So, I went to back to the motherland last summer when Ebola was still a thing and people were all freaking out about it. (Is Ebola still a thing? This is information I should have.) During both of the internal flights my family and I made (Lagos to Abuja, then Abuja to Asaba) and then when we were flying back to London, scary looking airport staff in flu masks or whatever took our temperature via weird lazer themometors that they pointed at our mouths to check whether or not we were harbouring any dormant Ebola-like parasites or whatever. I don’t really have much to say about this subject, I just thought I’d paint a picture of the sort of thing that was gwaning at that time of my life.
Anyway, I’m studying this super cool module this year called Love and Death in Africa’s Cities, and one of the books we have to read is Every Day is for Thief by Teju Cole, and he talks a lot about the disorganised structure of Nigeria and the inherent atmosphere of “surrender” that pervades it. And it got me thinking about a time when we were on our way back from the Ikeja mall in Lagos and it was around 7 or 8pm and there was just like, mad crazy traffic, like it was at a complete standstill. I mean, it wasn’t moving, you get me? Cars going nowhere.
Anyway, my dad and my brother and my cousins were in a taxi, (I was in a separate car being driven by another cousin), then my dad just gets out of the car and walks off into the night. My brother is like, freaking out, ’cause he has no idea where my dad’s gone, and this is a country with no boundaries, so, like, anything could happen. Anyway, my brother and cousins are like, “WTF?” and the taxi driver’s like, “I have no idea where that guy’s going, but you guys better have enough dollar to pay for this journey, capeesh?” So, after like 30 minutes of wondering where my father has disappeared to, the traffic starts moving and a while later the taxi drives past this lunatic who is gesticulating wildly holding some stick directing the traffic.
Turns out this crazy person is my father, and he walked through the traffic to find out what was going on, and when he got to the place that was causing the congestion, he picked up a stick and started shouting at some cars to stay and some others to go in order to fix the traffic situation. Then, when he saw the taxi with my brother and people in, he dropped the stick, ran back to the car, and left the rest of the cars to their own devices.
To be fair to him, had he not taken matters into his own hands, they’d probably still be stuck in that traffic jam as we speak, seven months later. And that’s what I mean, if it had been England, there would be traffic lights or a system in place or people would just use their common sense. In Nigeria, everyone’s a bonafide hustler rushing to get to wherever they need to be.
So my dad’s trying his hand at property development. Yeah, that house in the photo below is still under construction, don’t go thinking that there are a dozen starving Nigerian kids crammed in each room trying to learn English by leafing through the discarded newspapers that they also use as toilet paper. Anyway, property development, not a thing I can indulge in in London. House prices are sky rocketing, gentrification yadda yadda yadda.
When we first got to Lagos I remember seeing this guy who was helping us push our trolley down the unpaved, unlit road answer his phone which was also his motherfucking watch. It was so hilarious, this guys watch was also his phone, which is like some Tony Stark, billionaire type gadget, pushing a trolley down a road that hasn’t been properly concreted and doesn’t even have any motherfucking streetlights. That is Nigeria.
(To be continued)