My return to Lagos
I consider myself a Lagosian. I was born in Lagos. I had a substantial part of my education in Lagos. My wife and all my children were born in Lagos. If the foregoing don’t make me a Lagosian, I wonder what other qualifications I need to possess.
It is only in a country like Nigeria where they still ask for “state of origin” that my claim will still be questioned. My good friend, Prince Sakiru Raji, a complete Awori man, will likely tell me to keep my claim to myself. He is one of those Lagos irredentists who cannot understand that Lagos belongs to all of us.
Now that the so-called non-indigenes have resumed winning elections in Lagos, I want to believe that he will be careful to dismiss my claim. During the last elections, so-called non-indigenes won seats to the House of Representatives and the State House of Assembly. Remember that the Great Zik and several others won elections to the Lagos City Council in the first half of the 20th century.
In spite of my claims, I have been wise enough to have a fallback position. I have over the years become familiar with my village in Delta State. Luckily for me, my father and mother come from the same village. As a result, my energies have been carefully deployed to the families I belong. You will be right if you call me a “local champion”
However, because one still has to earn a living, I have not been able to stay in the village for long stretches. The longest I have stayed in the past 30 years was 10 days at Yuletide last year. The search for the depreciating yet elusive naira has made me work in Lagos, Ibadan, back to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, back to Abuja and now another return to Lagos.
Though I moved out of Lagos in early 2003, I never really considered myself as having left Lagos. I came into Lagos virtually every month – either officially or in my personal capacity. Sometime, I came to Lagos three times in a month.
I still maintain my post office box in Surulere. Most of my original friends still live in Lagos. A huge chunk of my in-laws, including my 91 year-old mother in-law, are all in Lagos. Many of my relations are in Lagos. Prince Raji, are you still contesting that I am a Lagosian?
So, when a few months back I was transferred to Lagos, many of my (Lagos) friends were happy. Happy that I am back into their fold. According to them, I have returned home.
Though I now work in Lagos, I have decided not to fully vacate Abuja. So, I essentially came to Lagos with a suitcase filled with clothes. But I have been spending more weekends in Lagos than I had initially contemplated and my wife has been coming more often than she envisaged. It is all part of the dynamics of a nomadic existence.
Because of the problem of traffic, I decided to live not too far from the office, which is in Victoria Island. Traffic in Lagos is an ordeal. Minimise your exposure to it and you are guaranteed a few more years of living. There was a day I was going home from work and the traffic wardens blocked the first roundabout. They were trying to manage a chaotic situation. Instead of doing a U-turn at the second roundabout and entering Lekki through the main gate, I ventured into the area through the gate at the second roundabout. Using my extremely faded knowledge of Geography, I decided to navigate my way home, hoping to come out at Admiralty Way and then take my right bearings. I was sorely mistaken. After some twists and turns, I found myself at the third roundabout on the expressway!
It was incredible. It was then I understood why and how the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness trying to get the Promised Land. They were obviously moving in circles!
(It was only recently while taking a walk in the neighbourhood with my wife that I realised that I had actually driven past a side of my street on that day!)
Living in Lekki has so far proved to be a big mistake. The place is expensive. The rents are high and services are equally expensive, but dismal. I spend twice the amount I use to dry clean a shirt in Abuja in Lekki. The water in Lekki is virtually useless: it is almost always brown. A foul odour emanates from the drainage pipes, making the bathroom an inconvenient place. The gutters in the neighbourhood are stagnant, dirty and smelly.
You may clean the one in front of your house. Who cleans that of your neighbour? And the streets are unkempt.. And since the local councils are practically non-existent, it becomes a difficult proposition to keep the place neat.
To crown it all, NEPA, or is it PHCN or is it Eko Distribution Company, or whatever they call themselves, is on extended holiday. There is no electricity in Lekki. The day we slept with light in my neighbourhood, we thank God; sometimes, we celebrated. And that’s very rare. The noise from the generators in the neighbourhood is terrible; actually depressing. You wake up feeling grumpy.
To add insult upon injury, my wife would sometimes call me from Abuja and ask: “ Una get light?” The answer is almost always negative. She will then sigh and proclaim:
“Thatuna place na wa oh!” She will then inform me of the steady light in Abuja and how the air conditioners are working well. At such times, I mumble inaudible words. In summary, I meant: “God dey”.
Half of the time, I look forward to travelling out to Abuja or just anywhere else. By so doing, I am guaranteed of a peaceful sleep.
I have asked myself so many times: is this the Lagos I have returned to? Can’t the quality of life be better?
Fashola surely put up a good fight to make Lagos a more civilized place to live in, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
• Ohwahwa wrote from Lagos.