Lagos, our Lagos… a city of contrast (1)

BEFORE anything, it is quite needful to know what makes Lagos tick and so irresistible that all ages, creed, race, language, gender and status of vast and varied endowments find succour and fulfillment in this rather Eldorado of sort despite its high cost of living and unpredictability. It is a place the newly arrived are taught some hard-learned hints, a priori, where winners never stop winning while losers never give up trying, so long there is still breath of life…e go better! It is in Lagos that mockery seamlessly interconnects with make-believe neighbourliness because one’s business is, ipso facto, another’s affairs. It is one place where everyone seems to be running from some unseen forces yet none is in pursuit of anyone except one’s own shadow.

  Coming to Lagos either from your nativity or outer borders, you may have to be stripped of your preconceived biases because your new place of abode is full of its own innuendoes and belief-systems and with this it is more than able to set you on your chosen pursuits and preferred career. With its easy-does-it lifestyle on the one hand coupled to a dogma of hurriedness, none comes, stays here and ever remains same. Or better still, it is a safe haven for those who yearn to be freed of shackles of poverty, age-long disorientations and related discriminations. Just like America’s statue of liberty in New York with an encouraging message, Give me your poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free…; so too is Lagos’ strategically positioned three-man statue at its Ojota entry point (until recently) airily welcome the several thousands of souls thronging in daily and this tribe of sojourners is aside those pounding Lagos from other sides of entrance.

  Uniquely, it is a city made for its own peculiarities, eventualities, acceptability and oddities. It is such a haven where the rich flaunt their riches without any fear of molestation from the poor folk or the law knowing that both are toothless, helpless and harmless bulldogs and for this, the poor hailing the rich on and praying that their own ample opportunities would come soon. Obviously operating on the caveat that a thief is only a willful thief if caught, it then follows that today’s miscreant may afterwards be laundered as tomorrow’s hero so long as none suffers any loss. Afterall, what belongs to all belongs to none whatsoever! It is a place where criminalities cohere with impunity while the cloggy wheels of the law are in sluggish pursuit, none-the-less.

  Indeed, Lagos is one strategic place that Nigeria-at-large can certainly not do without; be it in economic reckoning (it is said that over 65 of every 100 naira in Nigeria circulates in Lagos), political relevance(Lagos still holds Nigeria’s ace regardless of Abuja being the nation’s administrative capital): ethnic concentration(virtually every of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas is ably represented in Lagos’ boisterous mixed-grills), precursor of cultural values(Lagos is engagingly to Nigeria what New York is to the United States or Paris/London to renascent Europe). In Lagos, no one readily accepts a defeatist’s contention of being too old or be cut off of its fun and thrills. In fact, Lagos is so metropolitan and sweet-swinging that it took the combined efforts of security forces to evict some foreign nationals who stuck back after the 1977 FESTAC jamboree.

  On a contrasting note, save for the lopsided-federal might enjoy by Abuja over the rest of the nation; one-on-one, glamour-for-glamour, free breeze-for-free breeze, money-for-money, Abuja or any other Nigerian city is simply no match for never-say-tire Lagos. Or is it for nothing that while Lagos is aptly tagged: Centre of Excellence, Abuja, despite its induced indulgences, is called Nigeria’s Centre of Unity? But can anyone in his/her working senses blame Abuja? Because, its creeping sorry story is tantamount to that of an innocent virgin who had the misfortune of falling prey into the grips of dare-devil robbers and values-forsaken plunderers. This has been Abuja’s ‘subjugation’ account since its December, 1991 occupation by Nigeria’s federal might along with its storm troopers of carpet baggers, portfolio-business careerists and other attendant clowns. To worsen a bad scenario, the original plan of relocating to Abuja has been jettisoned giving space to all manners of manipulation by successive (federal and municipal) administrations. Aside and beyond its facade of fortune, power-play and federalist pretensions, Abuja, as a matter of immediacy has to be reconnected to that original dream of its founding father, Murtala Ramat Muhammed, and only then can the nation-in-general access its full potentialities.

  Even at that, can Lagos be compared to Abuja? Taking to cognizance the available resources at hand of the shakers and movers of both cities, it would be of keen interest to gauge what makes them tick. For instance, Abuja’s locational nexus of its rich and power wielders are usually Maitama and Asokoro District while Lagos’ upper crusts’ are Ikoyi and Victoria Island and the newly come-up, Lekki and extensions. In fact some realtors’ estimates put Victoria Island and Ikoyi as being among Africa’s costliest per square metre. In the theatrical arts of Nigerian money-bags, which of this duo (Lagos or Abuja) would blink first? On the other hand, can either do without each other? Because while Lagos is reputed to be Nigeria’s money pot; Abuja is acknowledged as the nation’s administrative haven. Perhaps, it is like a related issue of that ageless riddle, which is more important, the egg or the chick, so which comes first; money or power? Typically, it is like the intertwined resemblance of the Siamese twin of New York and Washington to the United States’ entirety.

  Another virtue that has put Lagos in good stead, over the years, is that there is almost always something of substance for the serious-minded to engage in as conformable to its pervasive entrepreneurial spirit. While the average Lagosian is consumed with the success-at-cost mentality, thereby hardly ever tolerating idleness. Often, it is like a whirlwind which brings big rewards for hard work and appropriate sanctions on lazy bones.

  A taste of Lagos for you! Some time in the late 1970s, an account was given of a happy-go-lucky trip by late Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the late Leonid Brezhnev of the defunct Soviet Union, James Earl Carter of the United States obviously in a test of wits as to which of these was the safest and most security-conscious. Before set-out from New York, the United Nations’ Headquarters each had an alarm-wrist watch. Before long, they were airborne with all thrills and flying over Washington DC, Carter’s watch buzzed with a printout: Blue jeans, fast food and pop music and aptly he quipped, men, we are in Washington. Afterwards, cruising over the Atlantic Oceans and now in Moscow, Brezhnev’s watch tickled with some encodes; Down with capitalism and Brezhnev hollered: Comrades, we are in Moscow where the ultimate goal is Utopia. Just after this and already deep inside the Mediterranean Seas suddenly came the shrill of the minarets and Sadat gleefully belched; we are in Cairo and it is prayer time.



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