The truth about growing up in Lagos

          I’ve been told, time without number, that I don’t behave like a Lagos girl. The title “Lagos girl” is quite ambivalent in meaning. On the one hand, it could mean that you’re assertive, sophisticated and well spoken, while on the other hand, it could mean that you’re brazen, materialistic and loud. The truth about Lagos is that it gives you no opportunity to become too introverted and satisfied with life. You’re constantly seeking the next big thing and so strive by all means to beat the competition. When I say competition, I mean, real competition. I may not be able to capture its magnitude here but everything is a struggle. A struggle to come first in class, a struggle to make a profit in a business even though there are over 50 other people selling the same thing you do in that same market, a struggle to get decent accommodation, a struggle to beat traffic(oh, the woe!), a struggle to even get on the bus. a friend of mine would add “the struggle to get and keep a boyfriend”, but that’s a post for another day. I think it might be the population(as Lagos has a population of a small country), that makes this so, but then again, I may be wrong.

          Now, when I speak of growing up in Lagos, I’m not referring to the “Island kids” who grew up eating cornflakes and knowing all the American actors and going for summer holidays ‘overseas’, throwing around words like “Harrods”, “Walmart”, and “McDonalds”, and being driven in chauffeured, air-conditioned cars. I’m talking about the vast majority of Lagos mainland kids who grew up eating agege bread, watching tales by moonlight on NTA, jumping rickety buses (danfos and molues, anyone?) and shopping in open markets like Tejuosho. (Oh, and by the way, Tejuosho market has been rebuilt into a mega shopping complex, all posh looking and gleaming. You might want to visit.)

          Did you think I wrote this to criticize Lagos and its quirks? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but that’s going to be for another day when I’ve been enraged enough by its ills to want to vent. I love Lagos. I love the hustling spirit of its inhabitants, I love the fact that anyone who plays his cards right can make it in Lagos. I love the cultural mix, I love the small bukas that sell great tasting food, I love the fact that you can get almost anything(I mean this literally) on the streets of Lagos. I love that expression, that expression of hope permanently etched on the faces of its inhabitants. That expression that says “I may not be where I want to be today, but I’ll get there someday soon!

          The truth about growing up in Lagos and generally living in this city is this: in the end, its all about choice. You do not choose to be born in the slums of Mushin, or in the posh buildings on Victoria Island, but you choose what to make of yourself. Impossibility is nothing.

It’s about time.

This evening, as I walked the streets of Lagos, amid the rush and stampede of people trying to get home as fast as possible, I glanced around and realized something. I am just one person in the midst of millions others. My epiphany didn’t stop there. I realized I want to live. Not just exist, but really live and make a difference in society. And so i’m here hunched over my computer at midnight, resolved to start. Start doing what? You may ask. I’m not very sure yet, but it will pan out with time, and I intend to start here. So watch this space, because the journey will be worth it. Enjoy the ride.