I cannot remember the first time I came to Lagos but I can tell you for free that I was terrified! I had grown up watching those comedies about how Lagos was a hustling place and that if you didn’t shine your eyes, your own don finish. I had heard the word ‘JJC’ in one of those movies and I was determined not to be one; though I was one. Do you remember ‘Lagos Na Wa’ with Polypompom? Oh my gosh! *doubles over in laughter*
Its easy to be intimidated by the sprawling city. My first reaction was that everyone was in a hurry. To this day, I may be only one that walks leisurely around but I’ll have to admit that my steps have quickened and my paces longer. And I don’t like it. When people say, “you this Lagos geh”, I am always quick to respond “I’m not a Lagos girl, I’m a bini girl”. But then I wonder, ‘why can’t I stay more than one week in any other place without feeling this crazy need to be back in ‘my Lagos’. Yes, its my Lagos now.
Where else can you find conductors like the ones in my Lagos. I don’t drive in Lagos and when I was still a JJC (If you don’t know what this means, I have nothing to say to you), I loved to take cabs. Hmmmm. You know cabs are cheap in Benin and I thought it was the same in Lagos. When them tear me bill ehn, nobody advised me to start entering buses. And I have grown to love Lagos buses; there is absolutely nothing like them.
You will always know the CMS buses from the Obalende buses. CMS buses are a contraption of rickety motor parts held together by bolts and visible ropes and they always smell like fish, sweat and bad mouth odor. If you are not sitting near a window, you are finished. You always wonder if the mismatched parts will not come apart when the machine (for lack of a better word) is turned on. Obalende buses are tad cleaner and still look like they will get to their destination. Some even have music. Let’s not talk about the BRT buses, I avoid them as much as I can. I’ve only boarded it twice in the 2 years since I relocated to Lagos and it terrified me. They drive off the road in traffic, on the bushy parts meant for pedestrians. How can a large, wobbly vehicle decide to do some James bond moves that will have the vehicle tilting dangerously like its about to fall on other vehicles? No way o. I’m just 29 and not ready to die. Even if I’m ready, certainly not by a nonsense BRT bus. God forbid!
Lagos may very well be the only place that people get on buses without having money to pay for the journey. That one still baffles me. And the funniest part is that when all hell breaks loose, their voices are the loudest and most strident. ‘You dey mad? Naim make you dey shout? Na wetin? Kilode! Ode niyen’. Then of course, those diehard conductors will never let the errant passenger go until either he comes up with the money or a Good Samaritan passenger does (which is always the case). So it stands to reason that if you have an interview or a crucial meeting, take extra money with you because you just may be paying someone else’s bus fare. That is the hustling spirit.
Then there is the case that happened to me so many times that I had no choice but to wise up. So on my way to Lekki Phase 1 (which is where I work) from Ajah (which is where I live), the bus fare on a sunny, traffic-less day is N150. I had given the conductor N200 Naira. We had gotten to Ikate and my change was not forthcoming though I had intermittently asked for it since I paid. “Conductor , may I have my change please”? He didn’t respond which was his exact response to my previous request. Everybody else kept quiet. I was beginning to wonder what the problem was. I could see that he had change and had given everybody else their’s so why was he giving me the silent treatment? By the time we got to the next bus stop, I had lost my temper and I exploded “My friend, will you give me my change? You dey crase for head abi you deaf? Give me my change now now as I dey look you so”. It was as if everyone woke up from their slumber as some asked him to give me my change. At that point he did while murmuring, “abeg take your change. Na because of N50 you dey shout? You no talk am small small” “No, you deaf since. Na you dey help me work my money abi? Idiot!”. Ehn! Bini girl like me; you want take me shine? If I hear.
The love between Lagos and I was definitely not at first sight. We had our bad times; those days where we were engaged in a supreme battle of wills and wits. But those days are long past. We’ve settled into a relationship based on genuine respect, fondness, our hyper nature and the fact that we have absolute faith that we were meant to be. The city still exasperates me but I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are like Husband and wife. We push and pull at each other but at night, we go to bed together and during tough times, we stand by each other’s side. Now, that true love.