“The Mainland” Versus “The Island” Issue: What’s Your Take?

Anyone who lives or has lived in Lagos must have heard the debates and constant (unnecessary) comparison of these two parts or “divisions” of Lagos called “The Island” and “The Mainland”. I’ve heard people make statements like “I can’t live on the mainland oh! It’s too rowdy for my taste”, or, “These Island peeps sef. Always feeling like they don’t shit like the rest of us”. So that I don’t confuse those of us who don’t live in Lagos, here’s some info to help you understand this post better.

Lagos Island at night
  1. Lagos is, and has been, since before its creation in 1967, Nigeria’s commercial centre and one of the most populated cities in the world with more than 10 million residents according to the last census. The city houses the country’s main ports and is home to the headquarters of major organizations like banks and other financial institutions, IT and telecommunications companies.
  2. Lagos is made up of three islands and a mainland. The islands of Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lagos Island are located on the Lagos Lagoon, separated by creeks and connected to each other and the Mainland by bridges. Each Island has its own unique characteristics with Victoria Island being home to five star hotels, high class commercial real estate, big businesses, high class private schools, trendy cafes, night clubs and bars. Most foreign professionals,i.e, the “expats”(expatriates) live on this here piece of Lagos.
  3. Ikoyi isn’t as noisy as Victoria Island and is the main residential area for the upper middle class elite and the expatriate communities. Extravagant mansions built during the colonial era still stand amidst more modern ones. Residential real estate in Ikoyi are some of the most expensive in Africa. And when I say, most expensive, I say it with a hushed tone of voice, because the kind of money we are talking about should not be mentioned in the presence of children. Mbanu. Other parts of the island are Banana Island, Eko Atlantic, Onikan, Lekki and the Marina.

  4. Lagos Island is really just a mishmash of poverty and wealth living side by side in shocking contrast to each other. The Financial district, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Broad street and Obalende, which is one of the slums of Lagos are all situated on Lagos Island. Other landmarks include CMS cathedral, Tafawa Balewa square and the popular Balogun market.
  5. The Mainland is where the majority of Lagosians live, and this area includes Yaba, Oshodi, Surulere, Agege, Mushin, Ikorodu, the capital Ikeja, amongst other areas. Ikeja is home to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, and is the administrative seat of the Lagos government as well. As a matter of fact, it is quite an exclusive area, competing with the Island in terms of polish. It is home to local industries and businesses(think Computer Village and Ikeja City Mall), and actually has many companies having their headquarters in it. 
  6. There again is Yaba, home to the prestigious University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology, two of the most well known citadels of learning in the South West. Yaba is also home to the popular Tejuosho Market, brimming with trade.

There are a lot of stereotyoes associated with this Mainland – Island tussle. In a nutshell the Island is assumed to be the home of the rich and the very rich, more secure, and better for clubbing(Can’t help but LOL here), while the mainland is assumed to be the exact opposite. Let me tell you brethren and sistren, this is quite false.

Now to the issue at hand. Is any one really better than the other? My candid answer? A conditional No. Here’s why. The Island, in my opinion, is a great place for work and fun, but when it comes to residential living, given the situation of the economy, is it really worth it to be paying for the area and not for the house? In case you didn’t know, to an average Nigerian, everything on the Island would be overpriced. The Mainland, in my honest opinion, while not so ostentatiously luxurious, has a good portion of relatively quiet and well maintained residential areas. It has a good number of entertainment spots too. You can say I’m putting in a good word for the Mainland, but then again, why not? *big grin* #proudmainlandgal. The Island is for the most part, more beautiful(especially at night), I admit, but mbok, we go chop beauty? If you have the resources and desire to live there, by all means, go ahead! I do not dislike the Island, I actually find it attractive in the way that you would rather admire something beautiful from afar.

Lagos Island

The main error people make in comparison of these two areas is the assumption that if you live on the Island, then you are of the upper middle class, i.e, you’re rich; while if you live on  the Mainland, you’re from the raggedy part of town, i.e, you no get money. This is so wrong, and I don’t really blame the proponents of this idea since such a conclusion was obviously made out of ignorance and due to the fact that in Lagos, class and social strata are extremely exaggerated. 

Lagos Mainland

My answer is so because it all depends on what you want and what you’re comfortable with. Most professionals in Lagos live on the mainland and work on the island, and while this isn’t a very easy commute to make every day, it has become a way of life. Being the person I am, I believe it is impractical to aspire to live on the Island just for the heck of it, or because that seems to be where the creme de la creme of Lagos society live, without putting into consideration the absolutely ridiculous cost of living on the Island and whether one can keep up with it. By the way, the main factors that should concern any reasonable person instead of proof of status are proximity to work, school and availability of basic amenities. In this regard, the Island and the mainland are plagued by the same ills. Bad roads, lack of water, erratic electricity, traffic and security problems plague the two areas almost equally. The reason it may seem higher on the mainland is because of course, the mainland is more populated than the island.

I personally feel that life on the mainland is more “real”, as opposed to life on the island which seems like something of a performance. Everyone is working, not just to live comfortably but to remain in vogue, so having the latest brands of cars becomes a must, having the highest class of everything becomes a thing of importance. I personally can’t abide that, so maybe this is just me. Its easier to live within your means without the pressing need to impress anyone on the mainland. We don’t have to wonder why the mainland is called the “Real Lagos”.

Finally, if everyone lived on the island, who would live on the mainland? The island is only so big. My two cents: wherever you live, make it your own paradise, be it the island or the mainland. 


“The activist is not the man who says that the river is dirty; the activist is the man who cleans up the river”. – Ross Perot

90s chick; nerd, humanitarian; lover of life, family, fashion, food, art and literature; Christian by birth and choice. In short, I’m like jollof rice: you’re gonna love me. 😉

12 thoughts on ““The Mainland” Versus “The Island” Issue: What’s Your Take?

  1. Well written piece. Am not a Lagosian but am pretty much in the know about Lagos. During my first visit to Lagos, I stayed on the mainland for the duration of my stay. Here's what I found amusing; those who live on the mainland actually refer to the island as “Lagos” they use words like “am going to Lagos” “my office is in Lagos “and I am like, if island is Lagos then what the heck is the mainland? In my opinion, what ever dichotomy that exist in the spatial distribution of Lagos is factored on ego and stereotype.
    It's quite funny that the richest man in Africa and the poorest man in the world leave in same city. Both use same electricity, ply same road, enjoy same sunlight and rain, breath same sir, so what's the fuss about island – mainland ish? Lagos na Lagos joor. Abeg Kpompi. Chibugo #chopknucle. God increase your creativity

  2. I think the “I am going to Lagos” thing stems from colonial times. Before the Portuguese name of Lagos was assigned, its initial name was Eko which actually referred to the Island, so you can't really blame them. Thanks for reading Ugo!

  3. In Vector's voice You Live on the Island ,I Live on the mainland see You don't have to Live in Lekki to be the Main Man…
    Proudly Mainland Surulere Precisely also known as Small London.. Surulere has a touch of both urban(Bode Thomas n Co) n rural(ojuelegba n Co) area.. Just be yourself irrespective of where u live

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