Have you ever been in one of those shaky yellow buses, whose tyres could barely hold together, swinging like the ‘k-legs’ of this guy doing a match past?
Stuck in-between the door and a male man whose legs unashamedly occupy spaces, with his ears completely deafened to your pleas of ‘oga abeg dress well’.
Tiny drops of salty sweats caked in specks of dust trickling down your face, which of course you do not take notice of because the oversized Iya who is seated behind you can’t seem to make her little baby stop wailing, in addition to the excuse for music the Yoruba driver insists on playing. Songs with absolutely no rhythm.
And because you do not want to be called an ‘Ashewo’, you do nothing but keep your mouth shut and your face squeezed at how pathetic your life has become.
This is almost the daily experience of the average Lagosian.
Imagine being in this situation, while the bus is almost at a standstill because a lot of people enter Lagos roads and leave their senses at home.
Some days, these senseless demons are less on the roads. Others days, they come out to feast in their full regalia.
Less than a month ago, Nigeria’s president was rumored to have said that ‘40 million Nigerians are mad’. A report which was denied by the Presidency and tagged as ‘fake news’.
But trust Nigerians, here we do not give a passing minute of the day to analyze the authenticity of any news before ‘clapping’ back. We all came down with full force on the President and his Administration. His sins of many years and months ago were even dug up.
But have you ever felt that had the President outrightly called 40 million Nigerians mad, perhaps this assertion could be true?
Have you ever been to Eko?
I came to Lagos for the first time in the year 2010. I would be staying with my Uncle who lived in Okota, while the Organization I interned at was located at Apapa.
It is funny how the memory works; the things you can’t quite remember, and the things that are almost engraved with an indelible ink.
I remember vividly the smell of cigarette in my cousin’s car as he picked me from the park at Jibowu. There are only two male individuals in my house and they both do not smoke. Back in Enugu, most of the places i hung out had ‘smoking areas’.
Little wonder I felt so uncomfortable on our ride to the house that would be my home for the next 6 months. Twenty minutes on the road, this cousin of mine was still busy blowing up smoke into my ‘fragile’ nostrils while he asked me ‘silly’ questions about school and my siblings, to which I only responded with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’, I felt the less I opened my mouth the less I inhaled.
I could have spoken out about my discomfort had I not been a bit sad about his ‘insensitivity’ coupled with the fact that I didn’t know if I should address him by his name or call him ‘uncle’ since he is very much older than I am. But he is not my Uncle, so I just kept mute and inhaled away.
I didn’t quite notice the bustle and hustle in this city during my first month here. My Uncle whose Office was a short distance from where I worked had me ride with him until work became much intense and I had to leave the house much earlier. I was an Intern and was there to learn after all.
Fast forward to three months later, I became an expert in buying and eating Gala in Traffic, of course, I always accompanied it with a chilled Lacasera drink. While I mastered the acts of unashamedly quenching my hunger in traffic, I couldn’t get around to excelling in other areas that could make me an original Lagosian.
Back in Enugu, I wasn’t even remotely close to being street-smart. So you can imagine how difficult it was adjusting to life here. For example, I had to painstakingly move from gently and casually saying “Driver m ga apu ebe a” to screaming “o wa!!” at the top of my voice to avoid being dropped at a later bus stop different from mine. This, if not the biggest was the most difficult adjustment I had to make on Lagos roads.
One culture I never ever adjusted to was jumping inside a moving vehicle. I cannot count the number of times I had to stand endlessly on bus stops with buses coming and going and other people jumping inside. I remember always thinking, are these people crazy? Will their vehicle have Engine Knock if they actually stop and wait for people to enter and sit down properly before zooming off like they were being chased by robbers?
Four months after my arrival, I could not take it anymore.
What did I do? I left.
I found a Computer Programming Training School in Enugu. My dad was willing to give me the money to enroll, so I did. Praise be!
Seven years later, I returned.
To the hustle and bustle.
The traffic situation is worse. But I have a car now, so it helps. And I live quite close to where I work, that helps a great deal too.
I do not doubt the possibility of about 40 million Nigerians being mentally unstable. People comfortably live in paranoia in Lagos.
My car AC has been faulty for a while now, so I wind down the window most of the time. Not to a level were a passerby’s hand can get in anyways. The shock here is, even when I am going at a very high speed, I am still overly conscious not to wind down the window so low.
Like hell! Nkiru, who would rob a moving vehicle at high speed? Now tell me if this behavior is not a rehearsal for insanity.
Lagos has a population of over 21 million people. That is 52.5% of 40 million people.
I am still stuck here like the rest of you. If and when I get myself dislodged, I will be sharing how it happened. May the Lord open.