First things first, Lagos is not a bed of roses. You may have Nigerian friends who have told you stories about extravagant nightclubs and cruising on motor boats to privately owned beaches. They aren’t lying, I have often enjoyed such luxuries myself. But that’s the Lagos that makes people forget about the rest of Lagos, the confounded, bizarre Lagos that growls at dawn and prays at dusk.
This Lagos, which I also love, seems ecologically speaking, to be an equally measured amalgam of rubbish, water, cement and tropical vegetation all flowing into each other.
Its infrastructure is often a disharmonious patchwork; some places use traffic lights, others don’t; some roads have lanes, others don’t; many suburbs share only in common that they have sprung up from the swamps, for example the deprived Makoko and the affluent Lekki.
Lagos in Portuguese means lakes; and as lakes do, the streams of the city shift. A dumping ground today can be a playground tomorrow. Or a goat market. Or a church!
The problem, for it is a major problem, is disorder. You cannot create order from a disordered frame of mind. And a mind, which is stuck between worlds and times, as ours collectively are, cannot know order.
The (uncomfortable) truth is that urban city life is “un-African” to the extent that modernity is. Modern urban cities need reliable governance to function, they need a state that will allocate its citizens each their plot of order.
The solution is to embrace the disruption, in a spade-is-a-spade kind of way and start visualizing a modern Lagos that isn’t a caricature of a western city but an authentically African hub suitable for African culture/s. A modern Pan African mega city. Ah, paradise. . . The difference, is similar to that between a wife who pretends to believe her cheating husband’s lies for the sake of stability and the one who truly believes him. Or something such.
Visit Lagos if yours is a mindset that is not interested in facades, even though you do get an abundance of those here; from mansions built of marble to bars where a $1000 dollar weave tag is the norm, the jagged edges of Lagos will stab you right in the third eye and make you wiser and wittier if you allow it. This is the type of truth you should come here to see. The ‘don’t teach me nonsense’ truth as Fela said. If you want to lie on an exotic beach and imagine that the world is a rosy paradise, and hey sometimes that’s a necessary blessing, then don’t come to Lagos.
Come to Lagos only if you want to experience the taste of postcolonial African urban living. If you want a feel of what looks to be the worlds 3rd largest city in 3 years. If you want to know a city that has made vast contributions to globalisation since the 15th century. A city that seethes of art and creativity. A city where you can every moment taste potential, a taste simultaneously sweet as a mango and bitter as ale.
That’s the reality of post-colonial, cosmopolitan urban life in Africa’s major cities. You are bound to find opulence smack dub in the middle of a slum. Now the main challenge becomes navigating the chaos.
Lovely post! I have never ever been interested in Lagos or any major city in Africa. I want to see what the villages/towns/ have to offer. I believe that there is a sleeping beauty in even the most remote areas.
Great post! There is something addictive about Lagos that keeps drawing people back – I think there is a freedom in the chaos that is maddening and exhilarating at the same time!
As I read your blog, I am frowning because I think you fail to capture the essence of Lagos. The unexplainable non stop bustle that has me frustrated while am in Lagos but also keeps me coming back like an addict when I am away from her for long.
But then I hate the pretentiousness that you talk about, people living in fools paradise and pretending that their motor boats are afloat on the clean waters of the Caribbean as opposed to the sewage filled waters of “Las Gidi”.
Thanks for sharing!
Adura Ojo says
I can certainly see the Lagos that you speak of. It’s the dichotomy that gets me too. That gap between the rich and the poor is too much for me to stomach. And that’s one of the reasons that I don’t currently live in Nigeria. Lagos has a vibrant heart that also bleeds.
Any time I visit your blog, I do spend time reading many of your posts. Great blog!
Egoyibo Okoro says
Lagos is an amalgam of the exotic, the annoying, and the dirty, but it is also a place for people who want to grow: grow wiser and stronger.
It can be exasperating; it can be stressful; but it is always always fun. And that's exactly what I tell people who marvel at my love for the disordered city of Lagos.
Eko oni baje o!
Indeed! Eko oni baje o!