After a year in the remote town of Erijiyan-Ekiti, I got used to the laidback calm and cool weather, which can also get really cold; the very free roads that could even inspire free twerks to some questioning eyes of children and elders; farmers walking briskly to their farms, basins tucked unashamedly under their armpits; kids headed for the streams or borehole with laden bowls and troughs, and later to school; hunters returning from their nightly hunting trips;, and the music from chirping birds and wily insects.
Apart from time spent outside the state for my tertiary education and the National Youth Service Scheme, I have lived in Lagos all my life yet the ‘city that never sleeps’ never ceases to amaze me.
Lagos just jolts you out of all that hinterland reverie, wakes you up quite mercilessly. Transplanting myself from the cool jaunts of Erijiyan, back into Lagos is definitely a culture shock. The heat and dust alone is enough. The rush of people, each trying to move faster than the next person, while guarding their bags consciously, jealously; cars and their impatient drivers honking at each other, expletives pouring out with the same force as the old man with load on his head jabs his pee against a company fence wall; the yellow and black striped buses and the conductors in their almost brown-white singlets trying to outdo each other at yelling passengers into their buses at crowded stops, with the elaborately constructed sheds abandoned to street urchins; the hawkers on the streets, mostly kids running from one vehicle to another with their wares and pushing it in your face, their eyes begging, threatening you to buy; the women sitting under the yellow, green or red umbrellas selling recharge card vouchers and snacks; women sitting behind tables laden with their wares as close to the road as they can get; the roasted plantain and yam seller, checking and turning her products over the simmering fire with her bare hands, using the edge of her wrapper to wipe the sweat off her face; the very tired LAWMA workers in their orange and neon overalls resting by the roadside… This is Lagos!
My attention was somewhat cut short by the muttering taxi driver who maneuvered his car like it was plastic. Initially I ignored him but soon got into a conversation with him because I was tired of his muttering and complaints at every turn of the wheel. The man would just not let me register my Lagos sights the way I wanted!
I had to ask him what the problem was and he started with him being fed up with the state and its government and the stupid means they always use to extort money from them. Showed me a slip of paper that showed he was an accredited driver of Lagos state. From all he said, he had spent most of the day trying to get that paper and initially had to go through an exam and medical checkup before getting it and had spent over N4000 (Four Thousand Naira) for it. It was obvious the man didn’t understand why suddenly he had to go through all that.
I could identify with the need for such an exercise but what I don’t understand is why the government would come up with an idea and refuse to educate people on it, rather force the measures down with inhumane ultimatums. And then… the attendant boon of possibly extorting money from those who pass or fail.
In my opinion, the exercise is a great idea but to these drivers, it’s a waste of time and money. It is the job of government to properly educate people about any exercise they embark on through the media and possibly, seminars. In addition, a laminated piece of paper is a poor means of identifying an accredited driver, a proper ID card should do and I think N4000 (Four Thousand Naira) should be more than enough to cover that.
In trying to avoid the usual traffic at mile 2, the driver decided to go through Ajegunle. Getting past Ajegunle was another feat. It was a Saturday and due to weddings and other events, most streets were blocked by canopies and we had to reverse about 3 times! This got me wondering if the ban against street parties was for the choicest parts of Lagos and not the slums. Laws are not kept in these areas especially since officials sent to check these happenings collect bribes and leave. Same goes for infrastructural projects: it’s always glaring that the slums are hardly considered and left the same way especially the bad roads.
Another issue that struck me was the difficulty of managing a small business in Lagos and, of course, other parts of Nigeria. From the hawkers who sell iced sachet water and other drinks on the roads to the owners of shops and kiosks on the side streets. Coupled with the heat and dust is the inevitable sound of generators from almost every shop or office you go past because of the usual absence of power every day. This has led to business failure time and again. It will greatly boost the economy if the amount of money spent on power by these entrepreneurs is put into revitalizing their businesses.
This got me dreaming about a more peaceful Lagos where the sounds of generators are non-existent and we didn’t have to rush to charge up our devices at the sight of power. I bet Lagosians will be a bit saner then.
It is great to be back home anyway.