I have a vague recollection of the first time I visited Lagos. Once a year, my parents did a road trip to Abeokuta; where we are from. So, whoever was available would follow them. I went with them because I think I was in between schools.
My mother had a trip to Lagos planned. We never followed her on her Lagos trips from Abeokuta but I was bored and decided to go with her and Iya Asisa; a relative of ours.
They made sure they scared me good and proper before we got there. “Lagos is not an easy place.”
“You must stay close to us because people get stolen in Lagos.”
To make it worse, a cousin of mine never came home from school. I mean till date. So I was very apprehensive but still willing to go.
Iya Asisa brought a waist purse (is that what they are called?) for my mother. My mother laughed as she strapped in around her waist and Iya helped her tie it at the back. We were going to Lagos Island and bags and purses were easily snatched she told us.
What a day!
I practically jogged after them milling around more people than I had ever seen in one place in my whole life.
When they bought the fabrics and shoes/bags, Iya gathered everything in one giant mound with so much flourish and balanced it on her head elbowing people out of the way till we got to where our car was parked.
This made me vow never to live in Lagos.
God must have been laughing at me.
I was the quintessential Jos babe taking life Jeje.
I have been in Lagos now just under 10years.
I had a friend years ago. She was dating this guy and nobody could understand why. He was loud and brash and did not treat her well. He would beat her up and verbally abuse her. In fact, there was a day he dragged her down from a taxi and beat her up badly kicking her all over the road. She cried and vowed that it was over.
A few days later she was wearing a beautiful top I hadn’t seen before.
“That is a lovely top! Where did you buy it?”
“Jide gave it to me.”
And that was it. She was back with him.
Standing from the outside, no one could understand why she could not leave. She would talk excitedly about their escapades or even complain about how difficult he was but she just could not leave him.
Have I confused you guys now? I am sure you don’t know where I am going with this. Or maybe you do.
See, I am that girl now. I am in this lovely abusive relationship with Lagos.
Lagos is that brash rude lover. He keeps kicking me in my guts daily. I live on my wits whenever I leave the house. I just don’t know what is going to happen next. One moment I am driving to work and the road is peaceful and clear and I take a bend and suddenly there is traffic everywhere and I spend an unplanned 90minutes battling through it and thinking of alternative routes. I then get to work tired before I start out a day’s work.
I live with an unhealthy amount of suspicion. Like when I am going through Mile 2 and it is night, I remove my wedding band, empty my wallet of my important ID cards and place them under my foot mat. I leave my wallet with some cash. This is just in case I run into thieves.
I almost ran mad on two occasions. First one was at a fair. My son was about 3 and other son was just 1. One moment my 3 year old was beside me playing, the next he was gone. I started running and shouting through the crowd. Anything can happen. Luckily I found him at one of the rides. The second occasion was at the mall. We came out of the cinema hall with a crowd and my kids simply took off. My husband and I had a harder time shoving people out of the way. When we got out the kids were nowhere. We split to look for them. I removed my high shoes and placed my hands on my head running. It turned out they found their way to the car park.
People can disappear forever in this Lagos. A woman coming from work disappeared forever not too far from my house.
Speaking about our house, a neighbour was about to enter the driveway when some guys pulled a gun on him. They took him and his car. He was stripped down to his boxers and singlet and left on 3rd Mainland Bridge in the middle of the night. Another neighbour was driving out to work around 5am when some armed robbers took her to an ATM, made her withdraw money and collected all her valuables.
A friend visited me and I regaled her with tales about Lagos. A part of me was detached and listening to myself. I was telling her about the things that make living in Lagos difficult but there was something distinct in my voice. It was as though I was proud of this ‘bad’ Lagos I was talking about. Like ‘my Lagos is a bad bad boy’ but with a smile on my face.
I am that girl.
I love the craziness of this town. That is what keeps me here. I like that anything can happen and that my mind is whip sharp because it has to be when I am trying to get anything done. I like that you find everything first in Lagos. I like the entertainment. I get my high from the adrenaline that this town pumps into my veins.
I am that girl that won’t leave Jide because when we make up, he gives me wild sex and makes me feel like no other man has ever done. But that doesn’t mean I won’t complain.
But something always gives at the end.
This place can kill you just like Jide almost did. She finally took the walk away. No amount of great sex is worth risking your life over.
Whenever I am approaching Hawon Kibo as I get into Plateau State, the air becomes cooler and then as we drive past really beautiful landscape framed by rock outcrops in the horizon, I think to myself that this is where I would love to retire to.
I want to leave that lover to this calm, steady and reliable love that may not make my blood boil but gives me the serenity I need to centre and be at peace within me.
I want to break up with Lagos eventually.
Just not right now.