Living in Lagos not for the faint-hearted
Lagos is the Centre of Excellence.The sixth most densely populated city in the world. Although Lagos is the smallest state in the Nigerian federation by land mass, it is home to over 20 million people. Lagos is best described as a bachelor in his prime who gives as much as he takes; who never sleeps and is ready for action at any point in time.
Even with help from family and friends, relocating from a sleepy city like Onitsha to a city like Lagos —the commercial capital and entertainment hub of Nigeria —with its fast-paced lifestyle, is a big deal.
Moving to Lagos is, in most cases, usually motivated by the hunger and yearning for better living standards and the prospects of hitting it big, especially in the entertainment industry. It is well known that the majority of Nigerian actors are Lagos-based because of the limitless opportunities the city offers for the advancement of their careers. Graduates from various fields troop to Lagos immediately after graduation and the mandatory one-year youth service in search of jobs in lofty firms with a fat paycheck. Also, people fleeing the terror meted out by insurgents in the war-ravaged northern parts of the country often seek refuge in Lagos.
As the economic and commercial capital, most businesses and products are first introduced in Lagos markets and once these products are accepted in Lagos, they spread to other parts of the country like wild fire during harmattan.
In the face of all of these lofty quests, a lot of people (myself inclusive) planning on moving to Lagos are unprepared for the myriad of difficulties faced by the average Lagos resident.
Because of the density of population, the traffic gridlocks in Lagos are overwhelming in their viciousness. Coming into Lagos by bus, we got stuck in my first ever traffic congestion that lasted more than twenty minutes. Apparently, one of the long trails of churches along the Lagos Ibadan expressway was holding its annual convention. I was not prepared for the swearing and heated exchanges among frustrated drivers. For one full hour we were at the exact same spot. With buses and heavy-duty vehicles side by side, passengers were fighting for air and the sun was relentless. I developed an intense dislike for the city I was going to make my new home right then.
Sometimes, the cause of these gridlocks is not known and the long line of cars just stays still while hawkers with various edibles descend upon almost despondent passengers. After some months on Lagos roads, I observed that the width of the roads contributes to the traffic situation. People set up make-shift shops along the road. With pedestrians and buses hustling for the little space left for movement, coupled with the bad state of the roads, it is almost impossible to avoid traffic congestion.
The nonstop blaring of horns by heavy-duty vehicles, the constant shouts and screams from people going about their daily engagements, the loud music from parties, the general haste in doing things all heighten the effect of a mumbo-jumbo society culminating in an abundance of noise pollution.
One has to be strong and smart in Lagos. The slightest sign of weakness and one becomes a prey. I had my “baptism” when my purse was snatched in broad daylight and people carried on like it were nothing. It apparently was.
I noticed a constant sense of urgency in Lagos. Because of the need to succeed mixed with tenacity, people have adopted ways to make the most of their circumstances and get the best results out of their limited resources. So most people start their day as early as 4am, in order to beat the traffic and get to their various places of work on time.
Lagos is not only about noise and traffic though; there are ample entertaining spots and sporting facilities all around town. I visited the National Stadium at Surulere with a friend on a chilly Saturday morning in late November and I was stunned by the massive display of strength and talent, especially by the different dance troupes. The energy was so palpable that one could easily reach out and grab it.
I also attended The Experience, an annual Christian praise explosion event organised by House on the Rock Church presided by Pastor Paul Adefarasin at the Tafawa Balewa square. Notable gospel artists from around the World gathered to render praises unto God along with the eager mammoth crowd. Dignitaries including the immediate past Governor of Lagos state, Akinwunmi Ambode, and the Lagos PDP gubernatorial candidate Jimi Agbaje, were in attendance. People turned out in great numbers and being agoraphobic, I had to quickly leave even before the event ended, regrettably cutting short my experience of The Experience.
Aside the difficulties in navigating Lagos and the high cost of living, the city is relatively safe as opposed to other cities especially in many other parts of the country. Lagos nurtures as much as it neglects and one can say that the challenges Lagos pose are not altogether insurmountable by the strong and willing.
Olive wrote from Lagos.
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