When I sit to think about it, I can lay claim to this city. Although I was not born in this city I will attempt to tell you a bit about it. Akowonjo, Ipaja, Egbeda, Ikotun, Oshodi, Ikorodu, Iyana-paja, Agege. That is my Lagos. In my Lagos people enter into each other on the streets, bump into each other deliberately, are passionate about little things, try to avoid throwing dirt out of moving vehicles but do not quite succeed in resisting their impulses, take up causes for their brain children and curse at the government.
When I was a little girl, I used to have dreams of a Lagos so exquisite that it puts New York to shame but of course that has long dissolved like soap suds. In my Lagos, garbage is the king of the road, struggling artistes spotting dreadlocks’ and afro rule, the beggars are champions of the traffic, the one-eyed man is the director of the transport scheme, the miscreant is awarded a prize, the lazy house husband is the organiser of the neighbourhood draw, restaurants are on every street corner, okadas are limousines that tread the roads with the confidence of an angry bull. Yes, this is my Lagos!
Confidently, I tell you my personal Lagos is interesting. There is never a dull moment. My view of the city has only changed slightly through the years with constant travel; albeit slightly. If you are not polishing a war wound- okada, bus or keke– then you are a foreigner. Molues are not extinct in my Lagos, they champion the road.
Now the Lagos without Eko o ni baje is not mine. The Lagos without mini-buses, without conductors hanging in the doorways of their buses, the one without bukas that serve amala and gbegiri into stainless steel bowls is foreign, the Lagos that serves ofada rice into glass plates with cutlery wrapped in tissue is not mine, that Lagos without passengers racing behind buses is foreign. The Lagos that parade half-naked women as epitome of beauties is a shame to my own Lagos that spots the man dressed in fila abetiaja (dog-eared cap) and kembe with his woman dressed in oleku made with aso-oke.
Today in my Lagos, I saw a soldier show affection to a woman who was struggling to put her baby on the back. Yes, in this Lagos women still strap their babies to their backs, bricklayers still eat ewa agonyi and agege bread, pure water is still sold in traffic sweating for all its worth!