In Lagos city, being normal is crazy, in a way. So it is not out of place to witness some cracked up scenes which, in normal climes, it will be out of place but here in our city, we take them as normal occurrences. And boy, we love our Lagos. Lagos is quite a unique place to live in. It is only in Lagos city that you find that things are done in a unique way.
We have our passion for Pomo, that delicious cow skin that is an indispensable part of our meals; at every street corner, you find the woman that roasts Boli, (plantain), and groundnut, the street fast food that does a lot service for hustling guys; every street has two or three beer palour that serves drinks soaked in water coolers that serves as refrigerators; not to talk of the accompanying pepper soups with all kinds of imaginable delicacies ranging from cat fish to cow tail, goat meat, bush meat and, wait for this, snake meat! Yes, I have seen that!
If you live a clime where power cuts are things unheard of, then better stay back, do not come to our Lagos. We celebrate power cuts here and we love it. It is only in Lagos that whenever electricity is restored, after two weeks, you hear shouts of ‘Up NEPA’. In our Lagos, we have a special fondness for our music and God save you if you dare complain that your neighbour is blaring his music at a decimal that is out of this world, even at 2 am. The answer you will get is: “Go and buy your own.”
Know it that Lagos never sleeps as you will still hear the sounds of the road all night. If it is not a night party in the next street, the kings of the road, those ubiquitous trucks, are making their journeys and the sounds coming from their engines can be deafening.
There is a clear class distinction here in Lagos where the high ups, the rich aristocrats, the captains of industries and the ‘smart’ business guys live in Lekki, Victoria Garden City, Ikoyi, Victoria Island and other high brow areas on the Island while the middle class, the struggling relics, the motor cyclists, the traders and the low class people compete for any available spaces in Ajegunle, Agege, Iyana-Ipaja and Surulere.
But despite all of these, we are still crazy about our Lagos and these are the reasons…
1. Danfo Drivers: In Lagos, the fear of the Danfo bus driver is the beginning of wisdom. They are the kings of the road and in every situation, they are always right. They have the right of way, so you do not argue with them. The average Lagos bus driver is always in a hurry and woe betide you if you stand in their way. They drive against traffic, take ‘one way’ and clime road medians at will. On the expressways, they are lords and masters of the road, cutting in and out of traffic as much as they want. You are always the one at fault when they ram into your car and be prepared for their caustic tongues if they perceive you are not getting out of their ways fast enough.
2. Conductors: Following on the heels of the Danfo drivers are their conductors. A typical Lagos bus conductor is uneducated, violence-prone, abusive, dirty and unkempt. But what he lack in finesse, he makes up for it in vulgarity. The first thing you notice about him is that he has a very strong, thick and coarse voice! Oh yes, that is what makes you know you are in Lagos. Your business must have a voice. Characteristically, a Lagos bus conductor has at least a missing tooth. The tooth could have been lost to street fights, some other kind of violence or police brutality. A Lagos bus conductor reminds you of Jet Li as he hangs firmly to the door of his Molue or Danfo bus. He doesn’t tolerate nonsense and he is ready to punch Mike Tyson and Muhammed Ali at the slightest provocation. Let me quickly warn here; if your fare isn’t complete, please inform a Lagos bus conductor before you hop into his bus, otherwise you may have the devil to pay. A Lagos bus conductor doesn’t have the latest version of the English dictionary in his house, but he knows the latest slang to hit the street. And let me warn you again; don’t try to engage a Lagos bus conductor in a drinking competition because he drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney. His liquor is a mixture that you cannot fathom its chemistry.
3. Officers: In Lagos, anyone in a uniform is an officers – it does not matter the colour or make of the uniform. They come with different names like LASTMA, KAI, VIO, Yellow Fever, Police, Army, Prison Warders, Man O’War, National Union, and Private Security. Just name them, they are called officers. The thing they have in common is that they ‘have’ the right to hitch a ride at any time without paying the fare. They can also make an arrest if they see you crossing the road, taking a leak, talking along the streets or even making a phone call. Ah, the officers are so powerful that they are now lords and if you dare them, Alausa is large enough for you.
