Where else would I start with, if not Eko?
I didn’t want to go to Lagos alone on my first time; I’d heard too many horror stories of that city and those tales were all legendary. I’d heard how that place swallowed people whole and didn’t even bother to spit them out. The one chance phenomenon. Kidnappings. Murders.
The kind of armed robbery where thieves held up people at gunpoint during the day; they also had the time to break through entire walls of people’s homes and rob them. Lagos was not for me, I decided.
We travelled by road from Abuja, my friend and I. There was camaraderie amongst the passengers; the only thing that marred the journey was the driver who lied to us. We’d paid for a vehicle that had air conditioning. This man knew that that was a luxury his car hadn’t enjoyed since 1967. But as a person without conscience, he kept quiet and let us pay.
When we boarded, he assured us that the AC would come on as soon as he bought fuel at a filling station down the road. Halfway to Gwagwalada, the car began to stall every five minutes.
“Notin do am,” this old papa driver said. “The problem na small sontin. When we reach Gwagwalada, I go fix am.”
Things went downhill from there as we made other stops along the way. So, let me skip to after we arrived.
I saw people. O my goodness! People everywhere! I’d never seen so many people in one place, in my entire life. Yellow bus after yellow bus regurgitated their passengers and picked up new ones. Yet, more people kept converging at the bus stop. Where were they coming from?
Where were they going to? Did they all live in the city? I just stood there gaping at the constant undulating mass of bodies.
My first impression about that mammoth city? Lagos people are mad!
How else can you explain what happened the morning after I arrived? I boarded a bus with my friend. As the bus trundled along in the early morning traffic, a man sitting across the aisle looked outside the window on the opposite side of the bus and spotted his friend.
Before anyone could say, ‘Otapiapia,’ this man jacknifed out of his seat like a rabbit with an anal itch, screaming his buddy’s name. He then flung himself across the laps of the three people who were sitting on the other side of the aisle. He stuck his head and then his torso outside the window, now yelling greetings at his friend in Yoruba.
“Ba wo ni?”
“Mo wa pa…blah…blah…black sheep….yada yada whatever….”
And while I stared gobsmacked, my mouth ajar, everyone else in the bus acted like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.
Lagos people are angry people! You think I’m lying?
Well, how do you explain the conductor who pushed me off a moving bus? Let me start from the beginning.
It was my second day in Lagos and I was going to spend the day at her workplace. She woke me up by 4 a.m. When I opened my eyes, she was already dressed.
“Nsido? What is it?” I asked in panic, as I tried to wipe off the remnant of slumber which clung to my eyes.
Bola, my friend, gave a long, hearty laugh. “Go and baff, jare. We’re leaving for soon.”
Is this how they used to do, I wondered. I had to rush through my usually leisurely morning toilette. By a few minutes past six o’clock, we were at a bus stop in Festac. A big, yellow bus soon came along and after we piled in, the rusty wood and iron contraption jerked away from the curb in a creaky, tired manner and continued its journey.
Let me skip my shock on realising that the seats were all wooden slats. I will discuss this at length in another episode. The conductor was collecting the fare and giving out change. I handed him my money.
“Conductor, this is for me and my friend. She’s sitting there at the back,” I said, pointing out my friend.
“That one consine you!” he retorted in a deep, gravelly voice.
For a moment, I was taken aback.
Then I thought, perhaps he was speaking to someone else, as I’d done nothing to merit that kind of answer. So, I repeated my previous statement.
“Conductor, it’s for me and that my friend at the back o.”
He gave a long hiss. “Siddon dia dey speak English!”
“Hah!” I exploded. “What have I done to you? Why would you speak to me like that? Is something wrong with you?”
No one else paid us any mind. Once again, I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I tell you, I was so confused. Even the conductor also ignored me.
Once we arrived at my bus stop, I got up and awkwardly made my way past the bodies seated along the packed aisle.
“O wa nah! Do quick quick,” Uncouth Conductor yelled.
But how was I to do quick when I was trying hard not to stab any unheeding foot with my four-inch heels? Why didn’t anyone warn me to wear flat slippers? Besides, the bus had only slowed down
somewhat and people were jumping off like sardines at a waterfall. As soon as I got to the door, the bus began to speed up.
“Driver, wait. I’ve no…..”
I wasn’t prepared for the firm hand in the middle of my back. One second I was staring at the ground that was whizzing by, and the next I was on my hands and knees on that ground. In the mud. Mud filled with all sorts of debris.
I didn’t cry; it’s somebody that was frying onion juice nearby.
Anyway, that was that exact moment my hatred for Lagos was born.
How do people survive in that city?