Tag Archives: money

My Lagos: A Love Story

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.

Its just greed!

I was in my office considering my options of either screaming at the kids to stop screaming and making noise or going to drown myself in a big drum of water when my phone rang. I work in a Pre-school and I’m surrounded by toddlers and babies all day long. I love my job but sometimes, I feel like running. This was just one of such days. I ran from the playroom in relief and settled into one of the sofas in the office to gist with her. “Soso abeg call me back” was all I heard before she hung up on me.  “Shuo. Wetin dey worry dis nonsense geh?” I said to myself as I called her back. Rolling my eyes, I listened to her asking me to buy her blackberry internet service for the month and loan her money to pay some of her creditors. I didn’t have money to spare and I told her so. She then embarked on a long narrative on how she had borrowed money to buy a torch and how she was paying back in bits and all that. I calmly told her to sell the phone and pay back the money. My response led to a long stream of insults and curses, then she hung up on me. On my own credit o.

See me see wahala! My papa no dey work for Central bank ni. To me it’s a simple thing. Cut your coat according to your size. It has since been amended to ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’ but the underlying message remains the same. I like to think that this saying was intended to prevent greed and teach people how to be content with their lot. Work with what you have and pray for enlargement.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against dreaming about a higher status or a better life. I dream about buying a red range rover sport too, you know (now those guys toasting me know what to get me for my birthday). But unless I sell my mother’s house or become a special adviser to the President, or become a member of the many committees he sets up (note to self-find a way to join one of those mushroom committees), I cant afford it. That’s not to say that I won’t be able to in a few years from now. But right now, make I jeje dey enter my okada and cab. Simple.

Please don’t think I’m thinking too small. I’ve lived my life on the promise that God has destined me for great things and so should you. But these great things do not include frivolities that we acquire or dream to acquire to impress our neighbours and our friends. My friends tease me mercilessly to upgrade my old and battered blackberry curve to a more expensive one and my reply is always the same. “if u buy for me, I no go reject o”. Why should I buy another one when the one I have still works? If you don’t like it, don’t ping me again. Why should I buy a blackberry Porsche that almost the price of a golf car and still use okada as a means of transportation? Na crase?

Why do we incur debts to acquire things to impress others? I know girls who are still indebted because of Brazilian hair. Must you buy? People go to criminal lengths to acquire wealth and dazzle us with the display. Armed robbery, internet fraud and high class prostitution has become the order of the day. We know there are no jobs and the economy is bad but we do not have to throw values and virtues out of the window because of this.  Survival and greed are two very different things.

We live in a society that celebrates wealth and promotes disdain for values. People don’t care about the source of wealth anymore. The rich man is the one who’s popular and respected, even in the church. The guy that drives the latest cars and sleeps with the most women is the guy that everyone wants to be with. Is this what we want to teach our kids? Is this what we want to be remembered for? Will blackberry blade be written on our tombstones? What exactly is the point of this mad desire to acquire material things whether we can afford them or not? This is the path that ultimately leads to destruction. 

Lets get our priorities right please. You don’t need to impress others. Your life is your own, no one else’s. Set the pace for your own life. We’re not competing against each other. The sky is big enough for us all to fly, but at our own time!