4. Traffic Jams: If you are a visitor to Lagos, you may find the traffic jams irritable but for us Lagosians, we can’t do without them on a daily basis. For you, it is madness but for us, we love them. In Lagos, be prepared for long winding queues when you visit this city of diverse population. So, what’s special about Lagos traffic? It is just that we have come to be part of it and we actually look forward to it. Our drivers simply do not know how to obey simple traffic rules. The Danfo drivers we mentioned earlier love the traffic so much because that is the time they will show their driving skills, driving ‘one way’ against oncoming vehicles. Once there is a queue for any reason, they change lane and start driving against traffic. The longer the jam, the wilder they become.
5. Street Trading: In Lagos, street trading has come to stay no matter the efforts of the state government to curb it. But why would they want to stop it in the first place? Many career people depend on the street traders for their shopping as they are too busy to go to the conventional market. In Lagos, you can buy everything you need for your pot of soup in traffic. In fact, you can even buy your household items in traffic. This makes Lagos fun for us.
6. Owambe Parties: There is no party like a Lagos party, sang musician, Banky W. We Lagosians love parties and no weekend is complete without an Owambe party. The streets are closed, with a musician on the bandstand blaring loud music with the party goers dancing the night away. Dressed in ‘Aso-Ebi’ of different make and sizes, the Lagos party forms the crazy excitement of the city. Recently, the Lagos State governor said Lagosians spend as much as N130 billion for parties every month but the beauty of the Owambe party is that jobless young men can go to the party and eat to their belly’s satisfaction, waiting for the next weekend to come.
7. Clubbing: Clubbing in Lagos is one of the most enjoyed activities by many. With many night clubs dotting the streets of the city, it is a shame, a crime in fact, if you allow the weekend to pass you by without going to a club. Some even club during weekdays anyway. At such clubs, especially on the Lagos Island, you have ‘oppressors’ who make sure you are impressed with their champagne popping, big cars, shisha smoking, beautiful babes and their bling. But what can a poor guy do? You just have to inhale their smoke and feel good. It is crazy but we love it.
8. Agberos: I am sure you will wonder who are the ‘agberos’ and why we enjoy their activities. Well, as a way of explanation, an agbero is a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, popularly called Up ‘Nasanal’. They are a law unto themselves, operating at the motor parks and bus stops. Their job is to collect money from commercial motorists at the motor parks and bus stops but they have taken the toll collection to another dimension as they actually extort money under duress. Woe betides a stubborn driver or conductor who refuse to pay up and they will be rough handled or their vehicles vandalized. Armed with clubs, sticks and whips, they batter commercial bus drivers and conductors who hesitate to pay all manner of levies and dues which come under different sub-heads like ‘owo load’, owo olopa (police), ‘owo chairman (pronounced shiaman),’ ‘owo security,’ ‘owo gbadun (enjoyment),’ among several other charges. ‘Owo’ is the Yoruba word for money. The fees range from N50, N100, N200, and sometimes goes up to N500. They smash side mirrors, windscreens, yank off wipers and seats, and remove fuel tank corks, at the slightest provocation and beat up drivers and conductors if they do not pay on demand. It is an enjoyable sight to see them battling with the drivers. It is crazy man but I tell you, a true Lagosian enjoys these sights.
9. Celebrities: In Lagos, celebrities are ten for a kobo. And the funny thing is that many of them are so fake you do not even know where to place them. Just go to any club and see how they live their fake lives. They go to Alaba Market and buy up fake chains and adorn themselves with them, dye their hair to rainbow colours, sag their trousers to knee level and speak with a funny accent which they think is American. But many of them cannot buy a bottle of bear. We know them and we are not afraid to point them out. The few good ones… well, story for another day.
10. Churches: In Lagos city, one thing that stands out is the proliferation of churches. On every street, you can find over ten churches with some having just the pastor and his family as members. On Friday nights, there will be a competition on which church makes the loudest noise during their vigils. On Sundays, it will turn into a conundrum and a cacophony of music from different speakers. Yes, this spirituality is crazy, but we still love our Lagos.
Author: Isaac Dachen. Creative Writer, a professional PR Manager, Brand Manager, Media Manager, and Image/Perception Manager, Script Editor, Content Creator and avid reader.