might share on this blog. I enjoyed living in Lagos, much more than when I stayed in Abuja. Living in Lagos, one will learn a lot of lessons and grow a tougher skin. Overall, the many good experiences I had trumped the bad ones.