One month later
A little over a month ago, I did that thing only ‘mad’ people do. Packed my bags and left Mama Charlie’s land for good. Everyone, except my mum and closest friend, advised me against it. Health, academic and financial reasons were factors in the larger decision, but I felt it was time to say goodbye and move on.
A lot of mental work went into it. I prepared mentally and decided to accept whatever Lagos(Nigeria) throws at me.
First encounter(in a while) with the ‘real Nigeria’ was landing at MMIA and my people started pushing each other to get off an international flight. I had a really good laugh. No signs to direct you to immigration. We relied on instinct and asking some touts. Got to immigration and those ones were unnecessarily rude and shouting at passengers. I just thought in my head, “na me koba you? Na me say make you sef no just land from obodo oyibo?”.
Got to the carousel and that one brought its own drama. One dude approached me and offered a trolley for 2000 Naira. A friend had warned me about these guys. I asked why 2000 and his response was, “Oga, I go help you pass Customs without question and I go push the trolley for you”. I laughed and walked to the back of a shield where they hid the official trolley hire and picked one for 300 naira or so. Bags came out and one was without its padlock. Ahhhhh!
Next was custom clearance. The custom officer asked loads of ‘silly’ questions and ended with that golden question “Oga, how you go pack your bag say you dey move come Nigeria? Your family no advise you well?”
Fast forward to Sunday evening, I was out with friends and was reminded how my people like groove. A Sunday evening and everywhere was packed. Don't people have work to go to on Monday?
My next encounter with the real Nigeria was with the banks and their piss poor customer service. Rude staff, complicating the most simple stuff and just general nuisance. I found myself missing NATWEST and their useless service.
Christmas came soon enough. Spent Christmas day with some really amazing people in Makoko. Christmas on the Streetz is a charity event that feeds the people of Makoko on Christmas day and provides them with some basic items they need in the community. Loads of young people who met off Twitter, come together to volunteer their time and resources to do this every Christmas.
Being orobo(fatty bum bum) meant I got the looks. We were walking to the venue and some random chap said to his friend in Yoruba, “this one just came back. See as his skin is fresh. Rich kids coming here to show off”. That tickled me a bit, but made me realize I had to raise my guard and bring back the Yoruba speaking side of me.
That day also made me realize how bad things were in certain parts of the same city I had always seen through my own lens.
Here were people volunteering their time and money to feed the community and a group of young men insisted we won’t do anything until we ‘drop’ some money for them. The organisers had brought armed officers to provider security, but these guys weren't fazed. Being the orobo in the group meant they came towards me when talking about money and I had to calm them down in Yoruba. They ‘harassed’ me until money came out from organisers and my pocket as well.
Few days later, met up with an amazing friend and her daughter for lunch and learnt first hand lessons on why businesses fail around here.
First, restaurant staff were so nonchalant, mixed up our orders and didn't even bother apologising. My friend just reminded me this wasn't some restaurant in Canary Wharf and how I needed to adjust my expectations of customer service in Nigeria.
Next, I went into a store to buy running shoes. Attendant said shoe was 50000 naira. I laughed and said I had seen it cheaper in London. Asked if we could bargain and he said a straight NO. I made to leave the store and he hit me with a shocker. The dude met me at the door and offered me the shoe for 50% off. How so? He boldly told me he will steal the shoe from the store and I can pick it up after work. I was too stunned to even laugh. Dude gave me his number and asked me to text before calling. This dude just offered to steal from his employer? This was my real ‘welcome to Lagos’ moment.
Next was a phone shop to get a SIM card. The lady gave me free airtime because she ‘liked my smile’. I happily collected the airtime and kept thinking if that business would ever turn a profit if all staff gave away company stuff like that.
Amazing few days and it all disappeared. My friends brought me back to Lagos on the 1st of January. Boys placed a moratorium on all that GATP and Island IJGB cruise. They took me to a street carnival right under Apongbon bridge * cries in expired IJGB card*.
I was warned not to put on trainers or any of that yeye IJGB dressing. This was a proper street carnival. One where they block off a major road and you are sitting with some of the biggest 'area fathers' in Lagos. I mean, you don’t meet MC Oluomo, J-Pron, Lucky boy and Kunle Poly at a carnival and still say you are IJGB. I was the only one stood on stage with the DJ. At some point I started laughing at myself and wondering if it was still less than 2 weeks in Lagos sef.
It has been sort of ‘downhill’ from here. Started work with an amazing organization. From taking keke to work to then driving and cursing in traffic. I have gone full cycle. I get to work every morning and do a quick count of how many near misses I had with bikes, keke and danfo drivers. I am now that guy with his hand constantly on the horn. Won’t be that guy to knock down Lagos pedestrians that choose to run across a six lane highway right under a pedestrian bridge.
It has been the most interesting weeks in a long while. Work has kept me sane somehow. My own takeaway:
- You must have an open mind to survive here. I have had to adjust a lot to avoid slapping people in public.
- There are so many opportunities here. You just have to be smart and see the many gaps staring you in the face.
- You must be street smart. Know when to dump your innit and hit them with Yoruba or Igbo. No time to fall mugu with innit😂 . Your innit accent could get you a job, meetings, seats at events and could also be the difference between you getting small chops at that event and hunger wiring you😂😂.
- Lower your expectations and you will be okay. Sounds absurd, but my first week was miserable. I lowered my expectations of customer care and people and that has saved me so much heartache.
- Let no one deceive you, cos after two weeks you don wash finish. Your family will stop asking your whereabouts and they will start serving you just one meat. That thing is too painful. It was the most painful part for me.
- Always be prepared for anything. (Nigeria)Lagos is the real definition of ELKAFT. I have spare faaji cloth in my booth. You don’t know where opportunities or faaji can meet you.
Will try and write more on my experience in my best city in the world. Cheers mate innit ✌
*ELKAFT being Eyan le ku any fucking time(pardon the f word).